Darfur: Older people still hard at work
As I stepped down last week from the World Food Programme's helicopter in Habila, West Darfur; the extreme heat hit me.
Then driving down the dusty road on my way to a HelpAge project, the driver told me that the hot weather signals the approaching rainy season. On the road, I saw farmers busy preparing their land for the imminent rains.
Habila is home to large numbers of internally displaced people who were forced to flee when the Darfur conflict started in 2003.
Many are dependent on aid
Dialogue Kubvoruno, HelpAge's Programme Manager in Darfur told me: "As a result of over ten years of conflict, most people have very little access to work. Many depend on food aid or resort to petty trade and casual labour to earn money.
"In recent years, environmental degradation has increased due to climate change and over-cultivation and grazing. This has led to tensions between sedentary and nomadic farmers. Many in Darfur struggle to feed themselves and earn a living and are not prepared to cope with further crises."
To respond to this problem, HelpAge and the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) are working in West Darfur to help vulnerable older people. The objective of their work is to help older people set up sustainable and shock-proof channels of income, whether it be grants for business or skills training.
Making services accessible to older people
This programme of work will also establish an older people's association and build older people's skills in poultry farming, groundnuts production and business management. Although the State Ministry of Animal Resources provides basic animal health services in Habila, these are limited services and not easy for older people to access.
The project therefore aims to enhance the accessibility of these services by training Community Animal Health Workers and Community Agricultural Extension Workers. They will be selected by the local communities and have been trained to provide agricultural and veterinary services.
Dalama, who is 75, said: "Some time ago I suffered from malnutrition. HelpAge admitted me to a nutrition programme and slowly I was able to walk again, carry out some light household activities and take care of my grandchildren when their mother was fetching firewood.
"Recently HelpAge provided me with two goats. Soon they are going to give birth to kids and then we will be able to milk them to feed the children and produce butter to selling at the local market."
Work for the future
In the village's weekly market many older women and men have benefited from the small grants this project has provided. Many have set up their own small businesses selling groundnuts, millet, poultry products and shoes.
Finally, farmers will soon also receive groundnuts seeds to plan for the new farming season. Hopefully all this work will support older people to a brighter future in which they can be active and work to provide for themselves and their families.
Find out more about our work in Sudan.