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Addressing water scarcity in Sudan


Supplemental irrigation is boosting the productivity of strategic crops like sorghum

Water access in Sudan is key to the livelihood of the country’s farming communities. ICARDA is working on the ground in Kordofan to maximize the productivity of the area’s crop-range-livestock systems by developing and implementing water-harvesting interventions.

Sudan is already facing the frontline consequences of climate change, its arid and semi-arid systems affected by increases in temperature, erratic rainfall, and drought. Yet, farming is critical to its economy, with many agro-pastoralists raising livestock while also raising crops, primarily millet and sorghum. Because most of the livestock feed on range grasses, however, overgrazing and water scarcity keep the region’s inhabitants in a cycle of hardscrabble subsistence farming. Additionally, arable land can go underutilized due to a lack of water points.

To address such challenges, ICARDA and the Sudanese Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC) implemented a set of crop-range-livestock system interventions across an area of 250 km2 in the semi-arid zone of North Kordofan, around the village of Faris. Key to the project was creating water conservation structures, in this case a water pond, to supplement irrigation to usually rain-dependent crops. The latter include sorghum, fodder, Arabic gum trees, and sunflowers and maize. Already, sorghum yields have risen significantly, with an increase to 1,317 kg/ha from a base average yield of 475 kg/ha.

Improved water utilization has increased productivity and improved food security, raising food and feed crop yields. And it has sparked interest from neighboring communities and further interest by the government to expand the intervention to other parts of the country.

The project seeks to impact around 500 resource poor farmers by 2019. Additionally, the project aims to incorporate better monitoring to improve data collection and produce more scientific studies, both particularly important as the climate continues to change rapidly, creating shifting circumstances on the ground.

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