Darfur: The Road from Humanitarian Crisis Response to the Resilience Era

Fuel-efficient Cookstoves: Old Solution or Novel Challenge?

Fuel-efficient cookstoves may relieve Darfur’s suffering. A “simple” idea makes a difference to vulnerable people in a region threatened by political violence and the climate crisis. Darfur offers a laboratory to test the success of the humanitarian response.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

Despite the generosity of donor organizations and donor nations, people wonder where the money goes. Reports on Global Humanitarian Aid parse the funds, sources, targets, and met and unmet goals.

In 2013 alone, the most significant government contributors — the United States, United Kingdom, Turkey, Germany, Sweden, and Japan — provided US$19.7bn on top of US$5.8bn from private donors (Swithern, 2015). The ten most significant international humanitarian aid recipients were Syria, South Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Philippines, Palestine Authority, Jordan, Somalia, and Sudan (Swithern, 2015, p. 73). In 2013, only Syria received more long-term humanitarian assistance than Sudan (Swithern, 2015, p. 100).

Sudan was the third-largest recipient of global humanitarian aid in 2010. Most of those funds went to the humanitarian crises created by the chronic conflict in Darfur. Shifts in the recipients reflect natural disasters in The Philippines, the Ebola crisis in Liberia, and new and/or continuing conflicts in South Sudan, Somalia, and Sudan.

The total international aid includes climate-specific adaptation funds, peacekeeping efforts, crisis intervention, food distribution, water access, and refugee shelter. The whole package contains direct foreign investment, long- and short-term debt, debt forgiveness, and other portfolio elements.

In short, the world contributes generously within its means. Some contributions are beyond reproach. But others leverage funding for political gain and influence. Corrupt governance consumes many resources, as does corruption along the entire distribution chain — actions that diminish individual grantors’ goodwill and undercut the ethics of contributing government agencies. Darfur is a case in point.

Darfur’s context

Almost 8 million people inhabit Darfur, the vast western region of Sudan. It is tribal territories and circumstantial home to over 20 percent of Sudan’s total population. A thousand miles remote from Sudan’s capital Khartoum, it is a desperately parched land vulnerable to climate change, extremist infiltration, internal tribal conflict, historical genocide, and gender-based sexual violence as a weapon.

Sudan has been categorized as a chronic humanitarian emergency for over 20 years. Conflict and natural disasters have led to massive scale displacement. Markets have collapsed, political and ethnic tensions have led to a breakdown in social support mechanisms. People have lost their assets, and the food security situation is critical. Darfur ranks highest in humanitarian caseloads and with most of its people dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs (UNOCHA, 2013).

The peace process in Darfur has not been fully inclusive, and all agreements have yet to be implemented. The situation remains extremely dynamic, with pockets of improved stability and new conflicts emerging throughout the region. The year 2013 marked the 10th anniversary of the Darfur crisis tenth with a harvest of almost 3.4 million internally displaced people, including 1.4 million people receiving food aid in the camps (UNOCHA, 2013, p. 9). And, as Darfur’s protracted crises near their 20th anniversary, the worldwide attention of human rights activists, humanitarian organizations, practitioners, researchers, and the global community continue despite other existential threats.

The Darfur catastrophe, dating to the late 1970s, is considered a unique case study because many contributing stressors and shocks have played a role in exacerbating the crisis. For many, it appeared to be a conventional African political and interests conflict between contradicting agendas (a government-rebel, Arab-African, Arab-Arab struggle for power, and ethnic conflict). However, this is only the tip of an Iceberg based on the impact of gradual climate change for over 50 years, as well as urbanization, marginalization, and competition on dismissing recourses between pastoral- and agriculture-based communities (Suliman, 2006).

However, the international media have represented the Darfur conflict through a naive lens as an ethnic war between African descendant groups and Arabic tribes/nomads known as the “Janjawid” (or “Janjaweed” mounted gunman) (O’Fahey, 2004), the group regaining power through violence in Khartoum in June 2019.

This inaccurately simplifies a complex reality. For example, wealthy farmers (mostly African descended tribes) can cross the ethnic bridges by changing their livelihoods from farming to pastoralists and to “Baqqara/Baggara” (in Arabic: cattle herdsmen/cowboys) (Suliman, 2006; O’Fahey, 2004). Within a few generations, the descendants would have an “authentic” Arab genealogy (O’Fahey, 2004). Thus, the ethnic classification of fighting groups in the Afro-Arab conflict is very fluid. Many disagree on the causes of the Darfur conflict; however, no one can deny its resulting ugly consequences and human misery. Darfuris typically describe their endless suffering with the despairing expression “Umm kowaak/Umm Kwakiyya,” meaning “the mother of damnation” (Gasim, 2013; O’Fahey, 2004).[1]

Although Sudan was the third-largest recipient of global humanitarian aid in 2010, most of those funds went to the humanitarian crises created by the chronic conflict in Darfur — displaced people, a shattered economy, gender-based violence, and more. That conflict and the consequent dependence on international aid created an immediate need for long-term and sustainable solutions.

The case for resilience

Recently, most of the international aid donors have emphasized the need for establishing a new program paradigm. Any new model must capture the previous lessons learned. This study examines whether fuel-efficient cooking stoves (FES) programs in Darfur possess the necessary and intended resilient features. A third of humanity worldwide uses open or pit fires for warming and cooking; the fires consume resources, exhaust time, and pollute the environment. The availability of fuel-efficient cookstoves can make a meaningful and resilient impact on the users and their surroundings.

“Fuel-Efficient Stoves (FES) are specifically designed to reduce fuel consumption and provide a substitute for the traditional three-stone fire. They can be made of mud, clay, or metal, and they can use different types of fuels, such as fuelwood, charcoal, briquettes, biofuels, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), or kerosene,” (FOA).

“Resilient” programs commonly sequence through the following design dimensions:

  • Building vital livelihood assets, including non-monetary capital such as skills, leadership, and knowledge;
  • Facilitating and scaling access to essential services;
  • Enabling all sectors, especially vulnerable groups;
  • Building peace and co-existence among community members;
  • Promoting livelihood diversification and indigenous best practices;
  • Doing no harm; and,
  • Building the ecosystem.

The Darfur FES programs have passed through three stages between 1997 and 2008 (Abdelnour & Branzei, Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Darfur: The Social Construction of Subsistence Marketplaces in Post-Conflict Settings, 2010):

I. The Killer in the Kitchen stage focused on the direct health benefits of the technology. The smoke from burning stoves “turns kitchens in the world’s poorest countries into death traps. Indoor air pollution from the burning of solid fuels.

Kills over 1.6 million people, predominately women, and children each year. This is over three people per minute” (Warwick & Doig, 2004).

II. Reduce Risk of Rape stage grapples with the indirect benefits to female Internally Displaced Persons whose exposure to violence may decrease as fuel-efficient stoves limit their trips outside refugee camps:

“(1) The number of firewood collection trips; (2) The number of hours spent during one roundtrip to collect firewood; and (3) The number of kilometers traveled during one roundtrip to collect firewood” (Gender-Based Violence in Humanitarian Settings: Cookstoves and Fuels, 2016).

III. Building an Economy in Darfur stage explores ways to build an economy in Darfur by deliberate restructuring market roles and FES exchanges. “Darfur lies on the edge of a desert in an area that suffers both from an overall scarcity of resources and a high degree of variability in the availability of resources. This scarcity and variability have required a high level of community management, given that different groups use resources in different ways for their livelihood. The environmental aspect of the conflict, therefore, must be analyzed [sic] with reference to governance and livelihoods,” (Bromwich, 2008).

The evolving FES intervention model at Stage III has several resilience characteristics and livelihood outcomes; nevertheless, it cannot be considered a “standalone” resilience program. Moreover, in Sudan, it lacks two essential principles of resilience: national ownership and effective participation of Darfuri women in decision making.

A best practice resilience intervention requires comprehensive, dynamic, and proactive continuous improvement. It is a multisectoral and integrated intervention with a single intended outcome — to create communities resilient against shocks or stresses which could not be achieved by an individual intervention like FES programming.

Given the chronic nature of the conflict and the dependency on humanitarian support, there is a need for longer-term and more sustainable solutions. There is a growing desire to find an empirical intervention to strengthen local communities’ resilience to shocks, build up assets, and reduce humanitarian support dependency. The international response in Darfur has been dominated by short-term humanitarian reactions, focusing on meeting acute needs and saving lives. This classical humanitarian response has created aid dependency and has impacted community members’ appetite to seek livelihood opportunities.

Thus, everyone seeks innovative programs to respond to critical humanitarian needs, help returning populations bounce back for the better, and link longer-term humanitarian programs to an exit strategy.

Building resilience as an intervention mechanism

Darfur’s protracted humanitarian catastrophe has contributed to international donors’ fatigue. Taxpayers are demanding and putting a stronger emphasis on transparency and austerity in overseas humanitarian and development assistance. Donors, policymakers, development, humanitarian practitioners, international humanitarian and development agencies, NGOs, and Faith-based organizations (FBOs) must ride the wave of change (Brattberg, 2013).

This much is indisputable: doing humanitarian business as usual, despite its saving lives, does not help the affected populations tolerate any other anticipated shocks and stresses. All parties are looking for new intervention with a mobilizing banner fulfilling everyone’s wishes, a one-shot involvement, ensuring the best value for money, and creating self-dependency for the beneficiaries. This has created a demand for “resilience.”

“Resilience” is a concept born in psychological theory, structural engineering, and corporate strategy that has also come to describe the desired outcome in the humanitarian and development sector (Bahadur, Ibrahim, & Tanner, 2010). Resilience suitably describes a readily desired mental model for humanitarian and development programs (Bahadur, Ibrahim, & Tanner, 2010)

Rather than critiquing the merits of resilience as a goal, this paper focuses on Fuel-efficient Cookstoves Programs’ value as resilience intervention mechanisms proposed by many agencies and non-governmental organizations.

In the context of Sudan, resilience is shaped by the following donors’ visions: U.S. Office for Federal Disaster Assistance (OFDA), the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Department for International Development, U.K. “DFID” (Development Aid at a Glance: statistics by region, 2013) (OECD, 2013). These are the four largest humanitarian donors in 2012, and they plan to continue in Sudan for the foreseeable future.

The donors’ agenda mostly shapes the resilience programs implemented by U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Sudan. As a sunflower turn toward the sun, these organizations are motivated by scarce funds and lack of creativity. The USAID and DFID mental models of resilience will dominate because of the size of their contribution and their political leverage. USAID and DFID lead the influential donors in Sudan focusing particularly on Darfur. Most recently, DFID announced the allocation of the U.K. £67 million for a resilience program in Sudan (Project Details SHARP-Sudan Humanitarian Assistance and Resilience Programme, 2013). The intent was to spend this money during DFID’s operational plan for 2013–2015.

DFID and USAID conducted bilateral discussions on building resilience to food security threats in the Horn of Africa during March 2012. In their discussion note, they considered the following definition of resilience:

“Disaster Resilience is the ability of countries, communities, and households to manage change, by maintaining or transforming living standards in the face of shocks or stresses — such as earthquakes, drought or violent conflict — without compromising their long-term prospects” (Frankenberger, et al., 2012).

The DFID and USAID Discussion Note adopted a hybrid conceptual framework (Figure 1). It integrates DFID’s Disaster Resilience & Sustainable Livelihoods Framework, TANGO Livelihoods Framework, and CARE Household Livelihood Security. This hybrid framework maps the role of context, shocks, institutions, and livelihood strategies in resilience. It reframes all elements and processes, as well as the outcomes. The interaction of these elements with shocks and stresses in cycles, drives households toward resilience or vulnerability pathways. It provides a panoramic view, enabling identification of the crosscutting areas and intervention entry points.

Figure 1: The resilience framework. Adapted from DFID Disaster Resilience Framework (2011), TANGO Livelihoods Framework (2007), DFID Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (1999), and CARE Household Livelihood Security Framework (2002) from (Frankenberger, et al., 2012, p. 5).

The USAID/UKAID Discussion Note outlined the following ten core principles for resilience programming (Frankenberger, et al., pp. 2–3):

1. Support a change in the balance of effort and resources for humanitarian assistance to disaster risk management (DRM), climate change adaptation (CCA), livelihood support, and social protection (S.P.);

2. Recognize and respond to the diverse needs, capabilities, and aspirations of other people, especially those of the most vulnerable groups (women, children, orphans, elderly, displaced);

3. Build the capacity of formal and informal institutions for equitable natural resource

management, conflict mitigation, and social protection;

4. Advocate for and promote improved governance among government institutions and civil society by supporting responsive policies, transparent resource allocation, and greater accountability;

5. Inform coherent policy formulation and program design that responds to ongoing change in environmental, social, and economic conditions;

6. Enable community participation by identifying and engaging customary institutions and valuable forms of traditional knowledge for coping with climate variability;

7. Promote the empowerment of women by creating a more significant opportunity for their involvement in key institutions and decision-making processes;

8. Be owned at the country level by linking with national policies and investment plans;

9. Build effective partnerships, drawing on the comparative advantages of a wide range of stakeholders; and,

10. Do no harm, ensuring neither humanitarian responses nor development initiatives undermine vulnerable populations’ ability to achieve livelihood security over the long-term.

The definition and guiding principles of resiliency programs indicate some common resilience elements in the ongoing intervention, suggesting resilience does not necessarily mean creating an entirely new program paradigm. There is a need to identify the elements, markers, best practices, and lessons learned in the past and ongoing programs to consider strengthening the current and future resilience programs' design. This encourages thinking across sectors and leaves behind the classical sectoral frame towards a more holistic and integrated approach.

Fuel-efficient Cookstoves “FES” Programming

Darfur has minimal established resilience programming and no standard definition of the term among humanitarian and development stakeholders (Salih, 2013). To date, resilience programs have focused on financial/economic resilience and considering livelihood diversification as the primary resilience strategy. The programs have targeted households and communities’ ability to withstand the shocks and stresses through income generation only. The humanitarian actors rarely consider the multi-causal factors of shocks when programming. Many U.N. agencies and NGOs have considered fuel-efficient cookstoves programs as one of Darfur’s few resilience programs (Abdulmonin, 2013; Salih, 2013).

Fuel-efficient cookstoves programs in Darfur can be traced back to the last century. The Greater Darfur region (which is now divided into five states) consumed around 21% (1.606 million tons of oil equivalent) of Sudan’s annual burning of biomass energy according to the available records for 2001 (Hood, 2009).

Biomass (fuels dependent on waste, vegetation, manure, and so on) had been the primary source of Darfur’s household energy for several decades. During the Darfur conflict startup in 2003 and later, the demand for biomass fuel had increased mostly due to 1) the security situation impact on the supply chain for all resources of energy, 2) Urbanization because of internal displacement, and 3) Climate change and deforestation.

Tradition, scarcity, and needs made open pit stoves the dominant source of heating and cooking. Smoke emitted by the fires presents a significant direct and indirect health threat, especially when used indoors. It rather quickly exhausts the surrounding natural vegetation. And, it puts women at risk of rape and other violence as they forage for fuels farther from home.

Image from Darfur Women Network.

Vulnerable community members (women and children) commonly play a significant role throughout the traditional fuel supply chain. Women and children endure most of the health hazards, risks, and labor impact starting from the tedious and repetitive work of finding and harvesting biomass fuel to their role as end-users.

Nonetheless, Darfuri women, the main stakeholders in sourcing and using household energy, are not usually well represented in the decision-making mechanism and institutions. FES implemented programs commonly do not proactively include beneficiaries in their designs. Furthermore, the recipients do not seek their legitimate role in influencing program designs due to literacy barriers and ignorance of their rights. The Cooperative Housing Foundation (CHF International, also known as “Global Communities”), one of the primary implementers of FES programs in Darfur, held its first workshop for the end-users and other FES supply chain actors on September 25, 2008, at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs “OCHA” (Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010). This workshop included IDP women representatives for Greater Darfur. It is considered a hallmark in the FES programs’ timeline as it recognizes the importance of the engagement of the different stakeholders and overriding illiteracy problems (Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010).

The implemented FES programs have passed through three distinct phases of justification using the macro- micro-, interlacing discourses, which are closely interlinked to the global discourse (Figure 2). The discourse adopted at the micro-level is to prove eligibility and entry channel to the donors’ macro-discourse for resource mobilization (Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010). FES programs implemented in Darfur during 1997–2008 can be categorized according to the conflict, technology, milestones, and market into three main stages. According to the appropriate resource mobilization strategy, the NGOs are pragmatic in communicating the beneficiaries’ voices through the different stages (Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010).

Nonetheless, “As of 2011, about 1.26 billion people do not have access to electricity and 2.64 billion people rely on traditional biomass (fuelwood, charcoal, dung, and agricultural residues) for cooking mainly in rural areas in developing countries” (Malla & Timilsina, 2014). FES programs implemented to correct this are either vertical programs or activities within programs. They either use a technology/efficiency approach or a human-centered one (Foell, Pachauri, Spreng, & Zerriffi, 2011).

FES technology has evolved over the years. In 1997 “Stage I” Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) stoves were in use due to the relatively stable security situation in Darfur, which facilitated the LPG supply chain. There was also the small-scale production of mud stoves using local materials.

Image from the World Food Programme

Later, in Stage II (2005), with the influx of NGO donors’ money, metal stoves were imported from India to respond to increasing needs.

In 2008 (Stage III), NGOs recognized the importance of using a hybrid approach, “people-technology centric” in the implemented programs in Darfur. Several technology stoves became available, including solar and brick stove (Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010).

Image from Gold Standard

“ Given the fact that biomass is and will remain the most important fuel for almost one-third of the world’s population and considering its adverse impacts on people and the environment, the challenge is how to make its use sustainable and nonpolluting” (Kees & Feldman, 2011).

The cornerstone for any successful FES intervention is the behavioral change among all the actors in the supply chain, focusing on the end-users (Darfuri women). These interventions require a political system that “acknowledges the relevance of efficient and modern cookstoves and support a massive scale-up by setting clear targets” (Kees & Feldman, 2011, p. 7599). Without significant behavioral change, “scaling-up still remains the major challenge” (Kees & Feldman, 2011, p. 7596).

Behavioral change requires long-term intervention and investment, as well as a good understanding of the Darfuri cultural context. In Stage I, the beneficiaries drove FES design and supplies. Stage II was directed by suppliers, program implementers, and donors. The resources were mobilized under the discourse of protecting women against rape and violence. (See Figure 2 below: Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010, p. 621). The Stage II and III FES supplies exceeded the demand due to duplication of projects and competition between the implementers for the donors’ resources in a sort of “resources heliotropism.”

Intervention failures require analysis to “underscore the need to monitor and recalibrate development interventions to the evolving and idiosyncratic needs of their beneficiaries. Most development organizations heed shifting funding priorities and adjust their discourses strategically — and these changes pattern their actions,” (Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010, p. 626).

Poor coordination between donors in Sudan is also a common characteristic of failed interventions. It leads to duplication of many projects, misuse of resources, and failure to capture lessons learned from previous interventions. On many occasions, NGOs, governments, and elites in different sectors used poor coordination to achieve tactical goals or interests. It is much easier to submit and secure donors with the previous written concept notes and proposals based on the past proclaimed successes.

Massive supplies characterized stage II with an increase in cost per unit because of the overhead charges and high logistic prices to a fragile security area like Darfur (Hamid, 2007). Despite this, organizations such as CHF either distributed the FES for free or at lower prices (Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010, p. 622). However, “The CHF approach is not moving towards sustainability. IDP housewives will return home without the knowledge of manufacturing the stoves, the best way to utilize [sic] their stove, and the best cooking practices. Practical Action, one of the leading organizations in user-centric [sic] approach, raised the concerns that CHF intervention is creating dependency” (Hamid, 2007, p. 2).

The criticism of this approach by different FES implementers may indicate competition for “Donors Dollars” using different rationales (efficient/technology-centric approach versus the people-centric and resilience). FES designs have moved from locally made mud stoves to metal stoves to solar energy stoves. Abdelnour and Branzei (2010) sketched an excellent overview of the FES intervention stages in Darfur categorized by conflict, technology, milestones, and market. I have added the different discourses used over the timeline for (Figure 2) fuel-efficient stove development interventions in Darfur.

Figure 2 by Branzei © 2010

Darfur Fuel-efficient cookstoves: resilient programs or recycled solutions?

This is not an examination of resilience elements in fuel-efficient stove programs. It is not intended to measure either the outcome or impact of FES programs, as that is complicated research requiring tailored baseline indicators and field surveys pre- and post-the intervention. Moreover, measuring the resilience outcomes and impacts remains an evolving science at a theoretical stage.

Building resilience is a continuous and dynamic process, making it difficult to measure by nature.

“Risk reduction strategies are preventative in nature and are therefore implemented ex-ante — before a shock or stress occurs” (Frankenberger, et al., 2012, p. 10). “The dynamic nature of vulnerability and the resilience-building process places particular importance on monitoring of both changes in conditions and households’ responses to those changes over time” (Frankenberger, et al., 2012, p. 35).

Moreover, Darfur is still experiencing ongoing shocks and stresses hindering any real process of monitoring and evaluation. My analysis depends mainly on analyzing secondary data sources, including evaluation reports, articles, programmatic review, concept papers, case studies, project assessment, and interpersonal communications.

As mentioned earlier, FES programs have passed through three stages. It progressed from being user-centric Stage I to supplier Stage II FES implementers/donors. The end of Stage III recognized the need for a hybrid approach. Under the discourse of building Darfur’s economy, more attention was given to the local FES production and supply chain. FES programs, including the Darfuris as producers and consumers, have enabled the emergence of a subsistence market for FES entrepreneurs and FES biomass. “Theoretically, severe disruptions in social relationships and patterns of transactions among Darfuri internally displaced persons (IDPs) creates an exchange vacuum that offers a baseline for studying the emergence of subsistence marketplaces. As Darfuri IDPs reweave a subsistence economy, fuel-efficient stoves are one of the very first market-based development interventions” (Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010, p. 2).

Among the poor, entrepreneurs develop business models based on the co-production and sharing concept because of the social interdependency created by the communal state of poverty and illiteracy (Viswanathan & Rosa, 2010). Their social networks penetrate across family and community boundaries, allowing the passage and exchange of information. The information proves an asset, especially in security-fragile places. FES interventions contribute to resilience through creating assets for the FES beneficiaries’ chain (trainers, producers, suppliers of FES and solid fuel, and household users, i.e., the vulnerable group of community “Darfuri Women.”

By 2008, over 52% of Darfuri communities were engaged in FES market transactions (Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010, p. 625). The Darfur Low-Smoke Stoves Project reports the CleanClear® program provides microfinancing to help women afford Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) stoves (Darfur Low-Smoke Stoves Project, 2019):

  • 93% of women have more time to work, which generates additional income for their families;
  • 83% of households have cleaner kitchens;
  • 71% of women said they have more free time to spend with families.

A related study in Sri Lanka found women in a war-torn region, motivated by their instinct for survival and the subsequently gained ability to cope with shocks and stresses, are more entrepreneurial than women in secure conditions (Ayadurai & Sadiq, 2006).

The Berkeley Stove innovation claims their USDE60 unit “Could double the disposable income of the refugee woman over its 5-year life.” Still, they also recognize the supply chain challenge presented by a military, low-quality control, and precision in a low industrialized economy (Gadgil, 2018). And, the UNAMID project to support local manufacture, distribution, and use of mud stoves saves an average of 99 Sudanese pounds per day on firewood by using the new stoves (Elzarov, 2019). (That’s USD 2.20/day in 2019 dollars.)

It remains challenging to identify economic facts in the continuing fluid sociology and economy of Darfur. But considering that a 2011 U.N. study reports almost 20 percent unemployed and nearly 47 percent below the poverty level, any cost saved has a significant impact on Darfur’s average household of six (Key facts and figures for Sudan* with a focus on Darfur, 2012). Against the UNOCHA 2013 claim of Sudan’s gross national income per capita income of USD 1,529, the impact of $803/year is apparent. But given the condition of Sudan governance amid the tensions and violence in Khartoum from December 2018 continuing well into 2019, any reported statistics are questionable.

Nonetheless, FES interventions have created market transactions between the suppliers and consumers based upon mutual benefits, a “1-to-1 interactional marketplace” (Viswanathan, Sreehumar, & Arias, 2008). Such interventions, then, support the process of building the disrupted Darfuris social fabric and trust. This 1-to-1 interaction in the long term enables the reconstruction of social relationships, bypassing tribal and ethnic boundaries. It creates the benefits of reciprocity, information exchange, and mutual trust, which are forms of “non-monetary capital” (Sridharan & Viswanathan, 2006).

In these collective societies, trust is the dearest social asset in markets that depend mostly on non-formal business transactions. “Trust” is a currency important to financial facilities and provides access to non-formal credit sources based upon a worthy recommendation. Building community members’ monetary and non-monetary assets is one characteristic of resilience programs. But trust has been severely damaged during the Darfur conflict and post the conflict.

It is worth noting the pure FES technology/Efficiency centric intervention — The Stage II CHF approach — associated with imported metal stoves from India threatens the local production chain based upon local materials (mud) and skills. This type of intervention targeted scalability and coverage driven by donors’ hunger for activities — not the outcomes or impact. In the longer term, such intervention creates dependency because it destroys any emergent subsistence marketplace.

The imported metal stove from India unit cost is not within the Darfuris’ affordability threshold (Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010; Hamid, 2007). The suppliers (FES implementers) through all the FES stages largely subsidize the FES prices to keep it within Darfuri affordability, and this does not produce the best value of donors/taxpayers’ money. This approach is antagonistic to several resilience principles:

1. Do no harm. In the short- and long-term, FES programs created dependency and marginalization and jeopardized household ownership;

2. Community enabling through the engagement and use of the local best practices and knowledge. FES programs, compromising to achieve scaling, depend on imported FES units and raw materials, which resulted in the extinction of local knowledge and destroyed the local producers’ chain;

3. Capacity building of formal and non-formal institutions. Despite the Stage III FES intervention focus on the FES chain actors, donors objected to formal bodies, except for the government institutions, from playing any implementation role. This prolonged the implementation chain and reduced the share of beneficiaries per donated dollar because all international NGOs must work through national proxy implementers — a long chain of National NGOs and Community-Based organizations (CBOs).

4. Identify and address different needs as well as the ambition of various stakeholders, especially vulnerable sectors of the community. The several attempts to include Darfuri women in consultation on the programs did not have a sustainable influence, making the efforts look like public relations campaigns. For instance, they have neglected the consumers’ preference for the sake of scaling; while the findings indicated that the mud model stove (locally made) is the first choice of FES owners (90%), 49% of the women who own both mud and metal stoves prefer the mud stove (Abdelnour & Branzei, 2010).

On the other hand, the Darfuri women’s embedding in the production and supply chain of FES revitalized the local markets in four ways. First, they kept prices low by making stoves locally with indigenous materials. Second, they empowered women by providing income, relieving their time cooking, and reducing their risk of gender-based violence. Third, correctly configured, the FES programs position Darfuri women as produced and users. And, fourth, effective programs integrate feedback to improve the process and program.

However, the past FES programs lacked the national ownership and effective engagement of Darfuri women in program design and monitoring. Recently, WFP introduced the Safe Access to Firewood and Alternate Energy “SAFE” program, an attempt to overcome the shortfall of the previous intervention (Abdulmonin, 2013). It is a multisectoral program including capacity building, agriculture-based livelihoods, and FES activities led by CBOs (including Women Interest Groups “WIGs”) starting from the design, implementation, and monitoring at the village level (Abdulmonin, 2013).


“The WMO and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction estimate that ‘one dollar invested in disaster preparedness can save seven dollars’ worth of disaster-related economic losses’ (WMO, 2009)’. Thus, investing in resilience programming that reduces risk exposure is significantly more cost-effective than post-disaster responses” (Frankenberger, et al., 2013).

To monitor, measure, and maximize resilience,

“we must know not only how households spend supplemental income from social protection mechanisms (there is ample research on this), but also the long-term impacts of those decisions, which kinds of investments promote resilience, under what circumstances, and in what time horizon we can expect to observe the impacts of safety net assistance on household resilience,” (Frankenberger, et al., 2013, p. 23)

While evolving FES programs in Stage III (the hybrid people/efficiency centric model) have several resilience characteristics, few programs can embody all the defined attributes. “It must be recognized [sic] that is not the intention to imply that the characteristics can or should be applied as a form of checklist” (Harris, 2011). The intention is to operationalize “the characteristics by unpacking what they could mean in practice” (Harris, 2011) from previous programs’ experience. Resilience programming is about being dynamic, desirous of continuous improvement, integration, and thinking differently from the design phase to the proper program closure.

Although FES’s current interventions have several resilience characteristics, they cannot be considered as standalone resilience programs. Resilience programs must be multisectoral interventions creating ownership, breaking through the silos, and the arbitrary boundaries between different disciplines to address the current, short- and long-term needs of the affected people. The current gap in Darfuri household energy and the lack of feasible near-future alternatives justify FES intervention continuity. Many practitioners consider it an old wine that has undergone a series of bottling style upgrades; nevertheless, it is still needed as an activity or project under any resilience program portfolio.

Author’s Bio: Asaad Taha, Ph.D., PRINCE2®, MSP®
Senior Managing Partner @SourceItRight & @S4F.Solutions™


Abdelnour, S., & Branzei, O. (2010, Aug.). Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Darfur: The Social Construction of Subsistence Marketplaces in Post-Conflict Settings. Journal of Business Research, 63(6), 617–629.

Abdulmonin, A. (2013, March 6). National Public Information Officer: WFO-Sudan Country Office.

Ayadurai, S., & Sadiq, M. (2006). Profile Of Women Entrepreneurs In A War-Torn Area: Case Study Of North East Sri Lanka. Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship (JDE), 11(1), 3–17. Retrieved from https://ideas.repec.org/a/wsi/jdexxx/v11y2006i01ns1084946706000234.html

Bahadur, A., Ibrahim, M., & Tanner, T. (2010). The Resilience Renaissance” Unpacking of Resilience for Tackling Climate Change and Disasters. The University of Sussex. Sussex: Institute of Development Studies. Retrieved June 5, 2019, from https://www.fsnnetwork.org/sites/default/files/ids_resilience-renaissance.pdf

Brattberg, E. (2013). Doing well by doing good: the role of humanitarian aid in Europe’s global strategy. Swedish Institute of International Affairs. Retrieved June 15, 2019, from Swedish Institute of International Affairs: https://www.ui.se/globalassets/ui.se-eng/publications/ui-publications/doing-well-by-doing-good-the-role-of-humanitarian-aid-in-europes-global-strategy-min.pdf

Bromwich, B. (2008, July). Environmental degradation and conflict in Darfur: implications for peace and recovery. Retrieved June 3, 2019, from Humanitarian Practice Network: https://odihpn.org/magazine/environmental-degradation-and-conflict-in-darfur-implications-for-peace-and-recovery/

Darfur Low-Smoke Stoves Project. (2019). Retrieved from Gold Standard: https://www.goldstandard.org/projects/darfur-low-smoke-stoves-project

(2013). Development Aid at a Glance: statistics by region. OECD.

Elzarov, Z. (2019, February 11). Protecting the environment and women in Darfur through fuel-efficient stoves. Retrieved from African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes: https://www.accord.org.za/conflict-trends/protecting-the-environment-and-women-in-darfur-through-fuel-efficient-stoves/

Foell, F., Pachauri, S., Spreng, D., & Zerriffi, H. (2011, September 25). Household cooking fuels and technologies in developing economies. Retrieved June 10, 2019, from Elsevier: https://www.academia.edu/14981826/Household_cooking_fuels_and_technologies_in_developing_economies?auto=download

Frankenberger, T., Campbell, J., Njoka, J., Spangler, T., & Nelson, S. (2012, March). Building Resilience to Food Security Shocks in the Horn of Africa. 1–5. US AID & UK AID. Retrieved May 30, 2019, from https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/2012_frankenberger_note.pdf

Frankenberger, T., Spangler, T., Nelson, S., Langworthy, M., & TANGO. (2012). Enhancing Resilience to Food Security Shocks in Africa. USAID/DFID. Retrieved from https://www.fsnnetwork.org/sites/default/files/discussion_paper_usaid_dfid_wb_nov._8_2012.pdf

Frankenberger, T., Swallow, K., Mueller, M., Spangler, T., Downen, J., & Alexander, S. (2013). Feed the Future Learning Agenda Literature Review: Improving Resilience of Vulnerable Populations. Rockville, MD: USAID.

Fuel-efficient mud stoves in Darfur, Sudan. (n.d.). SAFE: Safe Access to Fuel and Energy, 1–2. FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/emergencies/docs/FES_2pager-fnl.pdf

Gadgil, A. (2018, January 27). Effectively Responding to Humanitarian Crises: The Berkeley-Darfur Stove Case Study. Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Retrieved January 27, 2018, from http://ethoscon.com/pdf/ETHOS/ETHOS2018/Gadgil.pdf

Gasim, O. (2013). Minister of Social Affairs East Darfur State. (A. Taha, Interviewer)

(2016). Gender-Based Violence in Humanitarian Settings: Cookstoves and Fuels. UK AID: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Retrieved Kay 25, 2019, from https://www.cleancookingalliance.org/binary-data/RESOURCE/file/000/000/478-1.pdf

Hamid, A. (2007, July). Fuel Efficient Stoves for IDPs in Darfur: A partial solution for the biomass energy problem in Darfur. Sharing(13), pp. 1–8. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://practicalaction.org/docs/region_sudan/practicalactionsudan_13_jun_07.pdf

Harris, K. (2011). Resilience in Practice: Operationalising the Ten Characteristics of Resilience through the Case of Greening Darfur.

Kees, M., & Feldman, L. (2011, April 9). The role of donor organisations in promoting energy efficient cook stoves. Retrieved from Elsevier: https://www.cleancookingalliance.org/binary-data/RESOURCE/file/000/000/358-1.pdf

Key facts and figures for Sudan* with a focus on Darfur. (2012, January 15). Retrieved from https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/darfur_fact_sheet_v32.pdf

Malla, S., & Timilsina, G. (2014). Household Cooking Fuel Choice and Adoption of Improved Cookstoves in Developing Countries: a review. Development Research Group Environment and Energy Team. The World Bank. Retrieved May 29, 2019, from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/542071468331032496/pdf/WPS6903.pdf

O’Fahey, R. (2006, October 1). Umm Kwakiyya of the damnation of Darfur. African Affairs: Royal African Society, 106(425), 709–717. Retrieved June 19, 2019, from https://academic.oup.com/afraf/article-abstract/106/425/709/48721

(2013). Project Details SHARP-Sudan Humanitarian Assistance and Resilience Programme. DFID. Retrieved from iati.dfid.gov.uk/iati_documents/5708044.odt

Salih, M. (2013). Humanitarian Program Officer: DFID Sudan Office. (A. Taha, Interviewer)

Solman, M. (2006, March). The War in Darfur: The Resource Dimension. London. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from http://new.ifaanet.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/DarfurpaperinArabic.htm

Sridharan, S., & Viswanathan, M. (2006). Marketing in subsistence marketplaces: Consumption and entrepreneurship in a South Indian context. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 25(7), 455–462. doi:https://doi.org/10.1108/07363760810915671

(2013). SUDAN United Nations and Partners Work Plan 2013. Geneva: UNOCHA. Retrieved June 3, 2019, from https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/SUDAN_HWP_2013.pdf

Swithern, S. (2015). Global Humanitarian Aid: A Development Initiative. Washington, D.C.: Development Initiatives. Retrieved May 30, 2019, from https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/GHA%20Report%202015_embargoed.pdf

Viswanathan, M., & Rosa, J. A. (2010, June). Understanding subsistence marketplaces: Toward sustainable consumption and commerce for a better world. Journal of Business Research, 63(6), 535–537.

Viswanathan, M., Sreekumar, A., & Arias, R. (2017). Extreme Marketplace Exclusion in Subsistence Marketplaces: a Study in a Refugee Settlement in Nakivale, Uganda. (V. G. eds. Ayelet Gneezy, Ed.) Advances in Consumer Research, 45, 933–938. Retrieved May 12, 2019, from http://www.acrwebsite.org/volumes/1024899/volumes/v45/NA-45

Warwick, H., & Doig, A. (2004). Smoke — the Killer in The Kitchen: Indoor Air Pollution in Developing Countries. London: IDTG Publishing. Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://www.esmap.org/sites/default/files/esmap-files/Smoke_The%20Killer%20in%20the%20Kitchen_Indoor%20Air%20Pollution%20in%20Developing%20Countries.pdf

[1] “Umm Kwakiyya” is a Darfuri word used by R.S. O’Fahey in “Umm Kwakiyya or the Damnation of Darfur.” According to O’Fahey, it was used by one of his informants in the 1970s to describe the period 1874 to 1898 when, following the destruction of the First Sultanate (1603–1874), Darfur experienced the start of its endless miseries. According to O’Fahey, he had not reached the exact meaning for “kwakiyya.” He assumes it meant something in the lines of “the mother of damnation.” However, the right spelling and pronunciation for the word is “Umm kowaak,” an expression used by Darfuris to describe the period during 1874–98 as characterized by tribal conflict, attacks, killing, slavery and destruction of Darfuri social fabrics (Gasim, 2013).

A Social Entrepreneur | Futurist|Principal Advisor @ S4F™ Solutions™

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store