Human conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region has been described as “the first climate change war”. In 2007 the then United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said “Amid the diverse social and political causes, (the conflict) began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change”.
A December 2019 feature article in UK media outlet The Guardian, produced with assistance from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), describes how a new water management initiative has increased crop productivity through community construction of weirs that slow the flow of seasonal rains, allowing water to seep into the land.
The weirs bring promise of peace among farmers and nomadic camel herders, who previously competed for water resources, but now come together as communities to build them, often meeting face to face for the first time since the conflict began 16 years ago. The weir project has shown some success in addressing, at a local level, the complex mix of climate impacts, conflict and migration that are rising around the world.
Millions have been forced to flee violence in Darfur that killed as many as 400,000 people during a decade of conflict from 2003, with many still housed in refugee camps.
The weirs are a “pioneer project”, says Enaam Ismail Abdalla, director general at the ministry of production in North Darfur, adding that the timing of the rains has completely changed due to climate change. The weirs are enabling people to return to their villages and adapt to the changing climate, which would otherwise drive them away once again, she says. She hopes they will be replicated in other parts of Darfur, Sudan and beyond.
“Now we can go on our own: that is a real sign of improvement,” says Atila Uras, head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Sudan, which oversees the $18 Million USD project, which is aiming to help 180,000 people.