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Ecological impact

The increase in the number of animals that come to the water points will have a negative impact on pastures and their carrying capacities. Around the older villages the number of plant species is reduced and carrying capacities are lower (table 8). It is clear from the table that the percentage of bare soil is directly proportional and the carrying capacity is inversely proportional to the number of years since the borehole was constructed.

TABLE 8. Bare soils as percentage of superficial area around the villages surveyed, and carrying capacities in animal units per km per year

  Bare soil Carrying capacity
Kadada 54.0 20.2
Rokab 45.9 28.8
Medesis 23.1 40.6
Abu La'ot 20.6 43.8
Sherkeila 50.0 23.4
Regiela 25.0 41.8

TABLE 9. Soil particle size analysis

sand (%)
sand (%)
sand (%)
Silt and
clay (%)
Kadada 39.1 50.3 89.5 10.4
Rokab 34.0 59.1 93.2 6.7
Medesis 36.0 56.7 92.8 7.2
Abu La'ot 35.5 56.3 91.9 8.0
Sherkeila 37.0 55.0 92.0 8.0
Regiela 35.0 56.0 91.0 9.0

Most of the soils of East Kordofan are described as sandy soils. All the sites taken for study have sandy soils except Sherkeila and Regiela, most of whose agricultural land is clay though the villages themselves are located on dunes. It has already been shown that degradation of the environment as a result of the removal of vegetation cover and over-use has occurred. To assess the degree of impact on the soils, soil texture analysis was carried out.

Table 9 shows that at Kadada the percentage of coarse sand is high, while the control village, Abu La'ot, has a lower coarse sand fraction. Vegetation cover helps to stabilize the soil. Its degradation not only makes it easier for the finer particles to be removed by wind and water but also affects the nitrogen content of the soil, leading to a decrease in soil fertility. The traditional cultivators have recognized this fact and in some cases have started to plant leguminous crops (see table 1).

Despite these attempts degradation and loss of soil fertility is very severe in the older villages. Continuous cultivation of these sandy soils which are known to be fragile and of low fertility leads to a drop in yields; and the farmers, in order to maintain themselves, increase the area under cultivation. This process has a negative impact on the vegetation cover and may increase the aridity, which will have effects on the micro-climate. As a result of these impacts emigration will occur. East Kordofan District is known to be one of the main areas that supplies cotton-pickers to the Gezira Scheme.

FIG. 5. Interrelationships between rural water supplies and the big-physical environment

The potential interrelationships between the expanded provision of rural water supplies and the degradation of the biophysical environment are expressed diagrammatically in figure 5.


Obstacles to better water resource use

East Korodofan is a semi-arid area, and the presence of water in any form is regarded as wealth and the essential key to economic growth. This fact encouraged government policy in favour of rural water provision in this area. But the results of this study clearly show that assumptions of the role of water in rural development are being challenged. New pressures in such areas inspire this challenge and set the scene for social change and modifications of policies and strategies.

In both arid and semi-arid lands all over the world both society and landscape are undergoing drastic transformation; water continues to play an important part, but it is in many ways different from its role in the past.

From the experience of water provision and management in Sudan and elsewhere some trends may be noted. Public attitudes towards, and the agencies providing, water may be expected to reflect in some measure the sweeping changes in progress and the forces shaping them. Everywhere in arid lands, water provision programmes aim at bringing social change to both the nomadic and the sedentary population. In this respect, the most important factor is the rapid advance in technology and the techniques for finding, lifting, storing, transporting, and treating water. The implications of these new methods for locating and pumping underground water on a large scale and improving water provision techniques is profound. An important feature of the technology of water provision is that drilled wells may not be properly managed or maintained because rapid technological advance has significantly widened the margin between the knowledge of water provision and local managerial performance

Another aspect of the problem in the arid lands is the increasing demand for water for urban and industrial use as well as for rural agricultural purposes. With urbanization, water use changes; in particular, water consumption for household purposes tends to increase with a rise in per capita income. To satisfy these conflicting demands, the traditional approach is to provide more water, using the available technology. These attempts, as demonstrated, not only have an impact on social and economic life but also introduce profound changes in ecological balance. Increased population has subjected fresh lands to agriculture, grazing, and even recreational use. It has intensified the destruction of the natural vegetation and has led to alterations in the fauna and flora, so contributing to the process of desertification through the creation of bare soil areas. The delicate ecological balance maintained by traditional methods of land use for centuries is in danger of being irreversibly upset by the increased intensity of use made possible by better water supplies in rural areas.

Advances in the technology of water provision have not been balanced by advances in other fields, especially in the knowledge of the physical and natural processes taking place in arid areas, which are clearly not properly understood. There is an urgent need to fill these gaps in scientific knowledge, but what seems more important "is a drastic re-orientation of public attitudes towards water. Water must be seen in a new role" (White 1962). It is clear that the prevailing view of water and its social and economic role must be revised. More water may solve some problems but it creates others. The common solution where supplies are limited is to seek new supplies rather than to encourage better management; this attitude needs revision.

Besides common problems related to lack of literacy, existing water legislation, and management weakness, three particular factors stand out as important obstacles in East Kordofan: conflict of strategy between user and planner, lack of co ordination between the various elements involved in rural development, and lack of understanding of the social and economic realities of life at the local level on the part of officials. Because of these factors, extended water provision has not had either the anticipated or the desired results.

Conflict of Strategies

There is clear evidence that the planners-strategies and objectives behind water provision are different from those of the users. The users are mainly traditional farmers or nomadic peiple who have lived for centuries with a hostile environment and have consequently developed traditional strategies and adjustments to their environment. Their prime strategy is to "survive", and this is accomplished by following the proven practices. Animal keeping is known to provide security in this uncertain environment, and so it is a major element in their strategy. Accordingly, more water made available by the new techniques made it possible for them to increase the numbers of animals. This attitude conflicts with the concept of "rational" use which tries to distribute the existing animals to a larger number of water points to relieve the densely concentrated areas. This conflict stems from the differing interests and concerns of the two groups. The administrators see water supply in terms of benefits and services rendered to a community, while the villagers are likely to see it in terms of their existing economic and social life. It may provide an opportunity to enhance the authority or prestige of the individual. Thus what appears to be irrational behaviour turns out to be a perfectly reasonable response when viewed in the light of the values and interests of the villagers.

Lack of Co-ordination

It is clear that expanded water provision to achieve a more rational resource use has created new obstacles rather than providing the benefits anticipated. Water is only one input in a process involving other factors. It is true that water here is a lead factor in the process of rural development, but achieving this aim requires the co-ordination of efforts between the different government departments interested in rural development. At present there is no organization to coordinate these efforts, and so each department works separately. This results in concentration of services in areas of low development potential, attracting more people and animals that may degrade the environment.

Local Understanding and Organization

Water development projects are often carried out without a proper knowledge of the users' habits and perceptions. As a result wateryards are constructed without knowing how they will be used by the local people. The standard manage met procedure through direct government control is followed everywhere. The water source is controlled by three government officials-a clerk, a guard, and an operator. The Rural Water Development Corporation instructs them on how to run the wateryard with respect to opening hours and water prices. Local involvement is limited and is left to the initiative of the clerk. This limited involvement is not institutionalized and so is not effective in responding to local conditions.

Some rural councils have become aware of this problem and have started involving the community in the management of the wateryards. It became clear from the investigation that local participation is vital particularly in the work of maintenance and repair. In two cases wateryard committees help the clerk in the maintenance of the wateryard through self help. If this important self help policy is to continue and succeed, it is necessary for acceptably composed committees to be created with specific tasks and responsibilities allocated to them. An existing village organization could perhaps be given the responsibility of managing the wateryard. The district authorities recognize that the present system is unsatisfactory and have started to look for an alternative management structure.


Conclusions and recommendations

On the basis of this study we can make suggestions to overcome the obstacles outlined. Sudan's long experience shows that it is necessary for the government water authority to have strict criteria for water provision that take into consideration both the people and aspects of the natural environment in order to achieve a better and more rational use of resources leading to social and economic development. To achieve this, the potentialities of the area must be adequately assessed and evaluated with respect to the animal-carrying capacity of land used for grazing and to ecological stability.

The criteria for developing a new water source now used give more weight to human population size (40 per cent) and animal population (30 per cent) than to land capability (10 per cent) and the proximity of neighbouring water points (10 per cent). These weightings need revision, with recommendations for water provision based primarily on land capability according to ecological zones and on carrying capacity. Greater consideration should be given to distances between water points in order to avoid the overlapping of grazing areas which will result in pressure on the natural resources. Again it is necessary to emphasize that the amount of water produced should be related to the capability of the land. Better assessment of the natural resources will require a strengthening of the Rural Water Development Corporation's commitment at the district level.

Two of the main obstacles to the achievement of the anticipated benefits from improved water supplies lie with wateryard management and the lack of local involve ment. To remedy these problems the village councils should be involved in water supply projects from the proposal stage through to implementation. Their views must be considered in the design of the wateryard and its location. These village councils will express the views of the users and ensure their involvement in and identification with the development.

It can be expected that through this process the villagers will learn to undertake other development projects; the rationale for expanding water supplies is based on the belief that access to improved water supplies for a village will lead to other economic and social development projects in which adequate water supply plays a substantial role. Through this process the functions of some villages with development potential will be transformed and they will become growth centres. Water will then fulfil its role as a catalyst for other development activity.

It is also clear from this study that very few of the expected benefits from water provision occur spontaneously, but the provision of water does create opportunities for other services to be developed. Its first major impact is to relieve one of the greatest hardships in the life of rural people in the semi-arid zone. The dilemma here is the choice between water provision as a social service given to the people on humanitarian grounds and water used as strategy to diffuse development in growth points. It seems that a policy of concentrating water supply in growth points or central villages which possess complementary facilities is sound and will increase the likelihood of other economic and health benefits. Such a policy, which requires spatial planning, is now lacking. So this aspect needs to be strengthened at the regional level.

Finally it becomes clear that when questions about the impact of water development projects are raised, the traditional government aims are not fulfilled because they are framed without clear understanding of the users' socio- economic perception or of the elements that enter into decisions governing water use.



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Food and Agriculture Organization. 1962. Kordefan land and water use survey. Department of Land Use and Rural Water Development, Khartoum.

Jackson, J.C., and M.N.N. Harrison. 1958. Report on the grazing survey of theSudan. Khartoum,
Lebon, J.H.G.1956. Rural water supplies and the development of the economy in the central Sudan. Geografiska Annaler, 38.

Mohamed, Y.A. 1975. Some spatial aspects of rural change in western Sudan: The case of Eastern Kordofan and El Fasher Districts. Ph.D. thesis, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.

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