Supporting their own livelihood as well as the local economy, inhabitants of the Abu Shouk and Al-Salaam internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in North Darfur, Sudan, have engaged in what may seem to be the fastest growing industry of the region: brick production. The land surrounding each camp is pitted with massive holes the size of a soccer fields, bearing witness to the importance of the informal brick-making economy that seems to be thriving in the area.
Water is a scarce commodity in this arid region but because it is free for the camp residents, a substantial informal water economy has sprung up in and around the camps. Large amounts of water are used in the manufacturing of bricks, causing a genuine ecological threat, worsened by the large use of firewood to bake the bricks, making them more durable. Brick making has become increasingly common-place and one of the few livelihoods available to the people at the camp. About 30 percent of internally displaced people work at the site to make bricks by hand that will be used for building shelters in Abu Shouk and Al-Salaam IDP camp. Locals in the camp begin their work at about 0700 hours each day, digging and shavelling soil, collecting water from the one hand-pump available at the site, to begin making bricks. They work tirelessly all day. During school breaks, children help their mothers in the field as well. One thousand dried bricks cost USD44 and USD50 for the fired ones, smaller, but more resistant. Since 2004, IDPs, particularly women, have been devoted to manufacturing bricks which are produced on a small scale in their homes as their main source of income. The bricks, mostly the baked ones are sold to builders around El-Fasher while the unbaked ones, cheaper, are used inside the IDP camps. While the bricks produced at Abu Shouk might be small, the impact they have on improving the livelihood of those in the community is anything but that and contribute to the economic development in the region, one of the many steps to peace in Darfur.