Fatima is a local hibiscus producer in West Darfur. She runs her farm together with her eldest son and up until last year she had been growing hibiscus the way she had always done it. This was until she met Abubaker.
Abubaker had been nominated by his village elders to participate in a UNDP youth volunteer programme through the University of El Fasher that would give him advanced skills and expertise in modern farming methods and business strategies.
Having finished his training programme, Abubaker returned to West Darfur and approached Fatima and her son to enroll in a value chain pilot programme, also supported by UNDP. “Previously our hibiscus yield was not satisfactory as compared to current outputs. The productivity improvement advises by Abubaker resulted in increase in number and size of the flowers and seeds” said Fatima.
Globally, the hibiscus, or roselle, from Sudan is regarded of highest quality, with Germany being its main importer. The global trade for the 2012/2013 harvest was estimated at 18 000 – 20 000 metric tonnes, 8000 of which were exported from Sudan, according to Faas Trade and Investment Ltd. The Sudanese output is however far below its potential and poor harvesting techniques continue to hamper quality for many producers. FAO notes that hibiscus is an ideal crop for developing countries if there is market demand. This is because the plant, an annual herbaceous shrub, is drought tolerant, easy to grow and can be grown as part of a multi-cropping system. Harvesting hibiscus is labour-intensive and since the independence of South Sudan, production has regressed slightly due to the decreased supply of labourers. As global demand grows, hibiscus therefore harbours considerable potential for income generation in rural Darfur.
The climatic condition of hibiscus production is favorable in certain areas of Darfur, whereas other areas are better suited to groundnut production. Groundnuts from Darfur are also famous for their taste and nutritional value far outside the region’s borders. Through UNDP’s support the quality and quantity of groundnut production has also increased dramatically. In 2012, 13422 groundnut producing households increased their production by 105kg per acre. In Katilla in South Darfur, farmers were able to produce an extra 1.680 metric tons on average, which earned them an additional US$ 630 per household. Amid conflict and hostility, Abdul Saleh, a local trader who travels from village to village and local markets to source goods for trading, therefore has renewed hopes for his trade. “My worries have lessened as I am able to sell something other than sorghum and millet. We have now other potential products to trade in the off season of sorghum and millet. It means that I have a whole year of products to trade and earn from one successful season of hibiscus followed by another of groundnuts along with my current trade of sorghum and millet” explained Abdul Saleh.
The trade in groundnuts is unfortunately hampered by the sometimes high levels of aflatoxins which prevents them from being exported to national and international markets. Through live radio programmes and training provided by DAL Group, aflatoxin awareness has increased and management methods improved. Crops procured by DAL Group from the farmers supported through the value chain pilot recorded aflatoxin levels of between 0.7 – 31.3ppb against a minimum required quality threshold of 40ppb, which shows significant improvement. Nevertheless, UNDP is exploring whether more could be done to reduce aflatoxin levels in local groundnuts in order to reduce the associated public health risks as well as increase the trading potential for local farmers.
Through trained youth volunteers, UNDP has reached out to more than 17 000 hibiscus and groundnut growers in rural villages of Darfur. “I think that there could never have been a better way to serve the people of my country. Especially when 150 tons of hibiscus are in the process of export to international markets by a large scale exporter further linked with the programme by UNDP” said Abubaker, the West Darfur volunteer. Since the onset of this pilot, farmers have significantly raised their revenue from hibiscus and groundnut production, giving them greater economic freedom and hope for a better future, despite the tenuous peace that surrounds them. With superior products, the potential for domestic as well as international trade increases especially as global demand continues to outgrow supply.
The third pillar of the Darfur Development Strategy focuses on economic recovery and UNDP will continue its work alongside youth volunteers and local producers to create positive synergies and improve productivity along several distinct value chains. These initiatives are reaching out to rural communities across of Darfur where not only peace and stability remains a priority, but also economic recovery and youth engagement.
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