Famine-threatened Sudan’s ‘race against time’ to plant cropsFri, 26 Apr 2024 02:48:07 GMT

A year of devastating war in Sudan has driven hundreds of farmers from their once-bountiful lands, imperilling harvests and heightening the risk of famine, the United Nations has warned.”We’ve been displaced with no prospect of returning,” lamented Saleh Abdel Majid, a farmer from Al-Jazira state.But even for those who remained on their land, the challenges are daunting, with some expressing difficulty in farming successfully due to a lack of water and fertiliser.Rein Paulsen, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s director for emergencies and resilience, described a “race against time with regards to the food security situation in the country”.Fighting broke out last year between Sudan’s regular army, headed by the country’s de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.The war has killed tens of thousands of people and forced millions more to flee their homes in what the United Nations has called the “largest displacement crisis in the world”.It has also triggered acute food shortages and a dire humanitarian crisis that has left the northeast African country’s people at risk of starvation.”There are vulnerable communities everywhere that need support,” Paulsen told AFP, noting that the vast western region of Darfur and Kordofan in the south are particularly threatened.- ‘Go to bed hungry’ -The United Nations’ World Food Programme sounded the alarm in early March, warning that the war between rival generals “risks triggering the world’s largest hunger crisis”.For many like Hamed Ali, a farmer near Wad Madani, the capital of Al-Jazira state, the fighting has prevented them from reaching their fields and securing their livelihoods.”We can’t leave our village, so how can we reach our farms?” he said.Agriculture once accounted for the lion’s share of work in Sudan, but now all that remains of much of its fields is scorched earth.Eddie Rowe, the WFP’s Sudan director, said the country has 41 percent less food than the previous year, with areas like Darfur reporting shortfalls of 78 percent.”The average Sudanese does not have the purchasing power,” Rowe told AFP, noting that 60 percent of the country was employed in the agricultural sector and that civil servants have not been receiving salaries.”Close to about five million go to bed hungry,” he added.Only 37 percent of agricultural land is still being cultivated across Sudan, according to the Fikra research centre.In the once fertile region of Al-Jazira alone, fighting has already put 250,000 hectares of land out of use, slashing about 70 percent off the country’s annual wheat production of 800,000 tonnes.- ‘Urgent’ supplies -“The main cropping and planting season starts just in a few weeks. The month of June is a key month for farmers to plant key crops for the year,” Paulsen said.”It’s urgent that we get as many… supplies now into the hands of farmers to allow them to produce,” he added.Food production is all the more vital given that the war has brought the country’s imports to a standstill, as all roads leading to Port Sudan, the only major entry point, have been cut off.”Most of the companies distributing fertilisers and pesticides are closed,” said Mohamed Suleiman, a corn farmer from the eastern state of Gedaref.The war — which experts have warned could last for years — has pushed 18 million Sudanese into acute food insecurity, five million of whom are at risk of famine.The international community earlier this month pledged more than two billion euros in aid to Sudan, only half of what the United Nations demanded, during a meeting in Paris.For Mohamed Abdel Baqi, a farmer from Al-Jazira, “if the war doesn’t stop, we won’t be able to cultivate our lands”.