August 24, 2007 (KASSALA) — Sudan’s worst flooding in living memory is threatening food supplies in the eastern state of Kassala, an official with the U.N. food agency said.
"The floods caused severe damage to the agricultural sector and this will affect food security in many dimensions," said Wegdan Abdel Rahman, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) team leader in Kassala.
The state bordering Eritrea was hit when the River Gash burst its banks, washing away crops, ruining hundreds of wells and damaging large swathes of arable land. Agriculture is the mainstay of Kassala’s economy.
Fruit and vegetables may soon be in short supply in Kassala and neighbouring states, officials said.
Officials have described this year’s floods, which have killed some 90 people across Sudan and destroyed more than 70,000 homes, as the worst in living memory.
Kassala state Agriculture Minister Majzoub Abu Moussa said the floods ruined 1,900 acres (650 hectares) prepared for planting fruit and vegetables.
"The farmers suffered heavy losses and many still cannot return to their farms," Abu Moussa told reporters.
Past flooding had led to a deterioration in the fertility of the land. "The water comes with sand and not silt," Abdel Rahman said.
In the small village of Tamis, near the Eritrean border, farmer Ali Soliman Daffallah said the Gash submerged 260 acres of agricultural land.
"We have never seen anything like this," he said.
In 2003 the level of the Gash reached 2.7 meters.
"This year, it rose to more than three meters," said Abdul Rahim Saleh, an official with the irrigation ministry.
Some farmers are considering quitting farming, Daffallah said. FAO said it was trying to encourage them to stay.
"FAO is launching an appeal to secure funds for these farmers," said Abdel Rahman. The agency has received $300,000 so far that will be used to purchase new tools and seeds.
Some of the funds will also help repair wells that farmers use to store water for the dry season, and the irrigation system which has collapsed as a result of the flooding.