Also known as AL Fashir, El Fasher city is one of the biggest cities to be found in North Darfur, Sudan. It is the capital of Northern Darfur, Sudan, and famous for its agricultural and non-agricultural activities. It sells fruits and cereals produced from its neighboring towns together with some inedible goods.
According to Population Hub data, El Fasher has about 256,803 people. Despite its low number, El Fasher is undoubtedly one of Sudan’s significant economic hot spots – a feat primarily influenced by the city’s geographical affiliations with significant internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.
Amid this low population and the constant security threats, both external and internal, El Fasher is a beautiful city with a great history, fantastic weather, unique tourist opportunities.
In the following sections, we will be walking you through AL Fashir or the El Fasher City of Sudan – know its history, people, and its future.
Where Is El Fasher?
El Fasher is located in North Darfur, Sudan’s capital state. It is situated 195 kilometers northeast of Nyala and connected to both Umm Keddada and Geneina if you travel by road.
Coming into El Fasher will not be a problem for visitors and tourists. The city has a transport system that features an excellent and well-tarred road network that runs through the major roads in El Fasher.
Although there is no railway network, the road network helps residents and neighboring towns commute with ease and smoothly carry out their day-to-day businesses.
El Fasher has an airport about 5 km from the city center. Some of the airlines flying to and from El Fasher are Tarco Airlines, Nova Airways, Badr Airlines, and Sudan Airways. It has flights to and from Nyala and El Fasher and from Khartoum to El Fasher and vice-versa.
El Fasher also shares close geographical proximities with three different IDP camps in Sudan. These are Abu Shouk, Zamzam, and Al-Salaam.
A Brief History
The history of El Fasher is not one with a lot of pomp and pageantry attached to it. Its story dates back to the 18th century, and you can trace back its origin at the time when Sultan’ Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed moved his court to a place known as Rahad Tendelti.
The original name, Rahad Tendelti, was replaced for unknown reasons and renamed El Fasher or AL Fashir that is used to this day. Since the Sultan migrated to El Fasher, there has been noticeable growth and development in the city. Still, the significant growth and expansion started in the ’70s. A massive migration of rural settlers to the city took place due to desertification and drought in their lands.
And from what used to be a Sultan’s Court, El Fasher has grown to become a strong economic city.
El Fasher’s climate is an arid one where the inhabitants face an average high of between 35.6 °C, 37.8 °C, and 38.9 °C between March and May every year.
Regardless, this City experiences three different weather conditions in a year: a cool but dry season from October to February, while from March to May, it becomes hot. By June, the Sahelian Monsoon weather begins and continues throughout July up until September. The Sahelian Monsoon weather is the brief presence of rain in arid regions across the world. The Sahelian Monsoon is when El Fasher’s residents enjoy rainfall to cool the air and help their crops to grow.
El Fasher crops benefit from very lush clay soils despite the hot weather. The city boasts of productive cultivation and harvest of gum, potatoes, millet, and tobacco.
Economy: Prospects & Challenges
El Fasher is an economically growing and thriving city. However, these economic improvements wouldn’t have been possible without the almost 3,500 staff (both foreign and indigent) of different international agencies actively supporting IDP groups working in the city.
With more of these agencies growing in great numbers, more people take up residence in El Fasher. This movement in people and workers creates a strong demand for basic needs such as food, fuel, household appliances, and water. In other words, there is plenty to sell, and there are plenty of people to buy what’s for sale.
However, and despite these ever-growing economic activities, El Fasher’s banking and finance systems remain weak. Banks and their branches, including other financial institutions, are not financially ready and administratively capable of lending capital to business owners. This inability to acquire capital investments is one of the reasons why businesses in El Fasher fail.
Infrastructure has always been one of the pressing needs of Sudan in the past. Still, recently, Sudan had been receiving international financial assistance. There have been improvements in infrastructure development in recent years due to foreign aid and loans.
The assistance, both local and international, and loans, come from the African Development Bank (ADP), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), World Bank, and United Nations, to mention but a few.
El Fasher is one of the cities that have benefited from these infrastructure projects and now boasts notable infrastructures in power-generation capacity and ICT.
However, not all that glitters is gold. Some believe that infrastructure development is very much one-sided. In contrast, more pressing infrastructure concerns have been put on the wayside.
For example, road improvements and public works are issues most people see as most relevant. Some El Fasher roads are tarred, but there is an equal number of unpaved roads, too, showing a striking imbalance in road developments.
Water infrastructure is another huge problem. Residents have been experiencing a drastic reduction in their water supply, and clean water has become scarce in the area.
The reasons for this scarcity of clean water are:
- The purification project of the Golo Dam. The Golo Dam has served the people for as long as 70 years, but presently it is going through a process and can’t serve water to the people.
- Dryness of wells.
- Contaminated water supplies.
As a result, El Fasher residents now depend on water sellers to secure water for themselves and their animals (as livestock farming is another huge business in El Fasher). Each person spends as much as $50 each month to get water supplied by water merchants.
Besides the lack of adequate water supply, another problem the city faces is waste management and disposal. On average, the city accumulates 300 tons of waste every day. Despite having five tractors and one dump truck available, El Fasher’s residents still throw their garbage in open lands outside of the city.
Regardless, El Fasher is home to the following institutions: El Fasher airport, State ministries, schools, hospitals, government institutions, El Fasher University, and seven banks, to mention a few.
Education: Challenge for Generations
The state of education in El Fasher is not as good as it is supposed to be. Student dropouts are increasing annually at both primary and secondary levels. There are high enrollment rates during the first few years, but reports show that more than 30% of these students drop out somewhere along the way.
The reasons for this lackadaisical behavior to education are not farfetched. One of the key reasons is the continuous conflicts and attacks in towns and cities in Sudan. These conflicts lead to children getting displaced, become IDPs, and move from their previous place of residence to another.
Besides the presence of continuous conflicts, attacks, and disparities, other factors result in an educational decline. These include inadequate teaching materials, low funds, and staffing issues.
Despite all this, the government and well-meaning international agencies such as the UN are trying their best to make sure that El Fasher’s education works.
As most common in war-torn areas in Africa, El Fasher serves as a beacon of hope for most of its residents. Despite the many challenges it faces, El Fasher tries to keep up with everyday life by doing trade.
To recap, here’s what we have learned about El Fasher so far:
- The history of El Fasher dates back to the 18th century.
- There are three different IDP camps near El Fasher, and these camps contribute to El Fasher’s economy.
- El Fasher was first named Rahad Tendelti.
- Businesses are doing well in El Fasher.
- Water and garbage disposal are considerable problems in El Fasher.
- The El Fasher inhabitants are not doing very well when it comes to education. They have more dropouts every year than students who stay in school.
Considering all that has been said, it is safe to say that although El Fasher might have its shortcomings as a city, it also has the potential to grow.
The reason for this optimism is that land, where trade thrives bountifully, is viable for massive growth and development. In El Fasher’s case, we can see that it is one City that is thriving well economically and can do better if things like security are worked on.