Nelly Bassily | February 18, 2008
Deng Kak is one of the small-scale farmers in Sudan fortunate enough to have a plot of land next to the Nile River. But apart from daily use in domestic chores, the Nile River waters never really helped his farm.
Mr. Kak is now among 200 small-scale farmers supported by the Northern Upper Nile Consortium — a coalition of NGOs funded by the European Commission through the UNDP. The farmers receive treadle pumps and vegetable seeds. They then work together in small groups to operate the pumps and cultivate crops during the dry season.
Treadle pumps are simple devices that allow farmers to draw water from the ground by pedalling two levers up and down. The treadle pumps can do most of the work of a motorized pump, taking water from a depth of six or seven metres. But they cost much less.
And, because of the ingenuity of two American university students – Mustafa Dafalla and Zahir Dossa – more Sudanese farmers will have access to treadle pumps. They created a company called company Selsabila which sells pumps for 100 American dollars, or about 70 Euros each.
With the help of microfinance institutions, the founders of Selsabila are looking to put 100 treadle pumps in the hands of Sudanese farmers by May 2008.
The pumps mean that crops can be grown year round, and can triple the food production of small-scale farmers. By boosting production, the pumps pay for themselves in the first year.
Selsabila is also starting local businesses to market the pumps and workshops to repair them. Mr. Dafalla and Mr. Dossa hope to eventually transfer their entire operation to Sudan. Mr. Dafalla says that many Sudanese farmers are desperate. Selsabila aims to give them hope. That’s why they called their company Selsabila – the word comes from the Koran and means “the river that flows from the heavens.”
Located on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, Sudan is one of the driest regions in the world. The country’s dry season lasts nine months, and even during the rainy season, rains are often poor. About two-thirds of Sudanese people are small-scale farmers who irrigate their farms manually with water buckets.