The Sudanese proverb raises the question: Does the fool drown in his search for water or is he saved by it? And who is, in fact, this fool? Given the wasteful and unfair dealings of mankind with this dwindling resource – aren’t we all? While doing research on water, The Niles correspondents in South Sudan and Sudan met fishermen who deal carefully with the water that nourishes them and business people who exploit the resource without restraint. They report on conflicts around water but also on exemplary projects where water is shared peacefully. In short, the fool is still swimming, but for how long?
Drops in the bucket The daily struggle for water Farmers and grazers – a tricky relationship. A Dinka man guards his cattle Photo: Francesco Zizola / Noor / laif “The nearest water point, which has a single source, is still five kilometres away.” “We are better off than some” As a schoolboy Salah Damba had to walk five kilometres to the nearest water pump. Now he is a farmer but children from his village, like others across North Kordofan, continue to trek long distances to collect water for their families. Rishan Oshi | Abu Tama Village, North Kordofan A s the youngest member of my family, it was down to me to fetch the water. That daily chore got in the way of my schooling: I had to walk five kilometres from our village to reach the water pump. I remember how I was a first year intermediatelevel student of 14 years and I would arrive at school late. Sometimes I would go by foot and sometimes I would travel on a donkey’s back. I used to fetch water more than three times a week and sometimes would take our cattle to drink at the water well. All the children in our village suffered the same fate. I dreamed of completing secondary school education and going to university but my studies deteriorated so I left and dedicated my time to collecting water. Years and years have passed and this situation has not changed. Children in our village continue to fetch water for their families. Our village is one of four that are clustered together. The nearest water point, which has a single water source, is still five kilometres away. But we are better off than some. Hundreds of villages in Kordofan have to collect water from dozens of kilometres away. Most of North Kordofan’s village population lacks water on a daily basis. Sometimes there is water for drinking but not enough for other needs. Of course the only way to transport water is by using animals such as donkeys and horses. Some people in our region sell water. They have their own vehicles and transport water in plastic containers over long distances and then sell it to nearby residents. Prices are exorbitant, as high as SDG 30 (US$ 5) in the hot summer months. Sometimes our water pump suddenly stops working. Then there is more suffering and people have to spend a whole day fetching water. Animal herders travel for many days to reach water so that their cattle do not perish. We suffer daily, but less in the autumn. Then the rains fall and valleys are filled and there is plenty of water for everyone. Some people store the autumn water inside Baobab trees, as they have for hundreds of years but by the time the summer comes, it is completely unfit for drinking.” theniles6_20151123.indd 10 2015/11/23 2:13 PM
The Niles 11 “The absence of either side would make life more difficult for the other.” “Fighting affects entire populations” As nomads in East Darfur State move with the seasons to seek new pastures for their animals, there are frequent clashes with local farmers. A farmer and a grazer give their views on the fighting which sometimes spreads to affect whole communities. Abdelrahman Ibrahim | Nyala Farmer: Khidr Mohamed Ahmed, Yasin Locality, East Darfur State F arming is my livelihood. It is my life. I have been a farmer for 20 years and what I get from farming helps me get through the year. I sell what crops I have left over at the market and that means I can buy sugar, tea and other items. I’m up against many difficulties, especially the scarce rainfall at the beginning of the season and the spread of pests, as we don’t have access to enough pesticides. Livestock grazers also cause other problems. At the beginning of the season, grazers lose their pastures because of heavy rainfall which forces them to move north and search for new pastures for their cattle. They also need to avoid diseases which are rife in the area. When the water sources become scarce, grazers are forced to enter the wet areas such as the valleys which are cultivated by farmers. The difficulty of controlling the herds means they enter farms and destroy crops which leads to arguments and conflicts between the grazers and the farmers. There are often clashes between grazers and farmers. This violence is started by individuals and fighting escalates until it involves entire populations. Such conflicts kill both people and livestock and also damage farms, sometimes even burning property down. Our relationship with the grazers is normal. We are all Sudanese citizens. Sometimes our relationship becomes a family-like one. Farmers buy livestock and their products from the grazers who, in turn, buy crops from the farmers. The problems start with some stupidity from either side, and then things develop into major and long conflicts. When it comes to water, we do not go near each other as the government and some organisations have drilled wells far from the agricultural areas to avoid any contact between the two sides.” Grazer: Jad Al-Sayed Ismail, Bahr Al-Arab Locality, East Darfur State I inherited this profession from my ancestors. I wish I had studied and joined the university. I deeply regret that. I graze my father’s herds and I don’t get any wages as I work with our own animals. It is my job to see that they are looked after and make sure that our herd grows in size. In the summer, our relationship with farmers is excellent due to our common interests and exchanges of produce. As soon as rain falls, this relationship is spoiled because the grazers are forced to leave the areas with high rainfalls. We flee the spread of insects and settle in agricultural areas. Clashes might happen between us and the farmers, which sometimes lead to wars in the entire area, causing major financial damages for both sides. Such incidents are unintentional as controlling animals is very difficult. Individuals from both sides start arguing and it develops into a quarrel. Such problems can be solved at the start by wise men from both sides mediating to end the conflict. Even if things develop into a violent conflict, the mediation of neutral sides can solve the problem. The scarcity of water sources sometimes triggers conflicts between grazers and farmers. In the summer, farmers plant on the water ways, such as the valleys and the wet places which include lots of trees, as they are the only places that have water during this season. Grazers search for water and grass which are very scarce in the summer and enter the water ways which are planted and that often leads to clashes. The relationship between farmers and grazers is basically complementary as each side offers its products to the other and, thus, they have common interests. The absence of either side would make life more difficult for the other. These problems will not affect the common interests and the benefit exchange. Governmental authorities should intervene to provide the healthy environment for farming and grazing to avoid any possible problems. Modern farms should be established to plant sufficient quantities of feeds to be readily available, and safe sources of water which are far from agricultural areas should also be provided.” “Facing the hazard of unclean water” Chemical engineer Hashim Tayeb, who heads the Laboratories Section at Kassala Drinking Water Authority, discovered dangerously high nitrate levels in some people’s drinking water - and blames pesticides used on farms. Hamid Ibrahim | Kassala W e carry out a regular annual survey of water reserves in Kassala State, sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA has chosen Kassala, Khartoum and White Nile states for its water survey in Sudan because their water resources are likely to be much more contaminated than other Sudanese cities. The surveyed areas include upstream and downstream parts of the river. This effort lasts one week every year and concentrates on testing the nitrate content level as a primary contamination index. Generally, the test results confirmed that the water was safe and the nitrate levels did not exceed the permissible rate of 50 milligram per litre. In a number of areas, like Al-Kurmota and Sawagi Shamaliya, we discovered that a number of wells have a high nitrate level, exceeding 400 milligram per litre. That ratio has been steadily increasing year after year. The high nitrate content in these areas can be attributed to the agricultural use of severely hazardous pesticides. This is not less dangerous than sewage water mixing with underground water. In addition to nitrates rates, the agency also found that the quantity of salts in the tested water in a number of wells at Wad Sharifi, in Reefi Kassala Locality, has exceeded the permissible level. We have kept the residents of these areas informed that their water is unfit for human consumption. At first, they refused to accept the test results. Later on they began to deal with this issue thanks to the efforts made to explain the hazards they face by consuming unclean water.” I took it upon myself to start again Suzan Mathew Zuno never expected to become one of the many small-sized businesses which have popped up in Western Equatoria State, but brisk trade of her spicy tea has enabled her to send her five children to school. Joseph Nashion & Chantal Animumu | Yambio S uzan Mattew Zuno, known as Mama Joshua, starts everyday at six in the morning, walking to the town centre to prepare a batch of tea for her daily customers. She starts early to catch all the travellers and business people who take tea early in the morning. She now employs two assistants and says she has the best tasting spiced tea in Yambio, attracting up to 180 customers to her stand every day. Suzan has sold tea for more than 12 years and said she earns enough to easily cover the cost of bringing up five children alone. “I have been able to pay fees for my first two children at secondary school,” she said, adding that this year her second child would start university. Her tea business has paid for three plots of land and she has built a three-bedroom house on one of them. Suzan lost her husband in 2001 and initially found it hard to look after her children. “It was like everything ended after my husband’s death but I took it upon myself to start again,” Suzan said. In the beginning her only customers were men, but now a few women queue at her stand. When she started out she made just SSP 17 (US$ 6) per day but today she makes up to SSP 180. Her customers include corporate clients and NGO workers as well as informal labourers, a fact she attributes to her hygiene. “I ensure all tea glasses are washed properly and are kept dried to avoid germs and inspire confidence in the clients that I have built for over a decade in the business,” she said. Mama Joshua serves the best spiced tea in Yambio Photo: Joseph Nashion theniles6_20151123.indd 11 2015/11/23 2:13 PM