Women leading Integrated Water Resource Management in the east of Sudan

Macca Adam is the Treasurer of the Water Resources Committee for Sobaq catchment in Gedaref State. Macca says “Sobaq women are aware of the problems of water scarcity especially during the dry season. It’s important to make sure people have enough water and do not need to travel far to get water”. The Committee is one of many established by a UK-funded programme to support rural communities in the east of Sudan to better manage water resources and improve water supply. The committee works together to analyse what water is available in a particular area and the different ways in which that water is used — for drinking, agriculture, and livestock. They develop a map of the available water sources, its use, and the needs of the community. They then agree what solutions are required to ensure that enough water is available to meet essential needs throughout the year. The next task for the Sobaq Committee is to prioritise work that must take place before the next rainy season.

Boys collecting dirty water for drinking from a haffir

Community-led water management is particularly important in areas like Sobaq where available water resources are limited and demand is high. There are fifteen villages with many people who need water. In addition there is high seasonal demand due to livestock and agriculture. Every year during the rainy season (August to October), 8 million camels, cattle, and sheep descend upon the Sobaq Dam, and it is vital that there is enough water available for them as well as meeting the other needs for water.

This isn’t only about ensuring sustainable access to water, it’s also about different communities coming together to take responsibility for the sustainable development in their catchment area. The approach also reinforces the important role of women in communities, in particular in managing water. There are three women on this committee, raising their influence within the community. “As the Treasurer, I’m proof that this community has invested in women with a substantial role”, Macca explained. Her role is also to help other women understand what she is doing, why it’s important and how it will help them. In addition to improving water, Macca adds: “We need better hygiene and sanitation awareness. We also want better girls’ education and primary health care”. There are many things that the Committee would like to improve in the future.

Talking to women about their water supply, sanitation and hygiene

As a Sudanese woman engineer, I think women’s engagement in water management committees is very important. The burden of fetching water usually falls on women and children in rural areas, they understand its importance and they should have a say on how it should be managed. In our recent visit, I could see how women in the community are now thinking of the water issues more broadly and working out solutions to help the whole community together. They are thinking about water for drinking, livestock, and agriculture and about all the different groups of people who use water to meet different needs across the catchment. This change in understanding and attitude is what will make their contribution very valuable to their household and their community.

Omayma talking to Macca, the Treasurer

Author: Omayma Ibrahim, DFID Sudan