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An estimated 3.3 million people are food insecure in Sudan today. With 80 percent of Sudan’s rural population relying on agriculture for their food and income, the sector plays a critical role in helping families cope with and rebuild their livelihoods after crises. Variable rainfall patterns, recurrent outbreaks of conflict and related displacement, rising food prices and a bad harvest in 2013 have left the most vulnerable people struggling to access enough food. FAO is supporting efforts to increase short-term food production, while building the foundations of longer-term food security.
In the first half of 2014 the combined effects of conflict in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur states, a poor 2013/2014 harvest and increasing food prices are expected to increase the food insecure population to approximately 4 million. More people were displaced because of violence in Darfur in 2013 than in any single year since 2004, and almost 200,000 people had already been displaced by March 2014. In total, over two million people are internally displaced in Darfur and more than 6.1 million people need humanitarian assistance across Sudan, including 3.5 million in Darfur and 1.2 million in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The latter represents a 40 percent increase since January 2013.
With an early start to the lean season in March/April rather than May/June of 2014, an increasing number of people will face Stressed and Crisis levels of food insecurity this year. In Darfur, at least 30 percent of recently displaced IDPs (most of whom are in East and South Darfur) missed cultivation this year and have not yet received humanitarian food assistance; they will face Crisis levels at least through June. In some areas of South Kordofan, Crisis levels of food insecurity are expected to deteriorate to Emergency levels by March/April 2014. This year’s poor harvest is further restricting food access. Sudan typically produces a cereal surplus for export, but this year, the country is likely to face a cereal deficit of one million metric tons. Cereal production for the 2013/14 season is estimated to be 65-70 percent of the five-year average and 45-50 percent of last year’s good harvest, due to late and below-average rains.
The humanitarian response remains massively underfunded with (in early April 2014) just 5.5 of the funding required for humanitarian action in Sudan in 2014 received, of USD 995 million appealed for in the Humanitarian Strategic Response Plan for 2014.
Investing in local production
Repeated crises mean farmers cannot fully recover and are always on the precipice of food insecurity. By training farmers in improved crop production techniques, FAO has been helping them to improve their yields. Assessments of local seed systems and investing in community seed production are ways that FAO is helping ensure that quality, locally adapted seeds are available to farmers at the right time. FAO is also providing seeds and tools to farmers who may be unable to access these inputs because of displacement in the wake of conflict or crop failure
Stronger, healthier herds
Sudan’s livestock owners face similar difficulties. Erratic rains mean poor or no pasture and water for animals. Flash floods in 2012 killed livestock and increased the spread of already endemic diseases. FAO has been rehabilitating hafirs (small water reservoirs) that capture and store water. Herders thus have a safe source of water and pasture for their animals during the dry season. By training local people to treat and vaccinate animals in their communities, and providing equipment to local laboratories, FAO is strengthening local animal health services.
Providing new opportunities
FAO is also helping people to expand their livelihood opportunities, making them better able to cope with crises. Ex-combatants, displaced people and women are learning food processing techniques (cheese-making, fish preservation), business techniques and other skills to improve their incomes. At the same time, FAO is supporting community-based conflict management and negotiation through improved natural resource sharing, such as fuel-efficient stoves which use less coal and provide a source of income for women who make and sell the stoves.
Moving from response to recovery
FAO-Sudan is helping vulnerable rural people, including herding, fishing and farming communities, IDPs and returnees, to regain their livelihoods and strengthen their food security. There is an emphasis on durable solutions and strengthening local systems as a means of reducing aid dependency and facilitating early recovery, as well as improving preparedness on the ground.