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Desert voices: Sudan

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The testimonies from Sudan leave you in no doubt of the devastation brought by desertification. The loss of their animals and dramatic decline in crops has left whole villages dependant on migrant labour.

Desert voices: Sudan testimonies

El Emam: no man remains

“We travel in the search for work, and certainly we are affected,” explains El Emam, as he describes how villagers’ lives are dominated by their need to migrate. The collapse of agriculture and livestock farming since the 1984 drought has meant that there is little local employment. Before then: “people’s situations were good, there were…

El Nour: inside my heart

El Nour: 'The area then was full of animal wealth'

Now in his late 60s, El Nour has vivid memories of life before the great drought of 1984. Then, wildlife flourished on well-forested land. Now, the gazelle and other animals that people hunted have disappeared, along with the livestock that provided him with a living.”I possessed about 300 head of livestock, and now I have…

Fatima: women are exhausted

Fatima: 'I am carrying their burden and am so tired...'

Fatima is in her early 60s and is separated from her husband. She has been the main earner in her family and now looks after her grandchildren. She says that she is worn out from hard labour in the fields, poor nutrition and the extra work of gathering wood for fuel and water.”Women are exhausted,”…

Ismail: broader horizons

Ismail: 'There is no resemblance between now and before 1984...'

For 25-year-old Ismail, life is clearly divided into the times before and after the drought of 1984. There is, he says, “no resemblance between the two periods”. Before, people lived well off the land. Now their animals have died and relying on agriculture is impossible. Today “our work is to migrate to the cities”. Ismail…

Madinah: progress is possible

Madinah: 'The one who travels... comes back with new notions'

Madinah is 25, and an agricultural extension worker. She believes that slash and burn, forest clearance and over-grazing were carried out in the past because of people’s ignorance of the consequences. Now, she says, they are forced into selling wood and charcoal through poverty. She has listened closely to her older relatives’ stories of rich…

Mekki: migration for survival

Mekki is 51 and began work as a cattle herder when he was seven. He came to own 90 head of livestock and talks of the past as a time when”everything was available” . All this changed with the 1984 drought: pests and desertification destroyed the protective vegetation surrounding the village, the land became unproductive…

Naema: nothing the same

Naema: 'The sands will bury them, just as they have buried my house'

Naema is 88, and fondly remembers when land and livestock were productive and “no one travelled abroad” for work. “Life was very good,” she says. The 1984 drought changed things in her village which, despite receiving aid from a Kuwaiti organisation, could not protect itself from the encroaching sands. Today, few crops can be cultivated…

Osman: make land productive

Osman: 'The land here is fertile, but we lack the essentials'

Osman grew up with his grandfather who didn’t want him to go to school, but taught him to read and write. He looked after the family’s animals and travelled locally with traders before migrating to Egypt and then Saudi Arabia for work. After more than 10 years away, he returned to Sudan and got married….

Sayda: women’s lives

Sadya: 'Most of the youth in the village are not married'

Sayda is 22, and does voluntary work as a teacher. She has seven brothers and three sisters, two of whom work while the others are at school. This is an unusual situation in her community, where” most of the boys are expelled from the schools because of the [unpaid] fees… The little ones work as…

Widad: restoring the village

Widad: 'The people of the village built this house for us...'

Since Widad’s father became sick when she was 14, she and her mother have been the family breadwinners. Her two younger sisters are still at school but her brother, like her, was forced to leave to earn a wage. He was”heartbroken” to give up studying. Widad and her mother trade in firewood and vegetables, cultivating…

Testimonies

El Emam: no man remains

El Nour: inside my heart

Fatima: women are exhausted

Ismail: broader horizons

Madinah: progress is possible

Mekki: migration for survival

Naema: nothing the same

Osman: make land productive

Sayda: women’s lives

Widad: restoring the village

Key themes

Introduction to the project

Desertification

Migration

Education

Social change

Gender

Pastoralism

Agriculture

Natural resources

Water

Health

Food security

Mutual support

Looking ahead