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The Experience of Nomads in Blue Nile Area

This case study describes how Nomads in Sudan have adapted to climate change and regional insecurity by forming collaborative agreements with farmers that benefit both parties.


Nomads in the Blue Nile area in southeast Sudan raise animals including cows, sheep and camels. Traditionally they followed the rains, raising their animals in the area local to the Blue Nile untill December, after which they would move southwards to enter South Sudan, where they could find more grass and water. In April they started to return to the Blue Nile region, where seasonal rains had replenished the landscape. This was their normal nomadic movement.

Reduced rainfall due to climate change, and the segregation of Sudan into two separate states, which has resulted in regional war and instability, have had a huge negative impact on the livelihoods of these nomads. The resulting resource scarcity, fierce competition for remaining resources, shortage of food and water, loss of animals, displacement of traditional routes and lifestyle confusion have all contributed to the collapse of the nomadic sector, which represents a source of income for 70% of the population.

In response to these issues and inability of the government to intervene the nomads came up with their own intelligent solution for this dilemma: collaborate with farmers to source water and forage for the animals more locally, in place of travelling southwards during the dry season.

Adaptation through collaboration

The Blue Nile area hosts large scale rain fed agriculture. Local farmers grow sorghum and millet during the rainy season, which runs from April to November. During the period from December to April the land is set aside as fallow, without agriculture.

In response to their dilemma the nomads made an agreement with farmers as follows:

  1. Farmers will make wide, deep pools that will be used to harvest large amounts of rainwater during the rainy season.
  2. After the crop harvest Nomads shall make a camp with their animals in the agricultural farm area, while it is set aside as fallow.
  3. They will use the harvested water and crop residues to feed their animals.
  4. They shall pay an agreed upon amount to the farmers in exchange for the use of the harvested water and crop residues.

Outcomes and Impacts

This intelligent agreement between nomads and farmers is a successful story of adaptation to climate and geopolitical changes that are life threatening. It is a good example of the use of local knowledge and native tools to adapt to climate change threats and disasters.

Both parties have benefited from this mutual process, which has resulted in:

  1. Reduced climate change risk for the nomadic community
  2. A rational use of scarce resources
  3. Improved utilisation of crop debris (animal food)
  4. Increased soil fertility through the contribution of animal dung
  5. Extra income generation for farmer by selling water and crop debris
  6. Improved socioeconomic stability of the nomadic community
  7. Reduced over-herding

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