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Friday, June 20, 2008

Good Watermelons Make Good Neighbors

Watermelon leaves. Photo: Derek Ramsey.

"Several hundred kilometres from the simmering conflicts between pastoralists and farmers [over natural resources] in Sudan's Darfur region, the two communities in the village of Gereigikh in North Kordofan State have learnt to cool the tension with watermelons."

So opens a recent report from the Global Policy Forum, an international watchdog organization following UN policy decisions.

Drought has scorched North Kordofan for nearly half a century, and precious land and water must be shared between crop farmers and herders, setting the stage for strife. However, the Global Policy Forum report continues, quoting a village leader,

"'Our farmers discovered that whenever the Kawahla tribe [traditionally pastoral] brought their livestock into the fields, the animal droppings helped improve production, so the members of the Gawamha [traditionally farmers] started planting watermelons to attract the livestock to the field,' recalled Ad-Dukhri Al-Sayed, a community leader in Gereigikh, about 100km northeast of the state capital, El Obeid. 'The situation has improved so much. Now everyone lives in peace, we never have problems.'"

As the report notes, clashes in the neighboring Darfur region of Sudan are more complex, spurred not only by climatic hardship and resource shortage but by ethnic and political forces.

However, the truce between North Kordofan herders and crop farmers is a vital and timely step toward addressing the strains climate change continues to place upon the area. The Global Policy Forum report refers to a 2007 UN document highlighting the effects of increasing desertification:

"[The] scale of historical climate change, as recorded in Northern Darfur, is almost unprecedented: the reduction in rainfall has turned millions of hectares of already marginal semi-desert grazing land into desert. The impact of climate change is considered to be directly related to the conflict in the region, as desertification has added significantly to the stress on the livelihoods of pastoralist societies, forcing them to move south to find pasture."

A member of development NGO SOS Sahel UK sums up,

"The two communities in North Kordofan have developed a symbiotic relationship - they have relationships in the market place over the supply of manure, labour, they buy livestock from each other. These relationships have cemented over the years."

1 comment:

  1. And watermelon has just been found to have Viagra-like effects. Look for a spate of marriages between the tribes........