Zenab for Women in Development is a national non-governmental organization that has developed an agricultural program for Sudanese women farmers, recognizing the crucial role that women play as agents of change in improving food security and building climate resilience.
Women farmers are provided with training and a climate resilient agricultural package, which contains improved seed varieties. The resulting plants have improved characteristics such as higher and greater consistency in yield productivity, better drought resiliency, and appropriate season length that enhance climate resilience and food security.
Women farmers also take part in hands-on training in conservation and agricultural techniques, and receive access to credit, savings, and insurance against natural disasters and access to markets.
- Food security has improved and climate resilience strengthened for over 42,000 people, which includes 5,330 female-headed households;
- ‘Train the trainer’ workshops have helped to build the leadership and knowledge capacity of around 5,300 women;
- 73 women’s associations have been developed as a part of this initiative;
- The project has established 200 seed multiplication farms in 3 villages in East Sudan.
Bearing household burdens, the impacts of climate change on women’s livelihoods has increased over the past decade. In a patriarchal society, women are excluded from operating agricultural machines that can only be driven by men, which is one of the main reasons why 70% of women are limited to small-scale subsistence farming. Because of this, the women are forced to employ traditional slash and burn farming practices to prepare areas for agricultural use, which is both destructive, unsustainable, and has adverse impacts on biodiversity and the ecosystem.
As opposed to viewing women as victims, the activity sees them as “game changers” to build resilient livelihoods through increased sustainable agricultural productivity, thus improving food security and household income. Training women on improved sustainable agricultural practices and providing them with good quality seeds and agrochemicals has sustainably increased yields and lightened their loads, while also improving their social standing in their community.
Participating female farmers are taught to use agro-chemicals to sustainably control weeds and grasses on the farm. Workshops equip participating female farmers with knowledge on occupational health and safety related to agricultural chemical handling. Women also learn to minimize dependence on chemicals, implement crop rotation and intercropping to move away from monocultures, and foster integrated pest management using natural solutions to control certain pests (such as ladybirds).
As a result of this project, women have gained more independence and gender equality, and are empowered to farm on an equal footing with the men. Women are advocating their rights to decision-making, as well as gaining access to financial resources, agricultural machinery, and the labor necessary to sustainably increase crop yields.
Helping the planet
The transformation from traditional slash-and-burn farming practices to conservation agriculture has enhanced soil fertility by implementing crop rotation and composting practices to restore organic content, thus reducing soil erosion. Loss of biodiversity has also been reduced, as habitats and ecosystems are preserved through a deviation away from the slash-and-burn practices.
The primary beneficiaries are rural women farmers in the El-Gadarif State, Eastern Sudan. By facilitating increased access to finance, an area in which Sudanese women have traditionally been excluded, this activity has empowered women by providing them with the tools to gain participation in decision-making, planning, and implementing steps towards climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Not only are women able to make investment decisions as per their household needs, they have achieved a 100% repayment rate, which has resulted in gaining trust from the bank and increased their loan limits.
Through the implementation of this project, women have gained knowledge on how to adapt to an increasingly variable climate. Additionally, the male drivers work together with the female farmers and drive the heavy machinery wherever and whenever as needed, further transforming male/female relationships.
The scalability potential of this approach has been demonstrated with the initial beneficiaries increasing from 500 farmers in 10 villages to over 5,000 in 53 villages in Eastern Sudan, Western Sudan and South Darfur. Strategic partnerships with key players have been established to ensure the financial and political viability, as a foundation for scaling-up, namely the Ministry of Agriculture, UNDP, FAO, EU, banks, private sectors and other NGOs. Additionally, the approach is based on simple and cost-effective methods, such as composting and water harvesting that are easy and simple to adopt.
In line with the aim of the project, women spread the principles of the project to other communities by the knowledge dissemination model, as well as engaging men in the dialogue, which has proven to be successful. Given the well-established partnerships and integrated approach that is simple, cost-effective and adaptable, the model can be replicated in other areas across the region and communities in other countries.
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