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This solar panel is offering a viable alternative to the diesel powered, high maintenance pumps. Credits: Caritas

This solar panel is offering a viable alternative to the diesel powered, high maintenance pumps.
Credits: Caritas

As climate change is heatedly debated by world leaders, communities in Darfur are finding sustainable solutions to water shortages in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) Camps.

The rainy season in South Darfur typically lasts five or six months of the year. For the remainder, the land is dry, arid and desolate. With the length of the rainy season becoming increasingly unpredictable in Darfur, water has become a precious commodity. While the climate change debate is on the collective brows of our world leaders, innovative adaptive measures are being taken in Darfur to secure sustainable water sources amidst the continuing drought.

Osman, the Project Coordinator of a Caritas supported Water and Sanitation Team (WATSAN) said, “Kubum Solar Water Project was initiated by the growing need for sustainable sources of water for IDP Communities in Darfur. This is the first successful example of an aid agency using a solar powered solution for the benefit of the camp communities”.

If there is one thing which Darfur has in abundance, it is sunlight. Using clean technologies to derive solar energy is proving to be an efficient way of creating sustainable water supplies for communities affected by the ongoing violence in Darfur. These projects offer a community owned solution to the resource scarcity which fuels violence between different ethnic tribes.

Osman said, “The project has taken three months to implement including assessing the site, and fabricating and installing the water tank, solar panels and solar submergible pump. The pump provides 15 litres of water per person per day and is directly benefiting over 2000 people.

“People from Kubum town and neighbouring communities are also collecting water from the solar pump taking the number of beneficiaries to around 3000 or more. The community members are trained and included from the beginning. This includes the connection of the panels, connection of the system followed by dismantling training.

“The maintenance of the pumps are carried out collaboratively with the government so it really is a unique partnership.”

Solar power is frequently criticised for the expense, but it is a long-term solution which has exponential benefits for communities in Darfur.

Osman said, “There are no operation costs except guarding, no pollution, no technical expense and the environmental benefits are extremely significant when compared to the diesel powered pumps. The public must be educated. These pumps remain effective for a minimum of 20 years. It may seem expensive at the beginning, but the long-term benefits are immense.”

The solar powered water pumps were funded by the Scottish Government through SCIAF/Caritas Scotland.

The success of the first project in Kubum has led to an expansion of the project, with two more pumps planned to be constructed in Zalingei and two more in Garsilla. By the end of the year, the expectation is to have more four completed solar systems benefiting thousands of IDPs.

Osman said, “a water committee, consisting of nine members are selected in the camps to be trained on the benefits of solar power and they then share the knowledge with family members and the wider community.

“Some of them are mechanics, some are hygiene workers. It involves both women and men, they then mobilise the communities and teach them about hygiene and sanitation so the pumps are used as a tool for education also.

“The water from the pumps is used for all purposes and they bring the communities closer together. They are responsible for every aspect of the pumps.”

This project is offering a viable alternative to the diesel powered, high maintenance pumps which are littered all around the camps in Darfur. The government has also begun to look to the projects as successful models to be used in other areas of South Darfur.

In a part of the world where the climate change debate has very little resonance, but the effects of unpredictable weather are clearly visible, community owned innovations such as these are rare examples of the people of Darfur looking to the future, beyond the state of emergency they have lived under since 2005.

Caritas Internationalis works together with the ACT alliance in Darfur through implementing partner Norwegian Church Aid (NCA).