The Darfur Outreach Campaign reached upwards of 100 million Americans from all walks of life and inspired countless television and print interviews including those by Bob Costas with then-President George Bush during NBC’s Olympic coverage, and by Jay Leno with George Clooney on The Tonight Show.
Together with Participant Media, ASR orchestrated the Darfur PSA Campaign
The Village Reforestation & Advancement Initiative
The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis… It is no accident that the violence erupted during the drought.
United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon
Darfur is the home of one of the first major conflicts caused by climate change. It is not likely to be the last. With deserts around the world expanding at a startling pace (desertification), clashes based on resources are inevitable.
The Darfur people have not only been contending with untoward violence, they have watched their homes, farmlands, and water supplies being swallowed up by the invading desert over the past 40 years.
Before the drought, survival in Darfur was difficult but manageable. Despite differences in lifestyle, religion and ancestry, nomadic tribes and settlers found ways to share their limited resources. But with the advent of desertification, subsistence in much of Darfur has become nearly impossible, sparking conflict.
A recent United Nations University study suggests that desertification is the greatest environmental challenge of our time — not only for Africa, but for vast areas of the United States, Asia, the Middle East, and Australia as well. As a global phenomenon, it requires global action.
In late 2008, along with our project partners at Christie Communications, we drove seven hours through northern Sudan, through a desert that a few decades ago supported vastly forested areas and an abundance of arable land. Today, only sand and the occasional tree stump remain. With the forests gone, winds blow sand across the desert with nothing to stop the onslaught — nothing, that is, except the villages themselves. As a result, sand piles up high against the dwellings and destroys farmland.
What We Can Do
One day, soon we hope, 2.9 million refugees and internally displaced people will return to their homes in Darfur. But what will they be returning to? 80%–90% of their villages lie in ashes and have been covered by the desert (see US Department of State map); their once-arable land is all but gone; their wells dry or poisoned.
Christie Communications and Aid Still Required have collaborated in the development of The Village Reforestation & Advancement Initiative (VRAI) which utilizes age-old farming techniques and irrigation systems to help stop desertification and environmental degradation and to regenerate the soil, thereby restoring self-sufficiency to villagers.
The project is focused on planting substantial forest breaks to stop the incessant creep of the desert, protect villages, and restore arable land. The forest breaks, irrigated by a system of water pumps and troughs, will allow large areas to be cultivated, providing the means for villagers to regain self-sufficiency through the sale of crops, medicinal herbs, and honey produced by bees used to cross-pollinate the various plant species.
Over the past several years, farmers in the project village have experimented with smaller windbreaks and a diversity of crops with great success. They have turned this into this:
These two areas lie adjacent to one another on either side of a windbreak.
Since 80% of the Darfur population is dependent on agriculture for subsistence, restored forests and water tables will provide a solid and necessary foundation for the people of Darfur to rebuild their lives.
Piloting this venture in Darfur is still too dangerous at this time. In the meantime we are in discussions with potential partners and continue to research the most efficient means to success. When we can safely begin we will develop VRAI to be easily replicated throughout the region. It is our intention to bring prosperity back the area to provide an enduring peace.