Reconstruction in the Nuba mountains region of Sudan

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
14 Aug 2005

A UNIDO project, working with some US$ 1 million provided by Japan through the UN Human Security Trust Fund, is assisting the people in the Nuba Mountains region of Sudan in the areas around the provincial centres of Kadugli and Dilling (a minimum of 6050 households -some 60,500 individuals). The project is targeting an area (see map) where the local population has been severely affected by armed conflict and drought, leading to internally displaced persons, severe poverty and breakdown of socio-economic structures. Food production is being increased through the provision and production of simple hand tools, agricultural implements, and basic food processing equipment. The project began in February 2004 (see UNIDOScope 14 - 20 September 2003) is expected to run until August 2005. Women, who constitute 84% of the agricultural related workforce, are particularly expected to benefit from the post-harvest and income generating activities of the project.

Sudan has endured armed conflict for the last 20 years. The resulting disastrous effects have been compounded by recurrent drought. Consequently, in several regions of the country, the population is facing chronic and severe food insecurity and malnutrition, especially among poor and vulnerable groups in rural areas. Nearly 3 million people are severely affected by the civil war in the south and an additional 800,000 people have been displaced by drought in the north.

The Nuba Mountains Region covers an area of about 80,000 square kilometres with a population estimated at 1,025,772 according to the UN census of 1998. About 65% live in rural areas, 23% live as transhumance nomads and 12% live in urban centres. The Nuba Mountains Region includes the State of South Kordofan and an part of the adjoining State of West Kordofan (see map). The Region is usually well watered (500 up to 800 mm/year) and has extensive and fertile agricultural plains. Agriculture constitutes the main livelihood for almost the entire population. Major crops include sorghum, maize, sesame, cotton, fruits and vegetables. There is also an extensive livestock industry, with some 1.3 million head of cattle, sheep, goats and camels.

One of the factors that influenced the selection of the areas around Dilling and Kadugli is widespread poverty; it is estimated that 200,000 people are affected by civil strife and insecurity, mainly in Kadugli, Talodi and Dilling provinces. There may be between 33,000 and 66,000 people confined in the hills who are reportedly living in abject poverty in isolated villages of the area. Another is the potential offered in the region: given that the security situation does not deteriorate, there is no problem with the availability of agricultural land. Also, internally displaced persons (IDPs) returning from North Sudan and communities now confined to Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) controlled areas would be needing to cultivate their traditional arable lands. Other factors favouring the areas around Dilling and Kadugli were: each province has areas on both sides of the cease-fire lines; the (relative) accessibility of each area during the wet season; animal traction (the Nuba hoe) is not an entirely new concept in the chosen areas; project implementation can be secured and brought to a conclusive end; no duplication (but complimentarity) with other development programmes in the area.

Project activities will be undertaken in close coordination with the Nuba Mountains Programme Advancing Conflict Transformation (UNDP-NMPACT), a framework within which all the UN agencies and most NGO's are implementing their programmes in the region. Particularly, close cooperation is foreseen with the IFAD Southern Kordofan Rural Development Project and ongoing FAO activities in the region.

The establishment and sustaining of village community development groups and sub-groups to manage and sustain the project activities / inputs is central to the Nuba Mountains project. UNIDO is using the approach developed by IFAD for village community development groups (VCDGs) for its on-going programme in the area (South Kordofan Rural Development Programme). There is a Farmers' Group (whose members will benefit from animal draught cultivators and improved hand tools) and a Women's Group (whose members will benefit from the post-harvest processing and income-generating machines). The elected representatives of the VCDGs and sub-groups are being trained in management, work planning and budgeting.

The South Khordofan State Ministry of Agriculture has given concrete support to the project by making available a substantial building and compound in Dilling that is suitable for a project office, classrooms, guest house and storage space. As it is a difficult three-hour drive from the project office in Dilling to Kadugli, and on average another hour from there to a village, during the first year of the project the focus has been on the villages around Dilling. Implementing Dilling and Kadugli at the same time would have meant travelling would have consumed too much of project time. As of August 2005 the focus has moved to Kadugli.

The project has established a workshop / training centre at Dilling with a working area of 90 square meters and a secure storage area of 45 square meters. Workshop machinery includes a power hacksaw for cutting of steel, a piller drill for making holes, two welding machines, one 15 tonne hand press, two angle grinders, a hand drill, and a compressor for painting. The main output of the workshop so far is some 750 "Nuba hoes".

The rural population is aware of the benefits the Nuba Hoe (a simple spring-tine cultivator that can be used for both soil preparation and weeding by changing the tines), because of an EC funded project (Nuba Mountains Rural Development Project - NMRDP, 1978). Although the NMRDP programme ended with the onset of conflict (and the trained oxen no longer exist) farmers who participated still remember the project as being of real benefit. Even villages that were not covered by the project are aware of the potential of animal traction.

Trials carried out by NMRDP have shown that cropped areas were estimated to increase by 45.5% on vertisols and 77.5% on lighter soils as a result of animal draught cultivation. With regard to yields and in comparison to traditional cultivation, draught animal cultivation showed an increase of over 50% for staple crops. Also, total costs were estimated to be lower with animal traction than with the use of tractor power.

The Nuba Hoes manufactured under the UNIDO project have proved suitable for all three types of soil: sandy; sandy loam and clay. They are more environment friendly as they reduce soil erosion by only disturbing the top soil sufficiently for seed planting. They are also lighter than the NMRDP Nuba Hoes and therefore more easily operated by women and more transportable.

Building capacities in the manufacture of the hoes is one thing, but the farmers and oxen also have to be trained in the use of the hoe.

A two week training of trainers on animal traction was conducted in March 2005 for 30 participants and 30 oxen from Dilling locality. Training was conducted at Sunjukaya animal traction training centre and included: Theoretical training on basics of crop production, plant protection, animal husbandry and health care, information dissemination, technology adoption, etc.; Practical training on use of yoke and harness, Nuba hoe with reversible shovel, weeder attachment, planter, ridger, groundnut lifter, oxen cart etc.; Assembly of the Nuba hoe and use of wooden marker (for planting in straight line); Practical and theoretical training on how to set up and conduct animal traction training programme for farmers and oxen in their villages.

The farmers trained at Sunjuka training centre in March 2005, began 10 day training sessions in their communities in the in 13 animal traction training centres in the Government of Sudan area in the last week of May 2005. Altogether 450 Nuba hoes were distributed in the GOS area. A total of 900 farmers and oxen were trained. Training of farmers in the Western Jebel of formerly SPLM controlled area got underway at the beginning of August 2005 in Wali, Katla, Julud Mandari, Kabook, Kajala, Temain and Julud Basha. The delay in starting this training was due to the severe shortage of water in SPLM villages.

While the Nuba hoe is very suitable for farmers with oxen, very poor farmers (particularly in the SPLM areas) lack even simple hand tools for soil cultivation and weeding. Such farmers, male or female, are being provided with basic hand tools on a grant basis to assist them to improve their food security. In total, the project is expected to fabricate locally 30,000 hand tools which would benefit 3000 families. By the first week of June 2005, 15,000 hand tools were distributed to 1,500 households in Western Jebeles SPLM villages. A complete set, consisting of 10 traditional hand tools for land cleaning, planting, weeding and harvesting, was distributed to each household.

Twenty women from Government of Sudan area villages took part in a three week training on sewing and garment making in February. Women from the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement villages did their training May 21 - 11 June 2005. Trainees learned and practiced making children's clothes, boy's and girls school uniforms, and shirt, paint, jalabia and sukhal (traditional Sudanese dress), etc. for adults. They also learned operation and maintenance of the sewing machine. After this training, the trained participants will train all the interested women in their villages.

Chakib Jenane, Tel: +43 1 26026 / 3876, E-mail:

UNIDO Representative in Sudan: Jebamalai Vinancharachi, E-mail: