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Baligha - Sudan

According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification analysis, over 4.4 million people are severely food insecure in Sudan. This is largely driven by conflict and resulting displacement, environmental degradation, El Niño-induced rainfall deficits in the last production season, soaring food prices and continued high levels of rural poverty. 

BALIGHA ALI SAEED TAKAN has been working for FAO in Sudan for four years and with various UN agencies and NGOs in humanitarian and development interventions for 16 years. We spoke to her about her work and food insecurity in Sudan.

What is your current role with FAO and what does it involve?

As Monitoring and Information Management Officer for the Food Security and Livelihoods (FSL) Sector, I contribute to monitoring and reporting on the use and performance of humanitarian pooled funds in the FSL sector (for example the Sudan Humanitarian Fund [SHF] or the UN Central Emergency Response Fund); and sometimes also support the allocation of SHF funds for the FSL Sector. In addition, I provide FSL Sector coordination and partners with the data and information needed to make programme decisions. I am based in Khartoum but regularly visit almost all states – the five Darfur States, Blue Nile, South and North Kurdufan, White Nile, Kassala, Gadarif and Red Sea States. 

Can you describe the situation in Sudan and its impact on food security?

Drought, population growth, inter-ethnic fighting, poor pasture availability, poor native administrations and water scarcity have contributed to protracted conflicts since 2003, which have impacted on animal and agricultural production. This is reflected in high prices, limited animal health and extension services, reduced household income. In some areas, farmers have left their farms fleeing conflicts for safer places (towns), which has resulted in lower agricultural production. For livestock owners, increasingly frequent pasture fires, longer transhumance distances and changing destinations are hampering production.                   

How is FAO responding?

FAO’s main priority is to build the resilience of affected populations to drought, conflict and other shocks through a humanitarian response that takes into account the sustainability of any actions. For example, providing training and extension messages to farmers or when restocking poultry and small ruminant herds, building in a commitment among communities to distribute some offspring to other vulnerable families. FAO’s current focus is on saving lives by providing emergency livelihood assistance to reduce acute food and livelihood insecurity and reducing food insecurity and malnutrition. This includes:

- livestock services (vaccination, drugs, water, and feed);

- agricultural inputs and services (summer and winter seasons); and

- training and emergency livelihood start-up kits (e.g. restocking, agro-food processing, fisheries, fuel-efficient stoves for income generation and food utilization)

What motivates you to work in the agriculture and food security sector? 

My desire to be able to help alleviate suffering is the main reason, but specifically my technical background and experience in agriculture, animal production, climate change and food security.  

In terms of work achievement in Sudan, what have you been most proud about?

In Sudan, the FSL sector achieves the highest percentage (100 percent!) of monitoring and reporting compared with all sectors and I am so proud of this continuous achievement!

What is it like working in an emergency environment?

Given the short timeframe of emergency interventions, it is very challenging to perform and meet deadlines in contexts of insecurity, environmental shocks and hazards.

What are the biggest challenges for you and how do you cope? 

Insecurity, difficult movement during rainy seasons. I always depend on the advice and guidance of the United Nations Department of Safety and Security, like traveling in convoy in secure situations. Some IDP camps have an unpredictable security situation, and in these camps, I rely upon staff from the same camp ethnic group and community leaders to identify me to their community. 

What are the biggest challenges facing FAO in Sudan?

Shortage of funds, insecurity, floods, bad roads during rainy seasons, scarcity of pasture and animal feed,  conservative communities in eastern states in terms of the involvement of women, seasonality of interventions which requires speedy procedures to catch up to the season.   

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do on the job?

Monitoring and evaluation requires honest and fair reports that reflect the real situation to inform different stakeholders, and improve projects and enable better future planning. Some partners think monitoring is a way of policing and auditing them, and I have to deal with this in a diplomatic way to help our partners understand the purpose of monitoring.