Fighting in Sudan leaves farmers struggling to get crops planted


The escalating war between military factions in Sudan continues to pose an alarming threat to the country’s agricultural sector, jeopardizing the production of staple crops and exacerbating the already dire food security situation. As the conflict intensifies, farmers across several states are grappling with numerous challenges that hinder their ability to plant and cultivate crops. The repercussions of this crisis extend far beyond the immediate concerns of farmers, as the impact could drive the nation deeper into hunger and poverty.

In conversations with Reuters, more than a dozen individuals, including farmers, experts, and aid workers, shed light on the precarious conditions they are facing. Delays in planting crops such as sorghum and millet are being attributed to a variety of factors, including a lack of credit from banks and the soaring prices of critical inputs like fertilizers, seeds, and fuel. These challenges have made it increasingly difficult for farmers to prepare their fields and carry out essential farming activities. Disturbingly, some farmers have expressed concerns that they may not be able to plant at all before the heavy rains, which are expected during this month—traditionally the optimal time for planting.

The situation on the ground paints a bleak picture, suggesting that a looming hunger crisis could be even more severe than initially forecasted by the United Nations and aid workers. In May, the UN projected that the number of people experiencing hunger in Sudan would rise to 19.1 million by August, an alarming increase from the pre-conflict figure of 16.2 million. These predictions were based on the assumption of relatively stable agricultural conditions, which have since been disrupted by the ongoing conflict.

The shortage of key staple foods, compounded by the looting of warehouses in cities like Khartoum, exacerbates the hunger crisis that has been steadily intensifying in recent years. Sudan’s vulnerability to food insecurity is further underscored by the fact that cash crops such as sesame and peanuts contribute significantly to the country’s export revenues, generating an estimated $1.6 billion in 2022, according to figures from the central bank. The disruption of agricultural activities not only threatens the livelihoods of farmers but also deprives Sudan of the foreign currency needed to import basic commodities and sustain its economy.

Sudan’s agricultural sector is a critical component of its economy, engaging nearly 65% of the country’s population of 49 million, as highlighted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The voices of farmers interviewed by Reuters indicate a growing concern that the situation is rapidly deteriorating, with some expressing fears of an impending famine. Although it is premature to officially declare a famine, according to UN experts, the testimonies of farmers suggest that the crisis is heading in that direction.

In response to the mounting challenges faced by farmers, the FAO has initiated emergency distribution of sorghum, millet, groundnut, and sesame seeds. However, navigating the complex security and logistical hurdles to deliver these vital supplies to cover the needs of 13-19 million people is a formidable task. The UN World Food Program continues to closely analyze the situation and will monitor developments during the upcoming planting and harvest season.

The primary obstacle faced by farmers is not direct violence, but rather a lack of financing and unfulfilled promises of credit and support from banks. The looting and disruption of banking operations in Khartoum have exacerbated an already challenging situation, leaving farmers without the necessary resources to invest in agricultural inputs and adequately prepare their fields.

The situation in Sudan is a stark reminder of the urgent need for humanitarian aid and support to alleviate the mounting food security crisis. Swift intervention is crucial to help farmers overcome their challenges, rebuild their livelihoods, and ensure the nation’s agricultural sector can recover. Moreover, coordinated efforts are needed to address the underlying causes of the conflict, foster stability, and create an enabling environment for sustainable agricultural development.

The international community must rally together to provide assistance to Sudan, not only to alleviate the immediate food crisis but also to support the long-term resilience and self-sufficiency of the agricultural sector. Without concerted action and timely interventions, Sudan risks descending further into hunger, poverty, and instability, with severe consequences for its people and the broader region.

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