3. Sudan: Watermelons a sign of peace between farmers and herders (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Download this story

Farmers in the Sudanese village of Gereigikh have a special reason to plant watermelons. They don’t just grow the sweet melons to enjoy on a hot day. Rather, they hope that the juicy fruit will entice cattle and camels from pastoralist herds.Ad-Dukhri Al-Sayed is a community leader in Gereigikh. He explains that, many years ago, farmers noticed that when herds visited their fields, their dung boosted crop production. Before long, farmers discovered that if they planted watermelons, they had a better chance of receiving free fertilizer droppings.

Gereigikh is located in North Kordofan State, just a few hundred kilometres from the Darfur region where violent conflict has persisted for years. As with many areas where pastoralist and farming groups meet, there was a history of tension over land and grazing rights. Mr. Al-Sayed says that peace between pastoralists and farmers in his village began with the realization that each group could benefit from the other.

Cooperation between the Gawamha, who are traditionally farmers, and the Kawahla, who are traditionally pastoralists, now extends far beyond watermelons. Faisal Eljack studied the relationship between the two groups for the British NGO, SOS Sahel. He explained that herders supply the farmers with dairy products such as milk, butter, and cheese. The farmers, in turn, supply the herders with agricultural products – millet, sorghum, and vegetables.

The beneficial relationship has led the herding Kawahla people to spend more time in the village. Marriages between the two groups have solidified their bond.

International NGOs and the University of Khartoum have taken a keen interest in Gereigikh and Iyal Ali village, another community in North Kordofan State where farmers and pastoralists live in harmony. The researchers note that climate change is putting more pressure on scarce resources shared by the groups, and want to learn how these villages keep the peace.

Conflicts between the Gawamha and Kawahla do arise at times, usually over animals grazing on cropland or shared water points. A strong traditional system has proven successful in resolving disputes. During mediation sessions, known as judiyya, leaders appeal to the wisdom and honour of parties in the dispute. They seek a definition of the conflict that all parties can accept.

And for every conflict, there is an example of herders and farmers peacefully sharing resources, even in times of drought. Both groups share the belief that you should help neighbours when you can, because next year could be your lean year, and you may need to turn to your neighbours for help.