Seeds of Hope for Taiba’s Family
At a tender age of nine years, Taiba Elherika is still grieving the loss of both her parents in a span of two years. Her mother died in childbirth in 2018 and her father in ethnic clashes between Misseriya and Rezigat tribes in early 2019, leaving her and two other siblings under the care of their aging grandmother.
“We are afraid of tomorrow,” says Bakita Ahmed, Taiba’s grandmother as she does not have a sustainable source of income to meet her needs and those of her grandchildren. Taiba’s family used to be livestock rearers but with the loss of their father, they now make a living as casual farm labourers and sometimes trade in firewood and charcoal.
Recently it has become even more difficult for the small family, that is part of the nomadic community in Meiram locality, West Kordofan, to make ends meet. Local market prices for basic goods have more than doubled in one year and COVID-19 related containment measures and lockdown have further driven inflation. According to FewsNet, the price for Sorghum, a staple food item in the region, rose from 15 SDGs per kilo in January to 30 SDGs per kilo in April, while the five-year average was around five SDGs per kilo. During the May to October lean season, food prices are expected to increase until the next harvest season starts in October.
Being a female head of her household with limited income opportunities, Taiba’s grandmother was selected to receive 3kgs of sorghum seeds and 3kgs sesame seeds as well as farming tools and farming training. Concern Worldwide, partnering with Global Aid Hand, a local NGO, and government line ministries implemented the project where Taiba’s family was part of 1,200 families receiving assistance. The project benefited 800 South Sudanese refugee households and 400 vulnerable host community households in six villages in Meiram locality in the first week of June. The seeds were provided by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the overall project is being implemented with funding from the Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SHF), an OCHA-managed pooled fund that allows timely disbursement of money to cover the most urgent needs.
As a direct neighbour to South Sudan, West Kordofan hosts around 60,000 refugees, and is one of the poorest regions of Sudan. In these remote areas, there is not much difference between the needs of the refugee population and the hosting communities. Both depend on small agricultural production and pastoralism and the COVID-19 outbreak followed by a lockdown has made life extremely difficult for vulnerable families from both communities.
Although Concern has worked in West Kordofan from mid 1980s and has undertaken distributions in the area since 2016, doing such work with the threat of COVID-19 was new for everyone. Aligned with governmental directives, all programme activities were adjusted with frontline staff wearing full Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and portable water stations for handwashing were placed strategically at the distribution site. Keeping physical distance, hand washing and disinfection were mandatory during the five-day activity.
“Spreading the distribution across several days assisted us to control the number of people at the distribution centre and avoided large group gatherings.” says Hayam Algack Ali Hamdan, Concern Hygiene Promotion Officer overseeing the distribution in Meiram. “We painted circles on the ground using white chalk to designate where each recipient was to stand to enforce social distancing.” Pre-COVID-19, two days would have been adequate for this intervention.
“This distribution was well timed to coincide with the planting season as we expect the rains from June to October” says Ms Hamdan.” It would have become impossible to distribute the seeds after the rains begin because the roads become too muddy and are impassable especially when transporting a large consignment of goods,” he added.
With this assistance and the hope of attaining food security in the forthcoming season, Taiba’s family is more optimistic about the future.
“Since our father died, we were worried about how to make a living” says Taiba as she and her sister watch her grandmother collect the seeds and farming tools at the distribution site. “The seeds will help us to grow our own food and when we sell the excess, we can buy water and meet other needs.”