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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

2017 Land for Life Award Winners: Practical Action Wins global Award for Work in Darfur

The Land for Life Award is dedicated to recognizing individuals, groups, organizations and business corporations

for their innovations and efforts of achieving  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)_, , in particular SDG 15 Life on Land . 
With the theme “Land and Human Security” the 2017 Land for Life Award is awarded to nominees whose work has demonstrated tangible evidence of transforming the lives of communities suffering from the impacts of Land degradation.
The 2017 Land for Life Award winners are: Watershed Organization Trust from India and  the UN Environment and Practical Action Sudan from Sudan Practical Action in partnership with UN Environment has won this year’s Land for Life Award for a project which transforms huge swathes of desert into farmland in one of the most challenging environments on Earth.
The work in North Darfur, Sudan helps hundreds of farmers improve food security and their resilience to floods and drought by rebuilding old dams, improved irrigation and better farming techniques.
Funded by the European Union, and partnering with local communities, UN Environment and the state government, the project is helping to restore the environment and improve the efficiency of water use for both farmers and pastoralists in and around a stretch of the largest seasonal rivers in North Darfur – the Wadi El Ku.
The project’s many activities in Wadi El Ku include establishing five community forests, irrigating 315 hectares of land, rehabilitating existing water retention structures, reseeding 1,214 hectares of rangeland and setting up a water management committee.
Severe environmental degradation and changing rainfall patterns have seen more frequent droughts and flash floods in Darfur. With less water, crop yields have fallen and farmers have had to cultivate more and more land to feed their families. This puts them in conflict with pastoralists, who also need the land for cattle grazing.
Ali Ibrahim, a farmer and one of thousands of people who have benefitted from the project said: “It’s very hard for people because production has disappeared [and] droughts have had a major impact.”
Awadalla Hamid, Practical Action’s Environmental Conservation Manager said: “It’s wonderful news for us and all our partners.
“Ecosystem-based approaches to disaster risk reduction are very effective for bringing together communities and state institutions as partners to build local resilience. With support from Practical Action, UN Environment and the European Union, it’s the successful collaboration between all partners that contributed to having won this award”
To build on this success in Wadi El Ku, which has reduced community tensions and left local people with a more reliable food supply and better able to cope with disasters, UN Environment and the Government of Sudan are now advocating for the use of ecosystem-based approaches in other parts of the country.
Sudan's Minister of Environment, his Excellency Dr. Hassan Abdul-Gadir Hilal, expressed his congratulations: “I strongly believe that UN Environment and partners are deserving of this distinguished international award.”
“I’m immensely proud of the work UN Environment is doing to help improve people’s lives in North Darfur and around the world,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “Winning this award proves that by working together in effective partnerships and hand in hand with communities themselves, we can make positive and lasting change, even in some of the most difficult situations.”

The Award

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s Land for Life Award identifies and honors individuals or organizations who showcase effective and creative sustainable land management practices. This year’s theme of “Land and Human Security" pays tribute to work contributing to stability and security. The winners were announced in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where the global event for the 2017 World Day to Combat Desertification is being held.
“The winners show that restoration of degraded land can halt distress migration that is driven by unproductive land resources. Families and communities are transformed and become more resilient towards climate change when job opportunities are created. When practices like these are amplified globally, sustainability, stability and security of all is possible. It only requires political will and decisive action against losing more productive land to desertification,” said Ms. Monique Barbut, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
UN Environment and Practical Action Sudan

The Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (ECO-DRR) in North Darfur, a pilot project, was implemented by UN Environment in partnership with the State Government of North Darfur, Practical Action Sudan and community-based organizations in 2012-2015, with support from the European Union. The interventions have resulted in a dramatic increase of 17.5 times of water retention, expanded irrigation and cultivated land from 364 ha to an approximate 6,300 ha annually. As consequence, 4,500 farmers gained access to more land for cultivation of agriculture produce including animal fodder. This has helped to reduce the grazing pressures on already degraded rangelands. In addition, the rehabilitated waters structure also reduced 17,500 people’s vulnerability to drought and increased the coping capacities of 5 communities in preparing for and managing drought and water scarcity. The demarcation of a 10 km migratory pastoralist route reduced potential conflict between pastoralists and farmers. The original 10 km route will be expanded up to 120 km. Besides, 24.3 ha of degraded forest areas were rehabilitated with the establishment of 5 community forests managed by a women's group. It is expected in the next 3-4 years, the rehabilitated forests can serve as additional income generation activity for women.
Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment said, “I’m immensely proud of the work UN Environment is doing to help improve people’s lives in North Darfur and around the world. Winning this award proves that by working together in effective partnerships and hand in hand with communities themselves, we can make positive and lasting change, even in some of the most difficult situations.”
Awadalla Hamid, Practical Action, North Darfur, said “Practical Action and all our partners are delighted to have won the global Land for Life Award 2017. Ecosystem-based approaches to disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) are certainly an effective approach for bringing together beneficiary communities and relevant state institutions as partners in building local resilience. Winning the Global Land for Life Award 2017 was made possible by the successful collaboration between Practical Action, the UN Environment, the European Union and all other partners."
Abdalla Latief, Director General, State Ministry of Agriculture, North Darfur, said “Excellent news on the occasion of Ramadan. It is extremely rewarding for the Eco DRR project in North Darfur to be awarded the Global Land for Life Award 2017 by the UNCCD Secretariat. It is a great accomplishment for our communities, the UN Environment, the state government of North Darfur, Practical Action and the Voluntary Networks. I had faith that the exceptional devotion and efficient coordination towards implementing Eco-DRR projects was leading us to success.''
North Darfur New Dam

Sail Gedaim Water Harvesting Dam: An integrated approach to water resource management in North Darfur
Over the past six months, Practical Action and its local partners have been busy designing and constructing a new water-harvesting dam in El Fashir North Darfur. This is one of three dams to be constructed as part of the Wadi El Ku Catchment Management Project, a three-year project implemented by theUnited Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) and Practical Action, with funding from the European Union.
the 775 metre long earth dam is to divert water from gullies and to spread it across as wide an area of agricultural land as possible upstream, while ensuring water is also diverted and spread downstream. By thus slowing and spreading the flow of water, a greater area of land will be irrigated increasing the level of water retention which will increase agricultural productivity while also ensuring higher levels of ground water recharge.
A range of potential sites for the dam were identified and an area named Sail Gedaim, north-west of Zamzam village and 7km south of El Fashir town, the capital of North Darfur state, was selected. A technical study and design of the dam was carried out by technical specialists from theWater Harvesting Centreat the University of Nyala, South Darfur.
The selection of the final dam site and the design of the dam were made in accordance with the key principles of anintegrated water resource management(IWRM) approach. Three of the most important IWRM principles used were as follows.
Widespread consultations with all key stakeholders were held. The needs and usage patterns of different water users upstream and downstream of the proposed site were taken in to consideration. At the same time, key technical, government and policy bodies were also consulted, namely the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Physical Planning and the Ground Water and Wadis department. These diverse consultations ensure all relevant voices and needs are integrated into the design and function of the dam.
The dam is designed to ensure equitable access to water. The dam is designed to improve access to water for agricultural purposes for more than 20 villages upstream and downstream of the dam. As part of the planning process, it was agreed with local leaders that land irrigated by the dam would be fairly divided up between all members of the community..
Support was received from the government of North Darfur in various forms. In terms of forestry related
activities, the Forestry National Corporation provided technical expertise in all of the planting activities with their extension officers accompanying Practical Action staff on several trips to provide on-site training to communities. The FNC also contributed through the provision of approximately 25,000 tree seedlings. The Ministry of Agriculture supported the construction of two water harvesting dams by providing the services of two of their technical staff – a soil specialist and an engineer/surveyor – to provide regular supervision to the construction process, submitting a bi-monthly report to the government on the dam construction work.


The security situation in the project area was stable throughout the project with no serious incidences of insecurity occurring. However, in some of the project sites to the north-west of the project area, some problems were encountered following the early return of a number of pastoralists from their northern grazing sites. This led to raised tensions between pastoralists and farmers. Unfortunately it also led to pastoralist livestock damaging a significant number of tree seedlings in the wadi bank stabilisation work in several locations. On being informed of this by the community committee responsible for this work, Practical Action reached out to native administration leaders among several pastoralist groups to elicit their support in ensuring such livestock incursions do not occur again. In terms of the six displaced communities that were supported by training in construction of crescent-shaped water harvesting terraces, 93 % of the 600 displaced beneficiaries constructed the terraces in their original lands, a testament to the gradually improving security situation there.
The principal objective of the project: This 12 month FFA project, began in February 2016 and completed in January 2017, had two overall objectives. First, strengthened natural resource management supporting sustainable improvements in agricultural productivity and related value-chains within the Wadi El Ku. Second, improved food security for vulnerable populations in the project area. Specific objectives for each activity were as follows:  20km of wadi bank stabilized to reduce soil and wind erosion and to preserve wadi soils through the planting of grasses, shrubs and trees. Improved access to water and increased ground-water recharge for farmers and pastoralists through the rehabilitation of one hafir. 3. 800 farmers, the majority of them displaced, are able to create micro-water harvesting and spreading schemes (crescent-shaped terraces), that allow advantage to be taken of wadi flow when it occurs.
Improving community-based natural resource management of planted shrubs and trees. Promotion of agro-forestry and silvo-pastoral systems for 100 goz farmers. Enlargement of 10 existing community forests to support environmental regeneration and provide long-term alternative income sources
Irrigation of over 6,000 feddans of agricultural land through the construction of two earth water-spreading dams. Improved access to food for vulnerable households.
To ensure the sustainability of both dams, Practical Action worked with the governmental administration unit responsible for El-Fashir Rural Locality in order to impose an official tariff of SDG 20 per year per mukhamas for those farmers benefiting from the dam. These funds, to be
collected by native administration will contribute to a dam maintenance fund managed by the
community dam committees. In addition, as part of the WEK project Practical Action is organising
a technical training course for the members of both community dam committees in the maintenance, operation and management of the two dams to ensure that communities have the knowledge and skills required in order to use and safeguard the dams in the future.