Food security and disaster resilience through sustainable drylands management

Published: 03 November 2017
Last edited: 01 October 2020
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The project used a combination of ecosystem-based measures (re-vegetation and ecosystem protection) and grey infrastructure (rehabilitation of a water retention structure) to increase food security in the face of drought and flash floods, while strengthening environmental governance at the local level. Using a green-grey hybrid approach is probably the most appropriate approach in the dryland context of Sudan.


The project took an ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) approach working within a framework of hazards (drought and flash floods), vulnerability (due to conflict zone and unsustainable practices) to reduce disaster risk (e.g. famine). However, drought and erratic rainfall is increasing due to climate change and thus the ecosystem-based measures undertaken also enable adaptation (thus are also EbA).


North Africa
Scale of implementation
Desert ecosystems
Hot desert
Rangeland / Pasture
Disaster risk reduction
Food security
Infrastructure maintenance
Sustainable livelihoods
Water provision and management
Erratic rainfall
Ecosystem loss
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of infrastructure
Poor governance and participation
Social conflict and civil unrest
Lack of food security
Sustainable development goals
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 16 – Peace, justice and strong institutions
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Sendai Framework
Target 1: Reduce global disaster mortality by 2030
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030
Target 3: Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to GDP by 2030


North Darfur, Sudan


Dafur faces drought and flash floods which are worsening due to climate change and desertification. There is also a backdrop of political unrest and conflict. A rebel group was in control of the area from 2004-2011. The area now is relatively peaceful although security is unstable with the occasional rebel attack.The wider Dafur conflict displaced people and also exacerbated unsustainable use of natural resorces, which has resulted in tension and conflict between resource uses (e.g. between farmers and pastoralists).




17,500 inhabitants out of a total population of 30,000 in five villages (Eid El Beida, Abudelik, Bahr Omdurman, Wad Kota, Waa’dha) in the Kilimondo locality, North Darfur.

How do the building blocks interact?

Building partnerships and community engagement (building block 1) are the underlying foundations for implementing appropriate field interventions (building block 2) and improving natural resource governance (building block 3). Finally, developing capacity at the local and national level for ecosystem-based measures (building block 4) ensures the sustainability of the interventions.


The project improved food security and reduced vulnerability to drought for 17,500 people. Thanks to the improved water retention system, the increased harvest during a good rainfall year in 2014 helped to bridge the food gap caused by the failure of the rainy season in 2015. Increased land for crop cultivation also targeted vulnerable households and helped them benefit from enhanced agricultural production all while reducing pressure on the surrounding landscape.


Environmental resilience was also increased with the establishment of community forests and pasture land re-seeding. This gave protection from erosion, revegetation and re-greening of the landscape all while providing extra household income in the future from gum arabic harvesting.


Conflict over natural resources was reduced through the creation of a water management committee, the demarcation of a migratory route for pastoralists and regular stakeholder consultations.



Populations along a seasonal waterbody in North Dafur suffer from drought and flash floods that impacts their food security and livelihoods and live in the backdrop of conflict in Darfur.  Environmental degradation due to the interplay of the periodical erratic rainfall, which is increasing with climate change, and population pressure, unsustainable farming, deforestation and overgrazing have reduced the capacity of the drylands to support local livelihoods. Conflicts over water use and resources also occur between pastoralist groups and farming communities.


The project, funded by the European Commission, led by UNEP and Practical Action Sudan between 2012-2015, partnering with local communities and the state government, won the 2017 Land for Life award for improving food security and disaster resilience and reducing community tensions through sustainable management of dryland areas of North Dafur.


The project’s many activities in Wadi El Ku included a combination of green and grey infrastructure.

Prior to the rehabilitation of an existing water retention structure (a grey infrastructure measure), a social and environmental impact assessment was undertaken to identify and mitigate any potential negative impacts. This structure will also improve water infiltration into the soil, increase crop productivity, and avoid gully erosion downstream, while bringing 6300ha of fertile wadi land (rather than the fragile surrounding landscape) under cultivation, boosting agricultural production. The local community voluntarily helped this work of rehabilitation, increasing their sense of ownership.


Green infrastructure measures were community forests and rangeland rehabilitation. A local tree nursery, managed by a woman's group, was established to support community forestry and household agroforestry while re-greening the landscape. Indeed four community forests were established in four villages (also managed by women), while in one village a natural forest was placed under protection. 1214ha of pastureland was reseeded.

Natural resource governance was improved through:

  • establishment of a water resource management committee;
  • demarcation of the migratory route for pastoralist communities; and
  • establishment of revolving funds for agriculture and livestock drugs.

Finally, capacity was built at the local and national level on these measures through awareness raising, training workshops and hands-on learning activities in the field demonstration sites.

Contributed by

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Marisol Estrella UNEP

Other contributors

United Nations Environment Programme