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Land for Life: North Darfur project wins global award

The war in Darfur, Sudan, is frequently cited as a classic example of a 'climate conflict’. In North Darfur, a project of UN Environment and its partners has now won the Land for Life Award. The project seeks solutions to address climate-fragility risks through the sustainable management of dryland areas, improving food security and increasing disaster resilience in communities which livelihoods are directly affected by climate change.

Funded by the European Union, and partnering with local communities and the state government, the project is helping to restore the environment and improve the efficiency of water use for both farmers and pastoralists in and around a stretch of the largest seasonal rivers in North Darfur – the Wadi El Ku. The project’s many activities in Wadi El Ku include establishing five community forests, irrigating 315 hectares of land, rehabilitating existing water retention structures, reseeding 1,214 hectares of rangeland and setting up a water management committee. Severe environmental degradation and changing rainfall patterns have seen more frequent droughts and flash floods in Darfur.

With less water, crop yields have fallen and farmers have had to cultivate more and more land to feed their families. This puts them in conflict with pastoralists, who also need the land for cattle grazing. Ali Ibrahim, a farmer and one of thousands of people who have benefitted from the project said: “It’s very hard for people because production has disappeared [and] droughts have had a major impact.” To build on this success in Wadi El Ku, which has reduced community tensions and left local people with a more reliable food supply and better able to cope with disasters, UN Environment and the Government of Sudan are now advocating for the use of ecosystem-based approaches in other parts of the country. Sudan's Minister of Environment, his Excellency Dr. Hassan Abdul-Gadir Hilal, expressed his congratulations, “I strongly believe that UN Environment and partners are deserving of this distinguished international award.”

“Ecosystem-based approaches to disaster risk reduction are very effective for bringing together communities and state institutions as partners to build local resilience”

“I’m immensely proud of the work UN Environment is doing to help improve people’s lives in North Darfur and around the world,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.“Winning this award proves that by working together in effective partnerships and hand in hand with communities themselves, we can make positive and lasting change, even in some of the most difficult situations.” A key partner in making this project possible was non-governmental organization Practical Action. “It’s wonderful news for us and all our partners,” said Awadalla Hamid, Practical Action’s Environmental Conservation Manager. “Ecosystem-based approaches to disaster risk reduction are very effective for bringing together communities and state institutions as partners to build local resilience. With support from Practical Action, UN Environment and the European Union, it’s the successful collaboration between all partners that contributed to having won this award”.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s Land for Life Award identifies and honors individuals or organizations who showcase effective and creative sustainable land management practices. This year’s theme of “Land and Human Security" pays tribute to work contributing to stability and security.  The winners were announced in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where the global event for the 2017 World Day to Combat Desertification is being held.

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Photo credits: A farmer collects the remains of the harvest in her land at the outskirts of Madjoub village, North Darfur | Albert González Farran - UNAMID/ [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]