Back in the Market: Darfurian Farmers Go back to Cultivation of Hibiscus

Some of Darfur’s poorest farmers are being given the chance to benefit from the growing global demand for hibiscus, with a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) pilot project, designed to improve cultivation techniques for hibiscus production.

The hibiscus flower forms the major ingredient of many fruit teas and Sudan is known for producing high quality crops. About half of Sudan’s total hibiscus production is exported, mainly to Germany. The rest being used domestically in popular drinks such as Karkadeh, a sweetened deep red cordial made from the flower.

By introducing simply made tools that help increase production and by helping remote farmers with transport, some 1500 farmers, many of whom had given up producing hibiscus, are now growing it again.

In a survey conducted in 2011 by UNDP, it was concluded that farmers have stopped producing Hibiscus due to the lack of the necessary tools. This made expansion of production difficult and harvesting ineffective, while production by hand often caused allergic reactions to the skin.

In North Darfur, some 1500 farmers in eight villages are being given seeds, training in new production methods as well as new tools. The main new tool being introduced is a “gargara” that is used to separate the calyx from the seedpod during harvest. It prevents the flower from falling apart and the calyxes from breaking, as well as helping to prevent allergic reactions to the skin. Using the gargara will bring production practices in line with international standards as well as increase the market value of the hibiscus – both of which make it attractive to buyers and traders from Khartoum.

The gargara is inexpensive and easy to produce. UNDP trained and tasked community blacksmiths with their production so as to maximise the benefit to the communities and support private sector development in the area.

Further, communities involved in the project have been supplied with horses and carts to ensure that even farmers in remote villages can participate in the project. Lack of transportation to bring the production to the market was also cited in the UNDP survey as a reason why people did not grow hibiscus.

Alhadi Ibrahim Muhammed, a full time farmer and a member of the local hibiscus producer union in Waada village, says he had stopped cultivating hibiscus because the tools were either unavailable or too expensive. But like many of his fellow farmers, he is now hopeful about the future: “I have high expectations for this year’s production and hope the hibiscus will generate some much needed income.”

Copyright (c) United Nations Development Programme Sudan, 2013. All rights reserved
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