Women at Diem Arab Centre, Port Sudan, Red Sea State. Photo: Kumar Tiku/UNDPPort Sudan, Red Sea State, Women of the Diem Arab Centre sewing as part of UNDP income generating programme in the state (Photo: UNDP Sudan)

Although Sudan is ranked as a middle income country, almost half of its population lives in poverty.  Investment has traditionally been targeted at the capital Khartoum and its surrounding areas, leaving much of this vast country, undeveloped and its population living in desperately poor conditions.  Added to this, decades of conflict and instability, weak governance, high unemployment, rapid urban migration and climate change have all acerbated the challenges millions of Sudanese people face every day.  Moreover, the 2011 secession of South Sudan, caused a 70 per cent drop in the government’s oil revenues, affecting thus, available funding for basic services such as health and education. 

Sudan, however, has vast potential. It is rich in natural resources and its combination of fertile land and plentiful sunshine means that many crops and agricultural products which are in demand on both domestic and global markets -  like gum Arabic, hibiscus and honey - readily grow in Sudan.

UNDP is working across Sudan to help communities maximize this potential, making the most of the real market opportunities that exist, and helping people adapt to the challenges they face. It is also working with the government to ensure that national policies push forward development, that will not only benefit Sudan’s wealthy population, but will specifically target those communities previously sidelined by the country’s economic growth.

Working on the ground, side by side with some of Sudan’s poorest, most marginalized, communities, UNDP’s work is making a real difference in the lives of ordinary people. It is supporting the government in providing basic services in some of the most remote areas of the country. In East Sudan, for example, 53 communities – over 600,000 people - benefited from solar water pumps, renovated schools, water reservoirs and health centres made possible by a local develop fund, supported by UNDP.   

Overall, UNDP has helped 35,000 farmers gain better access to markets, generating higher incomes.  In North Darfur, some 1500 remote farmers growing hibiscus, a product widely used in fruit teas throughout the world, have been provided with innovative tools to increase production, as well as help with transport, so that they can access the market. Farmers are also being given help with adapting to climate change with the introduction of innovative water-harvesting techniques, micro-fencing of sand dunes, and water efficient irrigation of crops. In projects in the states of River Nile and Northern Kordofan this has resulted in crops yields increasing by up to 60 per cent.  Introducing early maturing and drought resistant varieties of crops has helped cucumber farmers in South Darfur, and tomato growers in River Nile state, increase their income.

UNDP believes that supporting private enterprise is key to empowering people with choices about how they improve their lives. Micro finance projects, for example, are being used across the country with great success. UNDP supported microfinance projects have benefitted some 3,000 young people. A sample survey of a third of them showed that after six months, more than 70 per cent of them had managed to establish a small business and were generating an income. Micro finance schemes have also benefited farmers. They’ve resulted in 1,200 honey producers, for example, increasing their production by ten fold, resulting in thousands of dollars in extra income for these families.

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