For over three years, the Sudan government has been leading an intense bombing campaign in South Kordofan. In an area cut off from the rest of the world, local villagers are now recycling the shells to help them grow crops.
Since June 2011, the Sudanese army and rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement of the North (SPLM-N) have been fighting over control of this oil-rich region, which borders South Sudan. In the Nuba Mountains, the army has been blighting the lives of local villagers with a blanket bombing campaign, resulting in dozens of civilian deaths.
With supplies scarce, the locals have used their ingenuity.
“The shells are taken to a blacksmith, who melts the outer part and then transforms it”
Since fighting began, we’ve counted that more than 1,920 bombs have been dropped on villages in the Nuba Mountains. Moreover, Khartoum authorities are blocking access to humanitarian aid and the flow of goods.
Over time, the farmers who haven’t fled the region have realised that they don’t have the means to power their tractors, because spare parts and fuel are so scarce. So, little by little, they have collected shells to turn them into spades, allowing them to plough the land manually and grow crops, notably corn.
Azhari told us that the blower in the video - standing next to the blacksmith - died a few weeks ago, when the village of Um Sardaba was bombed.
The villagers only recycle shells that have already exploded, and they are handled carefully with pieces of cloth, as they sometimes have toxic properties. The shells are then taken to a blacksmith, who melts the outer part and then transforms it. Villagers avoid tampering with unexploded shells, since they could go off at any moment.
Bombs are not hard to come by, especially in villages close to the front line, like the districts of Tongoli, Abbsyya, and Rashad. But there are very few blacksmiths in these areas, and there’s sometimes only one per district, like in Um Dorain. So the villagers have to travel miles in order to find them.
Unfortunately, this makeshift equipment won’t solve the food problem. The Nuba Mountains are currently threatened by famine. We are in the midst of a drought, and many farmers have left, abandoning their fields. It is imperative that the Khartoum government allows humanitarian aid to reach the villages.