Written by Yamba Mbizule
“Want to know how you ensure food security, an increase in agricultural production and a rehabilitation of the environment in rural communities in light of poor annual rainfalls of between 100mm – 300mm?”
The Butana province-based project turned to the improvement of traditional agricultural apparatus and methods. The intervention answered directly to the frustrations of the communities and built on the successes and failures of projects conducted in the Kordofan Region of Sudan. The adoption rates experienced are simply phenomenal when you couple good innovative approaches with a community-driven field days in which farmers exchange success stories, ideas and best practices.
Terrace Systems have been used as a method of water collection and management but have been relatively efficient. The BIRDP introduced innovations to improve the water-holding potential of the soil by emphasising and improvement in the catchment areas of traditional terrace systems in an integrated approach. Facets of the project included: improving environmental conditions, capacity building, institutional and technical improvements, tentative steps to improving access to markets, and improving the community’s structural capacities. The project recognised that an improvement in one aspect of agriculture was not enough to alleviate the problems faced but that an approach that contributed to complementary processes was a solid step in the right direction.
Through these approaches, the project has been able to increase production from approx. 2 sacks/ feddan to between 10 and 12 sacks per feddan per household in its 3yrs of operation.
The major successes of the BIRDP included: A keen focus on the influencing of interest groups, a bottom up approach, the establishment and maintenance of grassroots-led communities of practice in which a common mode of communication was possible, and the involvement of local government in strategic decision-making processes.
One key challenge that remains is that of mono-cropping.