By Joyce Ojanji

A wheat production project in Sudan, spearheaded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Food Programme (WFP), has increased wheat production by 70 percent, yielding 645,000 metric tonnes of wheat over the past year.

The project comes at a time when the country continues to grapple with a soaring hunger crisis exacerbated by the ongoing conflicts that hindered agricultural production in the past season.

The wheat production project accounted for over 22 percent of the national wheat demand in Sudan over the past year, providing much-needed food security and a vital crisis response to the internally displaced persons facing dire circumstances.

“Given the great potential that agriculture offers even under circumstances of active conflict, and with famine in Sudan on the horizon, threatening millions of lives, this project has brought a lot of hope. The project’s impressive performance has demonstrated that there are viable solutions to increasing domestic production to address the rising levels of hunger and acute malnutrition in the country,” said Nnenna Nwabufo, AfDB Director General for the Eastern Africa region.

AfDB provided a total of $75 million to WFP for the implementation of the Sudan Emergency Wheat Production Project over two years.

Central to the success of this project was the distribution of climate-adapted wheat seeds and fertilizers to over 170,000 smallholder farmers during the 2023-2024 agricultural season.

Around 16,000 of the farmers who received support had been newly displaced by conflict in the last 13 months.

The project offered support and resources for smallholder farmers, including 12 harvester machines provided to farmers’ associations in the River Nile and Northern states to enable them to harvest more efficiently to reduce losses significantly.

As a result, these farmers reported a 44 percent increase in wheat productivity per hectare compared to the previous season.

Mary Monyau, AfDB Country Manager for Sudan, noted that more than 30% of the smallholder farmers in the Northern State of Sudan who benefitted from the project are internally displaced persons.

Sudan, which is facing a looming hunger catastrophe, risks becoming the world’s largest hunger crisis. A new WFP analysis has identified 41 hunger hotspots, noting that over two million people are at high risk of falling into IPC 5 (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) if they do not urgently receive humanitarian assistance.

“The project was anchored on earlier game-changing wheat production initiatives, providing a clear example of how a longer-term development intervention can meet short-term emergency and humanitarian needs with forward-looking resilience building. We thank our development partner, the World Food Program, for implementing this project and ensuring positive outcomes in at least 5 states, namely Gezira, Kassala, River Nile, and White Nile. The Northern States, despite the active conflict in the country,” Monyau continued.

WFP Sudan Representative and Country Director, Eddie Rowe, said: “The ongoing conflict in Sudan has had a devastating impact on agriculture. Sudan produced merely half the wheat it would have produced in a typical year. Thanks to funding from the African Development Bank, WFP was able to mitigate some of the impacts of this war on wheat production.”