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3.2 Khashm el Girba settlement scheme

The 1959 Nile Waters Agreement allowed construction of the High Dam at Aswan and the inundation of large Egyptian and Sudanese areas on the banks of the Nile which were inhabited by Nubians and used for agricultural production. On the Sudanese side, about 50.000 persons living in the Wadi Halfa District had to be moved to other places. It was decided to use the water of the Atbara River, a tributary of the Nile, for development of agricultural lands on which the Halfa people could be resettled and inhabitants of the area established as resident farmers. A large plain area of the Butana, about 400 km east of Khartoum. was chosen for the scheme. In 1964 the transfer of the majority of the Nubians from Wadi Halfa to the Khashm el Girba Scheme took place. Around 40.000 people were settled and housed in 25 villages. Each family was entitled to receive 6.3 ha (15 feddans) of irrigable land under a tenancy agreement. This was a change from the traditional tenure system at Wadi Halfa but was felt necessary because of the capital investment involved.

Objectives

a) By opening up nearly 190.000 ha of fertile land for intensive cultivation under irrigation, followed by investment in the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy, a new economic centre in the sparsely populated eastern area of the country was to be created.
b) The project was to compensate the Nubians from Wadi Halfa by generous provision of land. housing, and services for the material and non-material losses they had experienced.
c) The major part of the land was to serve for the settlement of nomads whose tribes had claims on part of the land used for the Khashm el Girba Scheme and who lived partly in the neighbourhood of the scheme. This undertaking would be a step towards solving the nomad problems of the Sudan and give experience in making migrant camel- and sheepholders resident farmers.
d) The project was to contribute to an increase in the export earnings of the country by the production of cotton and groundnuts. The Sudan was already the world's fifth-largest cotton exporter and had found good outlets for this produce. Good markets, particularly international markets, were also expected for the eventual supply of groundnuts.
e) By producing wheat and sugar, the national economy would become less dependent on food imports. The Sudan had an import demand for wheat of about 150,000 tons and for sugar of 120.000-140,000 tons before the Khashm el Girba production was started. The yearly production of at least 50.000 tons of wheat and 60,000 tons of sugar in Khashm el Girba would considerably improve the balance of payments.
f) Sugar was to be produced on a state-owned and -managed sugar cane plantation, whereas cotton. wheat. and groundnuts were to be grown by the settlers in a three-crop rotation without fallow on 6.3 ha (15 feddan) farms. The settlers would not be allowed to cultivate other crops or to feed herds of animals in the scheme. The only exception would be the freehold land provided additionally as compensation to Nubians which could be utilized at the discretion of the owners. The 6.3 ha would be given on a yearly renewable lease basis to selected applicants from Wadi Halfa and from the nomadic tribes of the areas near the scheme. The organization of farming would partly follow the experiences made in the Gezira Scheme, e.g.. in the supervision of production, in utilization of farm inputs, and in the marketing of products.
g) The scheme was to be developed in different phases. Phase I in 1964/65 included, apart from the completion of the sugar factory and sugar cane plantation, the resettlement of the Wadi Halfa people. In the subsequent years, three or four phases would follow with settlement of more nomads and an extension of the sugar cane plantation.
h) In connection with the agricultural production, some industries were to be established in the scheme. Sugar cane was to be processed in one, later on possibly in two, large factories. The later plans included the construction of cotton ginneries and wheat flour mills. The electricity produced in the Khashm el Girba dam was to be used as power for the industries.

3.2.1 Production Problems

The climate of the area is semi-arid with a low annual rainfall of 200 300 mm during the months June to September. Rainfall varies considerably from year to year, with the maximum precipitation in July and August. Temperatures are generally high; the mean daily temperature is 29C. with a mean daily maximum of 41C in May and a mean daily minimum of 15C in January. The relative humidity is highest during the rainy season, with a mean of 45 per cent in August, and lowest in April, with a mean of 10 per cent. The project is situated on a flat plain; the soils are alkaline, dark-coloured, cracking, heavy clays. The farming pattern in the scheme is influenced by the experience in Gezira, but in contrast. no fallow is provided for. Cotton production is the backbone of the economy; the variety grown is a middle staple, ACALA 4.42. The wheat grown belongs to two Egyptian varieties, Giza 144 and Giza 155. During many years the tenants refused to plant groundnuts. but now greater progress has been made in this respect.

The net areas presently irrigated and the yields recorded from 1964 to 1976 are shown in Tables 7 and 8.

The live storage of the Khashm el Girba reservoir, Originally 1,300 million cubic meters. has decreased at an estimated rate of 50 million cubic meters annually due to sediment deposits. If this estimate is correct, only 800 million cubic meters of live storage were left in 1976. To offset this serious situation it is proposed to build two new embankment dams upstream as a silt trap and for flow regulation. It is hoped that they will also irrigate an additional area of land and generate about 80 MWh per year.

TABLE 7. Net Areas: Khashm el Girba Irrigation Scheme

  Section Irrigable Area
(feddans-n et)
Area Irrigated
Every Year at Full
Land Utilization
(feddans- net)
    AGRICULTURAL SCHEME
1. Hawasha A 48 600 48 600
  B 52110 52110
1/3 cotton. C 48 700 48 700
1/3 wheat, D 58 865 58 865
1/3 groundnuts E 67 385 67 385
  F 5 0 58 20
TOTAL   331 900 331 900a
2. Afforestation approx. A-F 3 000 3000
3. Research station A    
4. Freehold land   26 000 26 000b
SUBTOTAL   360 900 360 900
    SUGAR ESTATE
5. Cane - 21000 21 000c
6. Fallow - 14 000  
SUBTOTAL   35 000 21000
GRAND TOTAL   395 900 381 900

Source: IBRD. Report on Reconnaissance Mission. p. 7.

a. Including pre-planting irrigation. cotton is irrigated 6 months per year, wheat and groundnuts 5 months per year.
b. Not irrigated during critical periods of water availability.
c. Including pre-planting irrigation, new cane is irrigated for about 14 months out of 15. Ratoon crops are irrigated about 11 or 12 months out of 12 to 13 months.

TABLE 8. Agricultural Yields of the Khashm el Girba Irrigation Scheme

  COTTON GROUNDNUTS WHEAT
big kantar
per feddan
m. ton
per ha
m. ton
per feddan
m. ton
per ha
m. ton
per feddan
m. ton
per ha
1964/65 3.50 1.180 0.50 1.190 0.45 1.071
1965/66 2.50 0.843 0.30 0.714 0.40 0.952
1966/67 3.60 1.213 0.96 2.285 0.75 1.785
1967/68 4.90 1.651 0.46 1.095 0.39 0.928
1968/69 4.68 1.577 0.34 0.809 0.48 1.142
1969/70 4.80 1.618 0.46 1.095 0.35 0.833
1970/71 4.52 1.523 0.51 1.214 0.52 1.238
1971/72 4.11 1.385 0.52 1.238 0.41 0.976
1972/73 2.62 0.883 0.70 1.666 0.60 1.428
1973/74 3.77 1.270 0.67 1.595 0.28 0.666
1974/75 4.02 1.355 0.80 1.904 0.60 1.428
1975/76 1.75 0.590 0.40 0.952 0.28 0.666

Source: IBRD. Report on Reconnaissance Mission, Annex 2.
1 feddan = 0.420 ha
1 m. ton/ha = 2.97 big kantar/feddan
1 big kantar / feddan=0.337 m. ton/ha
1 ha = 2.380 feddan

Maintaining the canals free of silt deposits and especially of weeds (it seems that weeds on land as well as in the canals have become a calamity) is handicapped by a lack of equipment. For the whole irrigated area of about 400,000 feddans, the maintainance work is done by nine draglines, three dozers. two graders. and one comer; this is totally inadequate. Water shortage occurs in June-July, when the reservoir is empty. and it happens almost every year from December to February, when only about two thirds of the requested water is delivered The drainage system has been completed only on some parts of the scheme, and is non-existent in others.

The production problems of the scheme can be summarized as follows.
a) Water shortages definitely occur for one reason or another; they happen at different times of the year.
b) The conveyance capacity of the canal system is greatly reduced due to the lack of maintenance.
c) Shortage of irrigation water is one reason why wheat yields are extremely low since wheat is especially affected by lack of water during the last two months of its growth.
d) There is no doubt that better drainage would increase cotton yields. An aggravating circumstance is the frequent absence of tenants and their lack of interest; water stagnates on the land because nobody opens the outlets.
e) Land preparation by the Agricultural Corporation was not carried out in time because of the shortage of equipment and fuel. For this reason, among others, planting of different crops was done late, irrigation of crops overlapped, water requirements were disorganized, peak demand increased, and tenants lost faith in the Agricultural Corporation.
f) The weeding problem has gotten out of hand, both in the canals and on land; it has passed the point where it could be controlled without the use of herbicides. In the past, tenants were disciplined whenever they did not fulfil their duties, such as weeding or early planting.

What steps can be taken to obtain reasonable yields, in what sequence. and which of these steps are likely to be economically justifiable?

Obviously, average cotton yields of 1.3 to 1.7 metric tons per ha are by far too low for medium staple cotton growth on first-class soils after a "learning period'' of 12 years. The yields for wheat amount to less than half the value obtained in Egypt for the same variety (Giza 155). The roots of the difficulties lie deeper than the already-mentioned shortcomings. For instance, how was the crop rotation cotton-wheat-groundnuts selected, after teams of consultants had considered 14 crops in 16 different rotations combining a cash crop, a cereal, and a fodder crop (including legumes)-none of which included the finally selected composition ? Which crop selection is really more likely to be both successful and economic, taking into consideration all aspects such as timing of agricultural operations, water availability and existing conveyance capacity, personnel requirements, pest control, aptitude of farmers, etc. ? If labour availability is presently a difficulty and likely to become a serious constraint in the future, maybe less labour-intensive harvesting methods are preferable. Does it make sense, in view of the existing weed problems, that land is left fallow for two years instead of growing and cultivating some kind of cash or fodder crops on it ? What about encouraging tenants to grow different or additional crops to counteract the weed problem ? A research programme is urgently needed to answer these questions, depending, of course, on the capacity of the scheme administration and tenants to implement the results.

Evaluating the 1976/77 agricultural season, the Agricultural Corporation stated that a number of improvements have been achieved, especially through a better internal organization: a) A senior agricultural inspector is now responsible for the agricultural work in each section as opposed to previous practice, which gave authority to the specialist in the headquarters office. b) Priority is given to the field operations, and inspectors are now involved in all operations from seed bed preparation up to harvesting. c) Extension work is also included in the inspector's duties, in addition to the agricultural committees in the villages.

As a result of these changes, land preparation for cotton, the main crop, could be done early enough in recent years to allow cotton sowing during August. This is recommended because of the three crops in rotation, which means that many farming practices and operations have to be carried out within short periods of time, bearing in mind that the last irrigation for cotton should not be later than midJanuary in order to avoid the season of the Egyptian bollworm and to minimize the danger of damage by animals during the picking season.

Mistakes in sowing were due to bad supervision by farmers of the labourers; the recommended distance between holes was not observed, holes had been dug by foot instead of using the Jarraya implement, the number of seeds per hole exceeded the recommended number. Mistakes in fertilization were observed mainly at the distribution stage in the field. Resowing has not been practiced, despite its recognized value, because of the lack of extension information and the absence of a loan system to tenants for hiring labourers for this purpose. Thinning is rarely practiced, with disastrous results on yields and increased pests. Irrigation is not done properly; 14-day intervals are not observed, and water-logging is common. The weeding operation is carried out three times during the growing season, and the farmers are granted three loans of S 8, S 4, and S 2.5. But three times is not enough and four times should be introduced, paying loans of S 8, S 7.5, and 2 x S 5. Green ridging has been done for only 80 per cent of the rotation because of the limited machinery and fuel supply. The same fuel shortage limited the spraying operation by airplane against the white fly. It also led to the appearance of assail and the abnormal opening of the bolls, which in turn necessitated an increase in the number of sprayings.

3.2.2 Economic Performance

Being a large public enterprise, the Khashm el Girba scheme has a refined system of the division of responsibilities, costs. and incomes between the Agricultural Production Corporation and the tenants. With respect to cotton production, the influence of the management is much stronger than on other crops. The operations are carried out partly by the corporation and partly by the tenants, who may employ hired labour, as indicated in Table 9.

To share the net returns of cotton on a 50:50 basis between tenants and the corporation, a cost-sharing system-a "joint account" exists. The labour costs proved to be the major cost item. In rounded figures, Iabour costs for the production of cotton at one tenant's holding (2.1 ha) showed the distribution pattern indicated in Table 10.

The result of subtracting the total costs (labour and others) from the gross returns of the holding for cotton led to a net revenue in 1967/68 of S 10 and in 1968/69 of approximately S 20. The comparison with net returns for wheat of S 44 and S 62, respectively. during the same years makes it understandable that tenants are not so interested in cotton production, especially if they have to wait for payment very long after delivery.

These absolute figures have to be used with caution. Paying no water rate for wheat at all and with mechanized services available at relatively low prices (subsidized). they show the private profitability only, not the public profitability. The calculation did not take into account the contribution of family labour, which is estimated as one third of the labour costs. The total cash income per holding could then be valued at S 81 in 1967/68 and S 110 in 1968/ 69. But to complicate things even further it has to be kept in mind that many tenants have additional income from freehold land outside the scheme and from other occupations. Little is known about the earlier income situation of nomad settlers. Having usually kept their livestock herds only, their income from farming must now be an addition. leading to a better income position compared with the previous livestock income alone.

3.2.3 Infrastructure

To provide a high standard of living and particularly good amenities for the first group of settlers, and to make the Khashm el Girba Scheme attractive, a relatively dense infrastructure had to be brought into existence. Twenty-five villages, each accommodating 250-300 families, were constructed. Each family was allocated a standard design house costing about S 2,500. Each village has retained the name of its former quarters. Living conditions of the Halfawis are very stable compared to those of the nomadic Arab villages. The Halfawis have been supplied with potable water, social and health services, security points, schools, mosques, market places, flour mills, post and telegraph services, cinemas, and sports facilities. The villages are linked by dust-pack roads on which regular local bus lines operate. A rail track divides the area running from south to north. New Halfa lies in the centre, and the villages are some five to seven miles apart.

TABLE 9. Responsibility of the Agricultural Production Corporation for Farming Operations in the Settlement Scheme

  COTTON WHEAT
Pre-sowing operations complete none
Sowing partial none
Maintenance and weeding partial none
Harvesting partial none
Cleaning of fields partial none
Provision of seeds complete partial
Application of fertilizer complete none
Pest control complete complete
Watering of fields partial partial
Timing of operations complete none
Transport of product partial none
Selling complete none

TABLE 10. Labour Costs in Production of 2.1 Hectares of Cotton

Cost item S
Pre-sowing operations 2.00
Sowing 2.50
Irrigation operations 6.50
Thinning 3.00
Weeding 22.00
Fertiiizer application 2.50
Picking and sack pressing 31.00
Transport 1.00
Pulling and cleaning 3.00
Total labour costs 73.50

There is a large 550-bed hospital in New Halfa, while in the villages there are six health centres, five outpatient clinics, and fourteen dressing stations. The Halfawi villages are quite self-sustaining at the various levels of education, bringing this area ahead of others in the Sudan. In addition to numerous primary schools, there are institutes of secondary education and an agricultural high school.

For the local population (Arab nomads), villages were planned and constructed in Phases Il-V of the project, but they are lower in standards when compared with Phase I. After over ten years of the scheme, the nomads' ties to their allotments have done little to change their original way of life. They still continue with their herding and rain-fed cultivation in autumn.

The transport system is ineffective. There are practically no acceptable roads either inside the scheme or outside. The vehicles are insufficient. too old to be reliable, there is little or no maintenance, and fuel shortages are frequent. The number of tractors in operation has been as low as 50 from 290 received in 1966. In 1977 the situation had improved, but still there was only one tractor for 150 ha instead of one for 100 ha. Six large workshops and a warehouse in New Halfa have been constructed to ease the servicing situation for the equipment. The previous open-air storage of pesticides, fertilizer, spare parts. etc.. has changed to covered constructions. keeping losses lower.

The telephone communication system has largely broken down or has never been established sufficiently. A request. for instance. to change the opening of the control gate to the main irrigation canal at the dam, is passed on by telephone only from MOI headquarters. But there is no telephone between the eight sections; messages have to be sent by car. if one is available at all.

The rate of industrialization of the whole area is impressive, especially with sugar factories, ginneries, flour mills. etc. Services. handicrafts, and trades complete the picture of commercial activities introduced by the scheme. Further expansion in New Halfa is expected up to a total population of 30,000.

3.2.4 Human Factors and Labour

The tenants are definitely a delicate subject, whether they are Halfawis or nomads. The whole operation still retains a kind of welfare flavour; after all, the Nubians were receiving compensation for their involuntary displacement, and the nomads were lending themselves to an experiment in sedentarization. Most of the time, the comments about settlers are from unfavourable to very unfavourable. The Nubians are called lazy. petty landlords, absentee landlords, and farming entrepreneurs. The nomads are accused of being only semi-settled, tending their camels and cattle outside the scheme at times when they should be working on their holdings. Both kinds of tenants, for whatever reason, perform agricultural operations quite offschedule, producing unjustifiable peaks in water demand and equipment requirements, making spraying less effective due to the heterogeneity of growth, and generally reducing the yields. On the other hand, the scheme management has in the past never assumed a strong position towards any settlers, no matter how undisciplined they were. Tenants did not fulfill their duties, such as weeding, and planted most crops too late. However, no settler was ever evicted, although legal dispositions had been established which permitted eviction.

After their evacuation, the Halfawis found themselves faced with agriculture as their livelihood. However, it was a totally different kind of agriculture from that which they had practiced in the "old country." They found themselves on land scheduled to produce three rotations of crops. Each found himself with 15 freehold feddans compared to what he had owned in the past. They were met with legislation specifying dates of planting and techniques to be adopted and laws that governed the relationship between production and the State. They found themselves under different natural conditions as regards rainfall, soil, and irrigation. They were called upon to cultivate crops with which they had had no previous experience, such as cotton and groundnuts. The Halfawis were suddenly called upon to cultivate several fields, some of which lay at a considerable distance from the villages, adding to the burdens involved. There was a shortage of labour. so that some Halfawis resorted to sharecropping. others leased out their fields. while some resorted to cooperatives to be able to farm their holdings collectively. Since most operations were mechanized, there were numerous difficulties arising out of operating and maintaining equipment with which the newcomers were totally unfamiliar.

Many Halfawis have professions other than agriculture. Many are employees, traders, health workers, drivers, and so on. Despite the ardent retention of his holding, the Halfawi had been forced into seeking such employment, since the income from his holding had been-until recently- inadequate. The Halfawis have begun to establish relations with neighbouring tribes, even though they still cling to their own customs and traditions. which they hold to be far superior to those of others. This interaction between the Halfawis and others is apparent in the manner in which the co-operatives deal with the local population. Joint committees and federations such as the Farmers Federation have been set up. which is an example of the change of feelings and trends among the Halfawi population. Also, the number of emigrants from the area has been reduced. This seems to be due to the employment opportunities available. The absentee percentage has dropped from the 1967 figure of 40 per cent to 25 per cent. The birthrate has risen since the first year of migration.

The original inhabitants of the area are people of the El Butana region. They are nomads from the Beja, Shukriyya, Ahamda, Rashayda, Khawaida, Bawadra, and Lahwiyin tribes who now, as in the past, follow their herds through the El Butana pasture lands in autumn and settle for the summer along the Atbara and in permanent villages such as Asbry, Ghufla, Dinbar, and others. They continue. however, to carry out some rain-fed farming in autumn. One of the counterproductive attributes of the Arab nomads is that they often return to their fields long after the dates scheduled for farming operations to begin since they refuse to be tied down by dates. When they do arrive, they insist on herding their stock close to the fields and very often place the interests of their animals over those of the land. This is evident in the manner in which they allow their cattle to graze in the fields immediately after the second crop rather than harvest a third cropping. The population growth is minimal compared to that in Halfawi villages. Death and infant mortality rates are high, and disease is prevalent, because they have not settled down where health services can be extended to them.

The nomads stick to their original area remote from the scheme because many of the new villages still have no schools, no water supply. and no health centres. They often think that agricultural work on the scheme is bad; they have to buy milk and aura. their main diet, because they are not allowed to keep enough animals and to cultivate aura. The nomads know two things for sure: (1 ) they must keep their animals as a guarantee against insecure cultivation, (2) they must continue to cultivate aura on plots outside the scheme. This brings conflict between the APC, maximizing the scheme interest (production of cotton). and the tenants, maximizing their off-scheme interest (animals and aura production).

Those who mourn the Nubian "laziness" and their "irrational" behaviour see their traditional culture as barriers and not as resources for development. The planner often fails to understand traditional societies and their definition of the "good life.'' People are seldom allowed to participate in plan preparation and implementation. If they could, planners would become aware that there is a subjective rationality in the peoples' traditional values and institutions and that in every social system there is an infrastructure of incentives and restrictions.

An agriculture ridden by problems such as those outlined above forces tenants to pursue other interests. The Nubians have experience of a different kind of agriculture at Old Halfa and as urban labourers. This knowledge does not help very much, because soil and crops are different and the scheme is strongly mechanized. The tenancies are about 5 km away from the village, a fact that prohibits use of family labour to any extent. The women have to take care of their children, transport is difficult, and they also fear members of other ethnic groups. particularly the Beja tribes. The tenants are frustrated by the low returns of cotton. because all costs of the scheme are subtracted from cotton income alone. Therefore. wheat is preferred in cultivation; groundnuts are neglected because heavy soils make digging difficult and require washing of the crop. The tenant therefore develops his freehold land, which is closer to the village, cultivating vegetables for subsistence. Yields in the scheme are affected by a number of factors. many of which are not controlled by the tenants themselves but are influenced by the Agricultural Corporation.

The labour shortage is chronic. The period of picking is the most critical one so that the corporation is trying to provide additional labour and all other facilities needed, such as supervision, improvement of the operation and transportation. All the cotton area is usually planted at the same time. which implies the simultaneous opening of the bolls within a short period. For the season 1976/77 the management of the scheme suggested that at least 110,000 labourers should be provided: 40,000 from farmers and families, 70.000 from outside the scheme. Three committees were responsible for the recruiting along the East Atbara River. in the western area, and in the northern and southern regions. But the total number of registered labourers reached only 17,131. This figure was very low compared with the requirements. Some reasons are given as follows:
a) Tribal heads exaggerate the number of people in their tribes.
b) The majority of labourers prefer to work in certain blocks because of distance. working conditions. ethnic relationships, etc. This leads to very bad distribution of the labour.
c) Competition for labour exists with the Gezira Scheme in the Kassala Province and especially with the Rahad Scheme.

Seasonal labour in 1975/76 earned about 30 piastres per day plus food, or roughly two thirds of the urban minimum wage. Evidence shows that migration for seasonal employment depends upon the level of income in the sending area, or rather the difference in earnings between the sending and receiving areas. and not on the degree of under-employment in traditional agriculture. The ILO report on "Growth, Employment, and Equity" (1976) raises the question of whether it would be cheaper to increase the supply of seasonal labour by subsidizing transport to the scheme than to try to solve the problem of labour shortage by mechanizing certain agricultural operations now carried out by hand. The migrant population consists of four groups:
1 ) a small group of males who have finally obtained a plot of land for themselves or a job in one of the smaller towns;
2) men and women who have established certain links and go back to the same tenant year after year; they come from as far as Chad, Central West Africa, and northern Nigeria;
3) a group of males, possibly one third of the total migrant population, who are maximizing their earnings over a short time period and are, therefore. highly mobile: they drift around and after two or three years. they have saved enough money to return, possibly never to migrate again;
4) another one third of the migrants, women and men, return home as soon as the cotton is harvested.

Conclusions

The Khashm el Girba Scheme reached its objective to settle 50,000 persons, Nubians and nomads. The envisaged cultivation of nearly 190,000 ha was accomplished. but the expected yields of cotton, groundnuts, and wheat did not materialize. The total cash income per holding did not exceed in the average S 100 per annum. A number of shortcomings. technical. organizational, social, and individual, led to an unsatisfactory economic performance compared with the total capital investment provided by the national economy. But from the standpoint of project participants, the scheme may still be called successful. The Nubians needed a new homeland: they got it. The nomads looked for additional income and food security: it was provided for. The mixture of activities undertaken by the scheme's tenants, including offfarm jobs. makes for a much more secure, flexible, and diverse livelihood than the tenants had before. Some major lessons to learn for planners are: to listen to the local people even at the planning stage, to organize the production process with the priority of securing the food requirements of the people, and to choose appropriate technologies which the tenants are capable of handling.

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