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Food security

Many narrators refer to the healthy diet of the past – from animal products, crops and the fruits of wild plants and trees. According to El Emam and others, they were able to store food when there was a surplus to help them through times of drought.

Several, including Fatima, refer to their dependence on sesame today. In the past people could grow a far wider range of crops.

Before “people took four to five meals daily…,” says El Emam, “when they harvested their crops one might get 50 sacks of dura (cereal crops) and store it… Their favourite food was milk and butter. I remember that when we were young, our fathers slaughtered the sheep and distributed the meat free…”

Today the problem is about quantity of food as well as quality and variety. Every narrator notes that overall food production has drastically reduced. Widad estimates production at about one-tenth of what it was. Mekki says he was “extremely worried” about his family getting enough food when he was working elsewhere.


Food security is a key theme of the Desert voices: Sudan oral testimony project.


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




Social change




Natural resources



Food security

Mutual support

Looking ahead