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FEATURE STORY

Bringing Hope to Sheep Herders in Sudan

June 24, 2013

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sudan’s public veterinary services have efficiently delegated tasks to private veterinarians for its livestock
  • In Sudan, over 280 kilometers of livestock routes are demarcated and rehabilitated
  • Over 48 trained community workers are bringing animal health services to rural villages in Sudan

Wadshaifon Village, North Kordofan State, June 24, 2013- Some 20 km from the town of En Nuhood in central Sudan, the path to Wadshaifon Village turns sharply left off the paved road. Another kilometer to the east through a low sandy rise, houses made of wood branches with cone-shaped roofs start to appear. Standing near a tent providing shade for visitors, Chief Hamdan Bakheit describes the challenges faced by his seven sons who all still live in the village.  “We don’t have jobs in this community,” Bakheit says as he stirs up reddish dusty soil while walking towards a small cluster of sheep. At 70, the patriarch confesses he had been worried about the future of his family and community. 

As a young boy bending down near him milks one ewe, Bakheit breaks into a smile. The juvenile lamb looks aside and the fresh white milk is squirted into a bucket, spraying the sides as the milk hits the bucket bottom with a splash. “Now we have a large, strong herd of sheep for milking and each of my family members has one to two cups of milk a day. This is a good nutritious food for my family. Now my children can grow up to be strong and healthy,” he says.

Wadshaifon is one of many pastoral villages in central and eastern Sudan, a very dry region without fresh water nearby. The village members spend their days farming or looking after their sheep to survive. But they have had very little opportunity to improve their lives.

Now the community is involved in a pilot program supported by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund-National (MDTF-N). Known as the Improving Livestock Production and Marketing Project (ILPMP), the project has gone beyond providing milk for thirsty, growing children.

The project has helped to upgrade six livestock markets, supported funding for 31 restocking projects distributed to 465 households, and helped build 28 water projects. The pilot programs have improved the lives of more than 137, 325 people in four pastoral regions: North Kordofan State, Blue Nile, Sinnar, and White Nile State.

Sudan has one of the largest livestock populations in Africa. It’s desert “Hamari” sheep are highly-sought after especially in Saudi Arabia and eastern Europe, where demand for kosher meat is high. Most of the sheep in Sudan are owned by traditional herders, such as Chief Bakheit and the Wadshaifon villagers. While livestock provide villagers income and contribute to the Sudanese economy, they are vital to the survival of rural Sudanese. The sheep provide skins, food and milk for people living in the arid desert regions where raising crops is highly dependent on rainfall.

A community-based approach

Wadshaifon’s 105 families have established a Village Development Committee (VDC), and those who are interested can gather and discuss the community’s challenges and develop plans to try to solve them. Throughout the region, each VDC also acts as the village financial institution and several members from each group have received training in how to manage loans for villagers or community groups. 

The ILPMP also provided matching grants to the Wadshaifon’s VDC, which the community used to purchase new heads of healthy sheep to restock a family’s individual herd. The ILPMP project managers and government advisors helped educate the herders about animal health and nutrition. Almost all of the VDCs in all four pilot states have been able to purchase the animals provided by the project.

 “Now we can sell a sheep and we have the fees to pay for one year of school for one of our children,” Chief Bakheit says. “I was also able to sell a sheep to buy medicines to care for one of my sons when he was sick.”

Providing the villages with an opportunity to establish a VDC is a new approach, says Stéphane Forman, Task Team Leader for the project and a World Bank Livestock Specialist. “The Village Development Committee is very empowering for the community. It allows the community to manage their water point as well as the revolving loan scheme and the repayment of the animals used to replenish the herds.”

Friends of the Forest  

Each pilot community in the project has been encouraged to establish independent VDCs to address specific village needs. In Wadshaifon, an all-women VDC, known as Friends of the Forest, was created to focus on preserving the environment. The group used collective funds to buy natural gas cylinders and burners for 65 families in the village.

The introduction of the cylinders for cooking has helped preserve the woodlands outside the village and also added time to the day of busy women in Wadshaifon. Before they had natural gas cook tops, the women walked for almost two hours a day to collect wood for charcoal, says Hoda Ahmed, a member of Friends of the Forest.

 “We wanted to stop the cutting of trees at the edge of the village because the trees protected the village from sand storms,” Hoda explains. “Now we have gas stoves and the cooking is much cleaner and quicker. I spent 30 minutes heating tea water with wood, but it takes only five minutes to heat up tea water with gas. The coals created black smoke inside the cooking tent, and my children coughed from the smoke. Now there is no coughing because there is no smoke,” she adds.

Improved animal welfare

Like sheep and other livestock throughout the world, Sudanese livestock suffer from animal diseases which are easily treated through drugs and vaccines. In 2009, the government began to allow private veterinarians to sell medicines and vaccines to herders. Yet veterinary services were hard to come by for herders living in rural areas far from the cities in Sudan.

With support from the MDTF-N, Wadshaifon has its own community health worker trained by a retired private veterinarian from the nearby city. The health worker makes sure the animals are healthy, diagnoses ailments, dispenses advice and medicines, and recommends vaccines (a total of 48 health workers were trained in the four states with pilot projects).  

Outside Wadshaifon, livestock trails lead to the markets throughout the country. As the sheep passed through certain regions, local farmers and agro-pastoralists often tried to prevent the travelling herds from drinking from their water holes and eating the grasses and shrubs. With technical assistance from the World Bank, the ILPMP demarcated 286 kms of livestock routes where travelling herders can access the natural resources along each route without clashes. Along the routes, livestock service centers are being built where nomadic herders can stop and receive medicines and vaccines for their animals.

“This approach, to demarcate the livestock routes, is very innovative in many ways,” says Forman. “All of the states of Sudan who are not participating in the pilot want to duplicate the same model,” he says.

“The restocking project has opened the minds of our village,” says Abdalla Mohamed Zain, Wadshaifon’s executive manager.  “Our VDC has a plan for the future,” Abdall continues.  “We would like to complete construction of our school using modern materials rather than wood collected locally. We want to introduce electricity to the entire village,” he says.

The Improving Livestock Production and Marketing Project (ILPMP) is one of 15 projects funded by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund-National (MDTF-N). The MDTF-N is a means for countries to contribute to the reconstruction and development needs of war-torn areas of Sudan. Funding for the MDTF-N ends June 30, 2013.