CADEP-SFM Good Practises

Title: Construction of Dykes for Building Resilience of Agro-Pastoralist Communities in Flood Plains of South Sudan

Category: Land Management

Country: South Sudan

Audience:Audience :Forest experts, Extension agents and Policy makers


South Sudan has flood plains known as Eastern and Western flood plain zones. The Western flood plain zone is highly populated. Both zones experience seasonal flooding besides drought. The flooding is caused by either direct rains or overflow of rivers or streams into large spaces. Flooding occurs every year during rainy seasons between May and October. This causes destruction in the area and many people lose their property including livestock, and homes. Cultivated fields become waterlogged thus destroying crops, while roads became impassable, subsequently compromising food and nutrition security. Flood period is therefore characterized by hunger, sickness, as well as livelihood disruptions. The agro-pastoralists are often forced to move out of flooded to safer areas.

Soils in the flood plains are predominately heavy black cotton soils; which have low water percolation capacity. The plains are of low gradient; almost flat leading to water stagnation. Flooding and the associated challenges require advanced technology to be efficiently controlled and mitigated. However, many of the available technologies are not affordable to agro-pastoralists within the flood plains of South Sudan. The agro-pastoralists therefore continue to apply their traditional subsistence agriculture practices and transhumance livestock rearing systems, both of which are not resilient to flooding. To build the communities resilience, use of dykes to control flooding has been identified as a viable practice.


Construction of dykes to build resilience of the agro-pastoralist communities inhabiting flood prone areas of South Sudan


Implementation of this activity is an initiative of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management (MoHDM) of South Sudan. The ministry works through Inter-Ministerial Committee which is responsible for making necessary policy decisions. MoHDM through its coordinating body - Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC), has structures at state and county levels. The RRC also supervises humanitarian agencies that support affected communities.

At community level, formal messages on prospective hazards and any support from the government is communicated by the chiefs or the elders. Communities mobilize themselves and meet to develop precautionary plans of action. Usually, the prospective actions are communal, with communities offering free labour.

To mitigate flooding, materials such as sand-filled sacks are used for construction of dykes. Canals are dug using tools such as one or/and two edged diggers including hoes, and shovels. The dykes are built either by heaping up earth into wall-like structures around houses and settlements. The dyke construction is done prior to but just before the rain. The height of the dyke should remain above flood level.


  1. Resilience of the agro-pastoralists to floods is enhanced.
  2. Incidences of death of livestock and humans are avoided.
  3. Destruction of crops and homesteads is minimized and thereby wealth is preserved.


The following is necessary for sustainability of the initiatives:

  1. Existence of early warning system and access to information for all stakeholders.
  2. Continued awareness creation and sharing of information on flood mitigation strategies ensures wide scale adoption of the use of dykes.
  3. Availability of free labour which mostly comprise youth.
  4. Availability of technical support by the government authorities and partners to the agro-pastoralists such as agricultural extension packages, including veterinary services.


  1. The change to use sand–filled sacks for dyke construction was a modification from use of earth heaped dykes. The advantage of the sand-filled sack dyke is that it is more durable than bare earth dyke. In addition, construction of sand-filled sack dyke entails little digging, but digging and collection of soil for earth heaped dykes is labour intensive.
  2. A combination of the dykes and upland settlement complements strength for protection as dykes do not supress water flowing down but only prevent its inward/outward flow. This is why homes/homesteads are built on up slope.


  1. Cost and availability of sacks in the markets and when available they are expensive.
  2. High cost of tools.
  3. Excessive rains that prolong flooding


  1. Early warning system is an essential tool for alerting and preparing communities to take precautionary measures against impending hazards.
  2. Inhabitants of flood prone areas should stock food, medicine and other essential goods to avoid shortages.
  3. Schooling calendar in flood prone areas requires adjustment to prevent incidences of children getting drowned in the flood waters.
  4. There is need to create alternative livelihood sources to compensate for non-crop production during flood period. For example, although floods are a hazard, they provide opportunities for harvesting fish for the household nutrition. In addition, cultivation can be carried out for production of food in receding floods. Furthermore, as water recedes, milking cows return closer to homesteads and with availability of green grass for them to feed on, enough milk can be obtained for consumption and selling for income.
  5. As flooding is a natural, but hazardous, it may not be prevented and hence mitigation and adaption are the only options to addressing the problem.


Floods are natural phenomena and those who inhabit flood prone zones can only attempt to adapt to it through mitigation measures. In South Sudan, majority of inhabitants in the flood plain being agro-pastoralists, thus they depend on subsistence agriculture and livestock rearing. This involves transhumance life style, and the inhabitants can hardly afford the costs and use of high technologies for mitigation of the flood circumstances. Simple and affordable innovations can improve and build resilience of the affected communities for adaptation in the flood prone areas.