Thursday, 22 August 2013

MALARIA: The Pesticide Paradox

Vol. 341 no. 6147 pp. 728-729 
DOI: 10.1126/science.341.6147.728

The Pesticide Paradox

Pesticides—a vast range of chemicals that kill insects, weeds, fungi, and other organisms humans would rather do without—bring some great benefits to society. They have made it possible to feed a growing human population, and they protect millions from malaria and other insect-borne diseases. They also support important economic sectors such as the cotton and flower industries and help make our lives easier and more enjoyable; for instance, by reducing mosquito, ant, and cockroach populations. Yet the potentially serious threats they pose to human health and the environment have led to a series of bans on the most dangerous chemicals and to calls to go much further. This spring, the European Union took a new step by issuing a partial ban on three neonicotinoids, a widely used group of insecticides suspected of harming bees, butterflies, and other nontarget species.
Although science is guiding some policy changes, there is still room for major improvement when it comes to pesticides, by more carefully tracking their effects, using them more judiciously, reducing their negative impacts, and finding alternatives. Scientists are making strides in precisely understanding the effects of the chemicals now in our arsenal, including the myriad ways in which they are broken down in the environment and the harm they cause to wildlife. Meanwhile, cohort studies in the United States are beginning to map out their troubling effects on the young developing brain.
Reducing the negative fallout from pesticides is possible in many ways. Australia's wheat farmers are tackling one of the worst weed problems in the world (a crisis that, ironically, partly arose from overreliance on herbicides) by using a more diverse set of tools. Pesticide overuse is a big problem in Asia, too; although cheap, they hurt the farmer's bottom line in the long run. Vietnam has developed a pioneering program that is paying dividends to farmers who spray less. Also in Asia, scientists are tackling one of the biggest problems: More than 300,000 people are believed to commit suicide every year by swallowing pesticides.
Others, meanwhile, are looking ahead. New synthetic chemicals to protect crops hold the promise of stronger and more specific protection with less collateral damage. And some crops won't need pesticides at all: Scientists are developing plants whose immune systems can ward off fungal, bacterial, or viral diseases, and they are using RNA interference to help plants fight insects—a new technology that could hit the market before the decade ends.
We may never be able to abandon pesticides altogether, but as this collection of Reviews, News stories, and research papers shows, pest control can become much smarter, and science has a major role to play.

MALNUTRITION: South Africa: More support needed for subsistence fishermen

DURBAN, 22 August 2013 (IRIN) - Bobby Moodliar, 52, is one of thousands of subsistence fishermen trying to eke out a living from the waters around South Africa’s port city of Durban. Until a few years ago, he was able to support his entire family from the fish he caught in the city's harbour, which is regarded as one of the most important fish nurseries in the Indian Ocean and is home to salmon, shad, barracuda, and various species of migratory fish. 

"There is no better place to fish than the harbour area. There fish are bountiful, and you make a good living if you come at the right time of the day," he told IRIN. “When fishing was good to me... my wife was not working and I was able to support my family and send kids to school.”

But fishing in the harbour, as well as its north and south piers, has been off-limits since 2009, when port authorities imposed a ban based on the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, developed in response to perceived threats to ship and port facilities after the 9/11 attacks. Since then, Moodliar and his family have been struggling to get by on his wife’s salary from working at a local shoe factory.

“Many of the fishermen were feeding their families by going to sea," said Desmond De Sa, chairman of the KwaZulu Natal Subsistence Fishermen Forum, an organization representing local fishermen. "When they closed off the harbour area, many of [them] and their families became destitute.”

He added that some fishermen could not afford transport to the north and south coasts and that catches were not as abundant as in or near the harbour. “Many of our members simply joined soup kitchens because they could not get formal jobs, and fishing was all they knew.”

Issuing permits

The Forum has long lobbied for the ban to be overturned, and in May of this year the port authority announced that fishermen would be allowed to return to the harbour after successfully applying for permits. 

Moodliar was one of more than 4,000 fishermen from KwaZulu-Natal Province who crammed into a local hall to start the application process at the end of May. “If I am granted a permit, things would look good again for me and my family,” he said.

De Sa said a total of about 10,000 people had applied for permits to fish in the harbour. He attributed the large number to job losses resulting from the closure of many local clothing factories and other businesses in recent years. 

Durban port master Dennis Mqadi said they will be issuing permits in the next few weeks, but could not say how many. “A decision on how many permits will be issued has not been taken yet. You must bear in mind that there are many commercial activities, and therefore we have to restrict entry and the number of fishermen allowed at certain times,” he told IRIN.

The port’s permit scheme arrives as South Africa re-evaluates broader policies on subsistence fishing, which have done little to help fishermen like Moodliar lift their families out of poverty.

New policy on small fishermen

South Africa's fishing industry is worth around R6 billion annually [US$586 million], according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), but the vast majority of profits are concentrated in the commercial sector. The total number of small-scale and subsistence fishermen is estimated at just over 8,000, according to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), with more than half concentrated in Eastern Cape Province and the remaining half divided between the Western Cape Province and Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Until recently, their activities were governed by the Marine Living Resources Act (MRLA) of 1998, which was meant to help redress the marginalization of subsistence fishermen during the apartheid era while ensuring that the fishing industry remained internationally competitive. However, according to Moenieba Isaacs, of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of Western Cape, the allocation of fishing rights through the MRLA was flawed and excluded many poor fishermen who lacked the skills and resources to comply with application requirements. The Act's narrow definition of subsistence fishermen, which did not allow them to catch or sell fish to earn an income, actually increased poverty levels in many households.

A new policy governing South Africa's small-scale fisheries, adopted in 2012, aims to ensure that small-scale fishermen are formally recognized, catered for and managed. Carol Moses, spokesperson for DAFF, said the new policy would contribute to poverty alleviation "through the sustainable use of marine living resources for food security".

Although describing the policy as "a huge improvement", Isaacs was more cautious. The new act recognizes small-scale fishermen as a group and promises more investment in infrastructure, training and capacity-building, but implementation has so far been lacking.

"It's not clear what budget there is for small-scale fishers or who is implementing the policy," Isaacs told IRIN. 

Support needed

Diana Scott, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal's School of Development Studies, said the living conditions of small-scale fishermen had not improved in recent years and that government support has been minimal or non-existent. 

Faizel Khan, a recreational fisherman from Durban, observed that fishermen in Cape Town have been supported by government to set up fishing cooperatives. "They have big fishing boats and they have become mainstream fishermen. There is nothing stopping fishermen from Durban doing the same. But we also need government support to do this effectively and successfully,” he said. 

Isaacs said investment in setting up fishing cooperatives in the Western Cape had come from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and that there had been little consultation with DAFF. "The fisheries department says it’s now talking with DTI to provide more support [to small-scale fishermen], and that will mean infrastructure, training and capacity at community level. But they’re not clear on what amount; they're still busy with an implementation plan."


MALNUTRITION: Nigeria: Conflict gives rise to food crisis in northeast

KANO, 22 August 2013 (IRIN) - The Nigerian government has stepped up its emergency food aid in response to severe food insecurity and child malnutrition in the northeast, where the military has been running a sweeping offensive against Boko Haram (BH) Islamists since June. 

Some 492,000 children in northern Nigeria are severely malnourished, according to European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO). Global acute malnutrition rates are highest in Sokoto State, at 16.2 percent, while Kano State, at 9.2 percent, has the lowest, according to UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The international emergency threshold is 15 percent. 

“The difficulty is that many children cannot be reached. The response to the food crisis is low compared to the level of the crisis,” Cyprien Fabre, ECHO’s West Africa head, told IRIN. 

Meanwhile, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has declared food crisis conditions in neighbouring Yobe and Borno states. 

Grain distributions 

The Nigerian federal government has responded by upping its grain distribution from the strategic food reserve. Junior finance minister Bukar Tijjani Ngama said the relief will be fairly distributed across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. The distribution has sparked accusations of political favouritism. 

As of mid-July, 19,500 tons of maize, sorghum and millet were to be distributed in the three states. 

“The federal government should not allow this humanitarian effort to be politicized and the assistance should not be distributed along (political) party loyalty as has been done with the first consignment by the same officials it entrusted with the delivery of the food supplies,” Mai Mala Buni, political affairs adviser to Yobe state governor, told IRIN. 

Buni alleged that the food distribution, which is supervised by Ngama, was only being given to supporters of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP). 

“People in Borno and Yobe states, regardless of political, cultural and religious leanings have suffered in one way or the other and need assistance without any consideration to political or religious sentiments,” Ngama told reporters. 

Nigerian central government is ruled by the PDP while Yobe and Borno states are ruled by the opposition All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) which in August merged with three other parties into a mega opposition party ahead of 2015 elections. 

Only a handful of aid agencies are working in northern Nigeria. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Nigeria Red Cross (NRC) and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) are the only agencies carrying out humanitarian work in Borno, BH’s home state. 

“The only hitches we face are limited resources and logistics. Borno State is vast, and the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance is huge, far beyond our capacity to handle. Some remote areas in the state are difficult to access due to the nature of the terrain, which puts strain on our vehicles," NRC spokesman Nwankpa O. Nwankpa told IRIN. 

Borno State is under emergency rule as a result of BH violence, which has included bombings and shootings aimed at government targets and individuals. 

Farmers flee violence 

The January BH takeover of areas in northern Borno State, on the border with Cameroon, Chad and Niger, forced thousands of residents, most of them subsistence farmers, out of their homes. 

This disrupted farming in the area, which produces the bulk of the staple food - maize, millet, wheat, rice and cowpeas - grown in the region. 

"We have lost this farming season, and we are not sure we are going to have the opportunity of planting next season due to the insecurity… We have turned from food growers to food beggars."
"This year we have [a] food shortage because a large number of our farmers could not cultivate their farms due the BH insurgency,” Usman Zannah, Borno state agriculture commissioner, told IRIN. Some 19,000 farmers have abandoned their farms in the fertile New Marte District in northern Borno, along the Lake Chad Basin, since the BH occupation of the area began in January, he said. 

Farmer Bukar Ngamdu abandoned 50 hectares of wheat in New Marte in February, moving to Gamboru Ngala town on the border with Cameroon. “I so much want to go back and cultivate, but I’m concerned for my safety,” he told IRIN. “Even if I go back, the major problem I will encounter is lack of planting seeds and fertilizer, which I don’t have money to buy.” 

“One key challenge is that the population missed the planting season, so we expect that to have an impact on the harvests,” said Choice Okoro, head of the humanitarian advisory team at the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria. 

The Borno State government and the Lake Chad Basin Development Authority (LCBDA) started a 10,000 hectare rice and wheat irrigation project in the New Marte area in 2012, through which the state government provides fertilizers, tools and cash incentives to farmers while the LCBDA provides the land and expertise. Under the agreement, the harvest is split equally between the farmers and the LCBDA. But crops on 3,500 of the first 5,000 hectares to be farmed this year ended up rotten or eaten by animals as farmers fled. 

“We have lost this farming season, and we are not sure we are going to have the opportunity of planting next season due to the insecurity… We have turned from food growers to food beggars,” Ahmad Bura, who fled to Gamboru Ngala, abandoning 35 hectares of rice fields in New Marte, told IRIN. 

A fresh wave of displacements was triggered by the 11 August BH attack on a mosque in Konduga town, 40km from Maiduguri. The attack killed 44 worshippers. Many of those who fled were farmers whose crops were about to mature, said a Borno State official. 

Impact of lockdown 

In response to the BH insurgency, the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in May, cutting telephone signals and deploying hundreds of troops along with fighter jets particularly in northern Borno, which was put under military siege while troops bombarded BH camps. 

The lockdown made it difficult for farmers in relatively safer communities in the area to access government agricultural assistance in the form of seeds, fertilizers and tools. 

Farmers who do have grain to sell are having difficulty transporting it to local markets for fear of attacks. The telephone shutdown has also halted much of the government’s Growth Empowerment Scheme, which electronically allocates fertilizer vouchers to farmers via SMS. 

Borno relies both on locally produced food and on imports of rice, maize, sorghum, millet, potato, wheat, yam and sugar cane from Taraba, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Benue states. But these supplies have dwindled as some traders are too frightened to bring goods into the region and others say they face bribes of between US$12.50 and $152 at the many military checkpoints that have been set up across the state. 

“We are forced to pay… at each military checkpoint we pass, which is why many truck owners and traders have stopped bringing in goods,” truck driver Alto Adamu told IRIN. 

The military denied the allegations. “We have told people who have any complaint against our men to report to the JTF [Joint Task Force] headquarters, and as far as we are concerned no one has ever brought any such complaint of extortion against any of our men,” Lt Col Sagir Musa, spokesman for the military unit battling BH in Borno State, told IRIN. 


MALNUTRITION: Pakistan: stagnant crop yields spell doom for the poor

KARACHI, 22 August 2013 (IRIN) - Photographs of ripe fields of wheat, the country's main food crop, or lush green paddy fields, are common on calendars and postcards in Pakistan, especially around Independence Day, celebrated last week. But behind the images of golden sheaves, lies an ugly reality. 

“Pakistan’s per acre yield of crop has remained the same since 1999. Its 55 million acres of land produce just as much food as they did in 1999. But in 15 years, the population has increased by about 30 million, so the same amount of food is not enough to feed everyone,” Ibrahim Mughul, chairman of the Agri-Forum of Pakistan, which represents farmers, told IRIN. 

In Sindh Province, home to 35 million people and with 14 million acres under crop cultivation, food insecurity is pervasive. More than 71 percent of families are food insecure. Of these, 17 percent are classed as food insecure with “severe hunger” and 34 percent with “moderate hunger”. 

According to a report last month by the Sindh Government's Department for Planning and Development, hunger is widespread despite a plentiful supply of farmland. 

Explanations vary as to why the province, with its rich agricultural land along the Indus river where rice, wheat, sugar and mangoes are grown, is not able to feed its relatively wealthy population (three times richer than the national average). 

“This is primarily due to uneven land ownership in Sindh,” said Mohsin Nazir Surani, a senior official with Save the Children, one of the organizations making up the Pakistan Emergency Food Security Alliance. “For example, the majority of the land ownership lies with landlords while most of the population is landless.”

Large landowners in Sindh tend to concentrate on growing cash crops like cotton, or producing food for market that is unaffordable to poorer families. 

Save the Children is currently the lead organization for the Alliance which is attempting to initiate action in Sindh to combat hunger. 

“There is enough land to grow food on, but it does not belong to us,” said Abid Ahmed, a landless villager on the outskirts of Sindh’s Thatta District, who says “even an acre or so of land would feed my family of five.” 

Many Sindh residents depend on local markets for their food, with around half the province’s population living in towns and cities, particularly Karachi and Hyderabad. The 2012-13 harvest was the lowest in four years which, combined with growing demand (and population), has pushed up prices. 

“While domestic agricultural production is essential for attaining sustainable national food security, it alone cannot guarantee food security at the household level,” said World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson in Pakistan Amjad Jamal. 

“The key limiting factor to household food security in Pakistan’s context is the economic access [affordability], rather than the overall national production, and this is true to Sindh as well.” 

Wheat imports 

This year, the country is set to import 800,000 to one million tons of wheat, according to media reports, to make up for the shortfall at home. “Yes, wheat is being imported from Central Asia,” Mughul told IRIN. Pakistan is normally a net exporter, and imports are up fourfold from last year. 

“This has happened in the past as well. It creates its own problems as poor quality wheat, intended for use as animal fodder, has been brought in and mixed with Pakistani wheat in mills, offering very poor quality flour to people,” he said. 

"There is enough land to grow food on, but it does not belong to us"
Farming yields in Pakistan have remained static mainly because of a lack of investment in research, machinery, and improved fertilizers and seeds. 

WFP says a host of factors have increased food insecurity. These include recent heavy monsoon flooding, a rise in food prices, weak incomes for poor families, and energy problems. “That is particularly true in Sindh, where various studies suggest a poor state of household food security and nutrition situation,” said Jamal. 


Food insecurity in the country’s second richest province is the worst in the country, according to the Sindh Planning Department. Of the 23 districts, seven are identified as having “extremely poor” conditions for access to food, hitting women and children especially hard. In the last 10 years, the number of districts with surplus food production fell from 11 to six. 

The report says that 49.8 percent of children below five years of age in the province suffered stunting (a failure to reach the expected height for age); the national average is 43.7 percent. Around 40 percent of children were underweight while 17.5 percent were “wasted” or failing to attain expected weight for age. Unsurprisingly, poorer families were worst affected. 

“Children are even more vulnerable. Most of the times, breast-feeding patterns are disturbed and children who are on solid/semi-solid foods don’t get priority,” Surani said. 

The situation is one of acute concern to aid organizations. “We see hunger on a nearly daily basis when we are out in the fields,” Afzal Baloch, a worker for the charitable Eidhi Foundation, told IRIN. 

He said hunger was now the “main concern” for more and more families across Sindh. 

Cultural factors 

The nutrition of women also has a part to play in the general health of families and the quality of food children receive. 

“Malnutritioned mothers simply cannot produce healthy children,” said Shershah Syed, founder of the National Health Forum NGO which works for the health of women. 

“The patriarchal structure of society, in which women and children eat after the men have been fed, contributes to the problem,” Shah said. This means women often received the least amounts of food, especially as many prefer to leave what they could for their children. 

“I simply never get enough to eat. I have six children, the youngest just three months old, and I cannot bear to see any of them go hungry, even if this means consuming very little myself,” said Abida Bibi, who lives just outside Karachi. 

The Sindh government report also said poor health services, with some 38 percent of women receiving no antenatal care during pregnancy, contributed to nutritional problems. 


Thursday, 15 August 2013

POVERTY: Darfur: The humanitarian situation

NAIROBI, 15 August 2013 (IRIN) - The UN estimates that the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region has seen some 300,000 people displaced so far in 2013 - twice as many as in 2011 and 2012, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 

“Darfur has seen a new wave of fighting in many areas in 2013. More than 300,000 people have had to flee their homes to escape violence since the beginning of the year, including over 35,000 people who have crossed the borders into Chad and the Central African Republic. The crisis is getting bigger,” Mark Cutts, OCHA head of office in Sudan, told IRIN. 

An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced as a result of the decade-long conflict and insecurity. 

IRIN looks at the humanitarian situation in Darfur and the causes of the current wave of conflict there. 

What is the humanitarian situation like in Darfur? 

UN agency figures indicate there are 1.4 million people living in the main camps in Sudan’s Darfur region. 

Cutts, however, told IRIN that the “actual numbers of IDPs [internally displaced persons] in camps are significantly higher as many of the IDPs living in smaller camps/settlements are not included in these figures and many IDPs in the bigger camps remain unregistered.” 

Many of those affected by the conflict are unable to receive any humanitarian assistance as insecurity has hampered efforts by aid workers to reach them. In total, 3.2 million people - more than a third of Darfur’s population - are in need of humanitarian assistance in Darfur. 

“Road insecurity remains a major problem affecting movement of humanitarian staff and supplies in Central Darfur. The problem has been compounded by recent increased clashes between Misseriya and Salamat tribesmen in different parts of Central Darfur, as well as the reported movement of armed groups in the state,” OCHA said in a recent bulletin

A recent survey by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) revealed that the violence in Darfur was a major cause of mortality among refugees and Chadian returnees crossing into Tissi to escape the violence in Darfur. 

According to MSF, “61 percent of the 194 reported deaths were caused by violence, most of them (111 out of 119) by gunshots and linked to specific episodes of violence preceding the two major waves of displacements, one in early February and the other in early April.” 

Nine out of 10 deaths MSF recorded during its assessment were caused by gunshot wounds. In east Darfur alone, an estimated 305 people had been killed as a result of violent clashes between the Rizeigat and Ma'alia tribes in August alone. 

Peacekeepers, too, have not been spared. In July seven peacekeepers with the UN mission there were killed in an ambush - the worst in the five-year history of the UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan - bringing to 13 the number of peacekeepers killed in Darfur since October 2012. 

Some 50,000 Darfur refugees have crossed into Chad. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has described it as the “largest influx of Sudanese refugees into Chad since 2005”. 

"[The] state is not in control of the situation nor is it able to disperse the fighting"
Officials in Darfur have admitted that the violence is now beyond the control of the state. 

“[The] state is not in control of the situation nor is it able to disperse the fighting,” Abdul Hamid Musa Kasha, governor of east Darfur, told Radio Dabanga

What are the challenges facing aid agencies in Darfur? 

The deteriorating security situation has meant many aid agencies are unable to keep their staff on the ground in Darfur. Some have had their field offices looted.

In July an international NGO was robbed of an estimated US$40,000 when armed men entered their office in Central Darfur’s capital, Zalingei. In the same month, armed men stopped two buses and five trucks near Thur in Nertiti Locality while on their way from Zalingei to Nyala in South Darfur. The drivers and passengers were robbed of all personal items; one passenger was shot and injured while resisting the attack. 

In May, two vehicles rented by an international NGO and carrying seven staff were carjacked in Wadi Salih Locality. 

Earlier in February, the rented vehicle of another international NGO was ambushed north of Zalingei. Staff were robbed of all personal possessions. 

“Commercial transporters are currently unwilling to transport relief supplies from El Geneina (West Darfur) and Zalingei to areas in the southern corridor localities - mainly Mukjar, Um Dukhun and Bindisi - due to security concerns,” OCHA said in its July bulletin. 

Sudanese analyst Eric Reeves, a professor at the Smith College (USA), said in a recent analysis that “over the past year and more… violence has called into serious question the viability of any substantial ongoing relief efforts in the region. Virtually no international (expatriate) staff remain in Darfur, certainly not in the field or in remote locations - either for critical assessment work or to provide oversight for aid distribution. And as the recent killing of two workers for World Vision in their Nyala compound makes clear, there is no place of real safety in Darfur.” 

OCHA’s Cutts told IRIN that while aid agencies have access to most of those in need in Darfur, “the continued insecurity and fighting and government restrictions on movement” had clearly affected aid agencies’ ability to operate. 

“This has a direct impact on the ability of humanitarian actors to assess humanitarian needs and to ensure that people in need receive the assistance they require, particularly in areas of ongoing conflict,” he added. 

In its 2013 World Report, Human Rights Watch said the Sudanese regime “continued to deny peacekeepers from the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) access to much of Darfur” and that “lawlessness and insecurity hampered the work of the peacekeepers and aid groups. Armed gunmen attacked and killed peacekeepers, including four Nigerians in October, abducted UNAMID and humanitarian staff and carjacked dozens of vehicles.” 

According to Smith College’s Reeves, “opportunistic banditry has grown steadily and become a deeply debilitating threat to humanitarian operations. Fighting among Arab tribal groups has been a constant for a number of years, and has contributed steadily to instability and violence in Darfur.” 

The Sudanese government too stands accused: “Khartoum has deliberately crippled UNAMID as an effective force for civilian and humanitarian protection. Opposed from the beginning by the regime, the mission cannot begin to fulfil its UN Security Council civilian protection mandate, and indeed operates only insofar as Khartoum’s security forces permit,” Reeves noted. 

Who are the combatants in Darfur? 

The conflict in Darfur is being waged on many fronts and by different actors. It involves three main rebel groups fighting the government: the SLA(Sudan Liberation Army)-Abdul Wahid faction, the SLA-Minni Minawi faction, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). And while all these rebel groups are fighting under the auspices of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, they are also divided largely along ethnic lines, with the SLA-Abdul Wahid faction being drawn mainly from the Fur tribe, and the SLA-Minni Minawi and JEM originally being drawn many from the Zaghawa tribe. 

Meanwhile, there is inter-tribal violence between the Misseriya and Salamat, and another conflict between the Reizegat and Beni Hussein ethnic groups. 

Cutts told IRIN: “This year we have also seen a new wave of localized conflict, including not only the familiar fighting between Arab and non-Arab tribes [e.g. between the Beni Halba and the Gimir; and between the Beni Halba and the Dajo] but also an increase in intra-Arab fighting [e.g. between the Salamat and the Misseriya; and most recently between the Rezeigat and the Maaliya].” 

There have been clashes between government forces and militia too. In July there were violent clashes between government forces and Arab militia in the Darfur capital of Nyala, leaving many dead and many more displaced. 

What is driving the conflict in Darfur? 

“Underpinning almost all of the conflicts in Darfur are the disputes over land ownership and land use. Indeed, much of what is commonly referred to as “inter-tribal fighting” or fighting over “economic resources” actually relates primarily to disputes over land and access to water and grazing for animals,” Cutts, told IRIN. 

The recent clashes in Darfur have mostly been as a result of inter-tribal disputes over grazing land and gold-mining rights. 

In January, violence broke out between the Northern Reizegat and Beni Hussein ethnic groups over control of gold mines in the Jebel Amir area of North Darfur State. 

“The gold rush in Sudan is further complicating matters. At the beginning of the year there were over 60,000 migrant gold workers in North Darfur alone. In January, disputes over gold mining rights drew two Arab tribes, the Beni Hussein and the Northern Rezeigat, into a conflict that resulted in many deaths and the displacement of over 100,000 people. And this was not the first violent incident related to gold mining in Darfur,” said Cutts. 

Analysts fear the competition for other resources such as gum Arabic might lead to future violent inter-communal conflicts. 

In July, Human Security Baseline Assessment for Sudan (HBAS), part of the Small Arms Survey, a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, noted: “New conflict trends have emerged in 2013. The most prominent of these, resource-based conflict in the Jebel Amir area of North Darfur over control of artisanal gold mining and trade, began in January 2013… 

“Other resources have also generated inter-communal violence: in South Darfur, the Gimir and Bani Halba have clashed over the harvesting of gum Arabic,” it added. 

What is the status of the peace process? 

Numerous peace processes to end the conflict between the government of Sudan and the various armed groups operating in Darfur have not borne much fruit. These include one in Abuja in 2006, and another in 2007 in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The latest such initiative was in Doha

Signed between the Sudanese government and armed groups, they have generally been dogged by a lack of legitimacy and deemed not inclusive enough. 

“The second challenge concerns poor implementation of the DDPD [Doha Document for Peace in Darfur] and a lack of inclusivity. Promised funds from both the government of Sudan and donors have been slow to arrive, which has further delayed the activities of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA), established in December 2011 as the lead actor for the implementation of the agreement,” said the HBAS report. 

“The third challenge to the formal peace process is the significant deterioration in security across Darfur in 2013, as local peace mechanisms struggle to contain inter-communal violence, exacerbated by government actions.” 

Locally, state officials say they are mulling the idea of bringing together leaders of the warring tribes to cease hostilities and bring the conflict to an end.