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The difficulty of getting water – for drinking and domestic use, or for irrigation and livestock needs – dominates everyone’s lives. All narrators, but especially the women, talk of the burden of fetching and carrying water.

Sayda says the water in wells is 14 metres down; Widad talks of using wells so deep that the ropes pulling up the buckets fray and fall apart every few weeks.

describes how polluted some water supplies have become, and the health implications. Sayda points out how the encroachment of the sand has made everything more difficult about fetching water: women don’t just have to go longer distances to find fuel wood and water but they have to carry heavy loads walking on the sand dunes.

The importance to the community of improved water supplies is underlined by the fact that many narrators are placing their hopes for the future in expanding irrigated agriculture, something they had success with in the past.


Water 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