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IV. An African network for research and training south of the Sahara linked with the university of Khartoum

Relevance of the experience of the Sudan in establishing a network for research and training south of the Sahara


Needs for Research and Training for Arid Lands Development in Africa South of the Sahara
A. T. Grove

Development of arid lands involves changing the ways in which such lands are used to the benefit of the people occupying them, and in such a manner that production from them can be sustained into the foreseeable future. Such changes are made necessary in African countries because populations in all of them are growing rapidly and are likely to continue to grow until the end of the century, and also because living standards are at present low and precarious. Since the beginning of the century numbers of people and livestock have multiplied by something in the order of five or ten times, with pressure on environmental resources increasing accordingly.

The next decade or two are likely to be critical ones. Until less than 20 years ago, within the colonial system, relationships of peoples in African countries with the rest of the world became closer as a result of increasing trade and monetarization of their economies. In some instances land was alienated to Europeans and held according to European kinds of tenurial arrangements. But over extensive areas African social and tenurial institutions and agricultural methods were not greatly modified; in some respects they became more rigid and less liable to change than had previously been the case. Since independence the speed of change has varied from one country to another according to the complexion of the government and the pressures to which it has been subjected. In many countries it would seem that the relationship between people and their land has now reached a stage where decisions cannot long be delayed as to the direction in which change shall go in the future.

Land management is in the hands of a host of decision-makers, notably central and regional governments and government agencies, traditional rulers of greater or lesser degree, and-most important-individual family farming units. Each manager is concerned with his own well-being and with his responsibilities for those depending on him. Conflicts are avoided by each recognizing the limits to his own ability to manoeuvre as set down by the rights of others. The social and political implications of change, to the advantage of some groups and the disadvantage of others, are of very great importance. This applies to changes in the ability to allocate land, to dispose of it, and to develop it by physical improvements of one sort or another.

Here I refer to the situation in four countries which I have visited recently but very briefly, spending only a few days in each. They are Tanzania, a large and varied country with a population approaching 20 million, belonging to a variety of ethnic groups, and with a strong central government. The other three countries were formerly the Protectorates of Bechuanaland, Basutoland, and Swaziland, now the independent states of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Each of these has a relatively small population, of the order of 0.6 to 1.2 million, and in each country the majority of the people belong to one ethnic group. Whereas the government of Tanzania has, since independence, followed very independent policies, the former Protectorates, surrounded by or bordering on the Republic of South Africa and very dependent on the Republic economically, have operated under tighter constraints. They have relied heavily on funds from their Customs Union with the Republic and on the remission of money by migrants working on the mines and farms in South Africa.

All four countries, particularly Lesotho and Tanzania, are poor. Because of the evident need to increase the production and prosperity of the rural areas and at the same time to prevent further environmental deterioration, steps are being taken or have already been taken in all four countries to introduce new patterns of settlement and new forms of land tenure. These have very important implications for the environment and for any attempts to prevent its further deterioration. They seem to me to be of fundamental importance as far as our interests are concerned because the effectiveness of conservationists and in fact of agrarian extension workers generally depends on the appropriateness and acceptability to rural people of measures taken by governments with regard to land-holding.

Until recently, in all four countries land has been held, except for areas alienated to Europeans, according to the custom by which the right to use land was associated with membership of the community claiming the area within which that land lay. The chief of the community had the right and responsibility to allocate land to members of the community according to their needs. Once an area had been allocated and occupied by a family it remained in the hands of that family at least so long as they continued to make use of it; normally they might not sell it. A chief derived his authority in large part from the recognition of his ability to allocate land; it was on this that his power depended, and in some areas still depends. With the cultivation of crops for sale and the demand for land for housing, including urban housing, land has acquired a money value and is being effectively bought and sold. Chiefly powers are being used in a non~traditional manner and land holders are extending their rights in unprecedented ways. There are risks of increasing social inequality if a limited number of people acquire rights to most of the land, leaving a majority landless and without any secure economic base. On the other hand, the persistence of communal rights to use land, especially for grazing purposes, is leading to excessive numbers of animals and accompanying deterioration of soils and pasturage. Furthermore it is difficult, though not impossible, to introduce improved farming practices such as fencing and planting of woodlots so long as customary tenure continues. Governments have consequently introduced or are considering introducing legislation to modify the patterns of settlement and forms of tenure.

Different stages have been reached and different directions are being taken in each of the four countries under consideration. This has implications for training and research and makes it necessary to distinguish between the ecological and socio-political sides of the subject. There are needs for training and research in both sides, but the emphasis must differ at the international and at the national centres. The ecological aspects of arid lands development are international, and the principles that apply in one country apply in another, whether it is African or not. The technical knowledge of means of upgrading the environment is also widely applicable, and though capital-intensive methods may not be suitable for use everywhere, techniques that work in one African country are likely to be suitable for adoption in several others. Hence, research and training of the kind being undertaken by the IES at the University of Khartoum is of interest to other African countries in the arid zone, and their officials are likely to benefit from it.

It is generally recognized that the main difficulties lie not so much in deciding what should be done but how it should be done. Each African country has its own ways of dealing with land management. There was formerly a good deal of similarity between organization and methods in all anglophone African territories, but this is no longer the case, and we really need a new edition of Lord Hailey's African Survey to summarize the current state of affairs.

Solutions to problems of land management must differ from one country to another, and may also vary from one region to another within a single country. To my mind, research and training in the socio-political areas are best done at national centres, where methods and measures appropriate to national and local needs can be worked out. At the same time, one would hope that information about all aspects of arid land development will be exchanged between the institutions primarily concerned with research and training and the implementation of programmes, through journals such as UNEP's Desertification Control Bulletin.

With regard to more specific research recommendations, I would mention especially the need for studies of: (1) the history of soil erosion and conservation in Lesotho; and (2) the effects of villagization on the landscape of Tanzania.

With regard to training I would suggest that, so far as possible, training should involve, for example: (1) the production of land use and land potential maps based on satellite imagery, aerial photos, and ground survey methods in the areas close to training centres; and (2) the production or improvement of existing manuals for use by extension workers.

These should be produced by the people undergoing training, who should then attempt to make use of their productions themselves, and obtain comments from local people as to their usefulness or otherwise.


In the presentation and discussion of Grove's paper the importance of popular participation in development programmes was recognized, and the hope was expressed that this would receive appropriate emphasis in the IES courses. However, differences in ideologies and management structures from one country to another are major factors which cannot be ignored. Furthermore, individual countries have special knowledge of particular subjects: for example, irrigation and the assessment of water resources in the Sudan, assessment of natural resources in Tanzania, and in Botswana the organization of major symposia for bringing together and disseminating research findings.

There was, it was agreed, a good case for the UN University to provide support for other centres which could form nodes in a network including the IES at Khartoum. Tanzania and Botswana should receive special consideration from this point of view. It should also be borne in mind, as H. S. Mann emphasized, that CAZRI at Jodhpur had much to offer and should be linked to the network. The Director of the IES at the University of Khartoum and the representatives of UNSO and UNESCO expressed general agreement with these comments.

Relevance of the experience of the Sudan in establishing a network for research and training south of the Sahara

F. N. Ibrahim

Though the problems of arid lands management in the countries of the Sahelian zone are similar, little or no effective co-operation exists among these countries, which include Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Upper Volta, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. It should be one of the major tasks of the UN University to promote collaboration between research and training institutions in these countries, and where institutions of environmental relevance are absent, support should be given to their establishment, in association with other national institutions. The causes of obstruction of the flow of knowledge and impediments to co-operation are varied, but one important obstacle is language. The Sahalian zone is divided into two major language regions: the francophone region in the west and the anglophone in the east. In the latter region the Republic of Sudan possesses more than 2 million sq km of arid and semi-arid lands. The Sudan has also had some experience with pilot programmes in arid land management, among which the following endeavours are worth mentioning:

1. Establishing zones of controlled land use and plantations on town perimeters, and evaluating their results after some years, e.g., at El Odaya and En Nahud.

2. Experiments with dune fixation at El Bashiri in Kordofan Province.

3. The establishment at Ghazala Gawazat of a multidisciplinary pilot farm to test ways of improving man- animal relationships and animal-vegetation-soil-water relationships. Climatic, economic, and social aspects were integrated in the pilot programme.

These projects, and many others which have been carried out in the Sudan in the last two decades, were not intended for training, however, and their research function was limited to certain agricultural and forestry aspects. What is needed is a network of research and training stations in those parts of the semi-arid zone that are suffering from ecological deterioration. The functions of such stations should not be limited to general research and basic study, but should include making an inventory of the natural and human resources in the surrounding region, and of the constraints to their development.

The research functions of such a network should include:

1. Survey and assessment of the vegetation cover in different ecological areas as a resource for grazing, firewood, and timber supply. Here aerial photos would be a valuable help.
2. Observing and assessing ecological changes taking place due to man's impact through inappropriate or excessive land use.
3. Study of the morphological processes triggered off by ecological deterioration. Special attention should be paid to the morphodynamics of the reactivation of the fixed sands of the old dune belt of the Sahel, deflation of fine soil fractions, new dune formation, and the erosion of topsoil in the exposed areas.
4. Collecting, registering, and interpreting climatic data. Apart from their help in explaining morphological processes and ecological changes, such data are valuable in tracing short-term climatic fluctuations and in understanding the nature of rainfall variability.
5. Surveying the status of both surface and groundwater resources. Knowledge of water resources is a great help in planning settlements and in assessing the carrying-capacity of the area for livestock.
6. Study of land-use practices, with the aim of finding the best-adapted agricultural methods under the differing ecological situations. Feasible methods of improving animal husbandry should be studied and pilot projects of controlled grazing could then be conducted.
7. Socio-economic research. To the extent that desertification is a man-made process, it is essential to study social and economic structures in order to be able to recognize the advantages and the limitations of these mostly traditional structures. Special attention should be paid to contradictions between requirements for ecological equilibrium and human needs and aspirations. Research in this area should aim at finding ways of changing traditional attitudes which once were compatible with rational land use but which are now no, longer suitable, owing to the rapid increase of population.

The training functions of the proposed network should include:

1. Postgraduate and undergraduate studies in environmental subjects, the trainees being required to undertake a period of practical training or to write a thesis on environmental problems.
2. Training a wider circle of local civil servants in evening classes, so as to make these executives more conscious of ecological degradation and of the ways to combat it.
3. Training agriculturalists and animal breeders on the best methods of land use in their region. The trainees could then spread these methods through example.
4. Organizing evening lectures and discussions for a wider circle of the population, as part of an enlightenment campaign against desertification.
5. Training specialists and extension-workers from neighbouring countries. The training centres should be established in the midst of the environmentally affected areas. Since the Sahelian zone possesses four typical major ecosystems, which require different methods of land use, it is advisable that the training centres should have ready access to these ecosystems, viz. stabilized old dunes; wide flat-floor valleys; extensive clay plains; mountains, pediments, and laterite plateaus. The landscapes are accessible in different areas in the Sahelian zone of the Republic of Sudan, particularly in Darfur, Kordofan, and Kassala provinces.

Needs for Research and Training in Francophone Africa South of the Sahara
J. Gallais

Research into arid lands problems in this area operates under the following conditions:

1. The arid belt is divided into six states which have low economic capacity, lack adequate transport networks, and are faced with the administration of large areas. Some of them have political problems which limit the possibility of field research.
2. Except for Mauritania, all these states extend from the Sahelian into the Sudanian zone and give priority in their development programmes to the Sudanian areas, which are more populated and urbanized, for instance the "Groundnut Belt" in Senegal, the "Cotton Belt" in Chad, the southwestern part of the Upper Volta, and the Bamako-Segou area of Mali.
3. The drought of 1969 - 1974 gave a political and international dimension to arid lands problems, and many research programmes and development schemes are under way, but without any general strategy or perspective for the future.
4. Consideration of research facilities in the six countries leads one to note:
i. The lack of an interdisciplinary centre for arid lands studies, either in the four universities or among the international organizations;
ii. Lack of exchange of scientific knowledge and information between the numerous centres, which sometimes follow very similar programmes;
iii. The gap between research carried out in the universities and research laboratories and the socio-economic conditions under which the results must be applied.

The drastic problems of the Sahel call for short-term improvements and limited but well-adapted applications of existing knowledge, rather than long-term, sophisticated research. The knowledge already gained needs to be collated and published widely for the information of decision-makers and scientists. Information gaps have to be specified, to channel this flow of scientific knowledge. In this context, the most significant areas for short- or mid-term management appear to be:

1. Recovery of zonal vegetation following the drought: a synthesis of local and regional research, involving evaluation of local experience of reforestation in Niger and Senegal, investigation of how to reconcile reforestation, extension of savanna, and human needs for grazing and firewood, and research on more effective laws and regulations for management of these resources.
2. Application of agroclimatology to problems of food cultivation: adaptation of various varieties of millet and cassava to differing soil and rainfall conditions; how to extend the area of the best crop varieties; why most of the varieties selected on pilot farms have not been generally adopted; how local farming methods are adjusted to daily rainfall distribution in the cropping season; the balance, in terms of productivity, between various traditional technologies and crops and introduced new practices with low-cost inputs; assessment of various traditional systems of weather lore.
3. Animal husbandry: following a period of maximization of livestock numbers, the risk of such policy has been demonstrated by the recent drought, and research and development programmes are now oriented towards determining the social and legal structures which would give more rational grazing and transfer the responsibility for this management to the husbandman himself. A number of questions arise within this general topic, for example the social and ecological impacts of various forms of water management, including excavated ponds, and wells and tubewells.
4. Health and medical policy: in this field there is a wide gap in knowledge. Sample investigations need to be carried out into the pathology of different socio-ethnic groups and ways of life, for example, pastoralists, agropastoralists, agriculturalists, and urban dwellers; assessment of traditional medicines and diffusion of information of those that have been successfully tested; assessment of the experience of different medical policies.

In addition to the above four topics, which are mainly concerned with critical assessment and with the methodological approach for the application of existing knowledge, there remains a last area which includes research for new scientific knowledge:

5. New means of energy production: this involves research into new methods, but some methods of energy production have to be tested for their applicability in traditional rural areas, Mali for example, on the basis of economic viability and their suitability for various social and environmental conditions.

In the field of training, what is missing in general is an interdisciplinary approach and a strong concern for the applicability of scientific or technical knowledge. To remedy these deficiencies, the training of a more open minded type of expert may be achieved in the following ways:

1. Select a university in francophone Sahelian Africa (Dakar, Niamey, Ouagadougou, Ndajamena) which contains, or which would accept, a staff of scientists specializing in arid lands. Over a three- or four-year programme, the scientists would be required to combine their research into selected topics (as outlined above) with participation in an annual workshop for graduates, decision-makers, arid-land managers, etc.
2. Hold yearly workshops during the academic term (November-May), with the following:
i. A cycle of seminars on the state of knowledge on selected topics;
ii. Local field research dealing with one village or nomadic group, selected because it demonstrates some of the main zonal problems;
iii. The drawing up of a local development programme, with the support of economists, for presentation to international agencies, or bilateral or non-govern mental programmes for development.

Each successive workshop will follow up and implement the results of the preceding one, in addition to carrying out a new piece of field research.

A degree should be awarded to graduate students on the basis of the annual workshop (for example a Diploma of Advanced Study in Arid Lands Management). This would stimulate enrolment and the scientific participation of the candidates. The better candidates would then be able to proceed with the preparation of a thesis based on their field contribution.


Gallais stated in discussion that he considered a linkage of francophone Africa south of the Sahara to the IES at Khartoum at present to be less important than the provision of an interdisciplinary centre within the francophone Sahel, not only to integrate the results of research being carried out there by several organizations, but also to ensure that these results are disseminated and applied. He suggested that the most suitable location would be the University of Dakar. It was accepted that only at Dakar was there at present sufficient infrastructure for an initiatory workshop to discuss a francophone network; but it was stressed than Dakar is not well placed environmentally as a centre for arid lands studies, compared for example with Bamako, Niamey, or Ouagadougou. In view of the many existing linkages and international activities within the region, it was recommended that the UN University should hold preliminary discussions with UNSO, the Permanent Inter-State Committee on Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), and UNESCO with a view to formulating proposals for developing a francophone African network.

The case for a network extending southwards from Khartoum was generally considered to be stronger, because Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Botswana, all of which include extensive areas susceptible to desertification, are anglophone countries. Under the circumstances an interchange of information and the establishment of joint training programmes appeared to be more immediately practicable.

Capabilities for Training at the University of Khartoum
M. M. Khogali

In the year 1981 the University of Khartoum will celebrate its 25th birthday. This however conceals the fact that it had started its growth at the beginning of this century, and the year 1956 was only the point in time when the first Sudanese parliament granted the University its Charter. During its growth, before and after 1956, the University of Khartoum has succeeded in accumulating valuable academic and administrative traditions and experience that are needed for a modern centre of higher learning, and consequently the capabilities of the University have become greater than what might be suggested by the limited material resources available.

At the beginning of this century Gordon Memorial College was established in Khartoum to commemorate the name of General Gordon, killed during the Mahdist Revolution in 1881. Its aim was to train Sudanese staff to occupy junior posts in the then newly established Condominium Administration. Shortly after that another institution, the Kitchener School of Medicine, was established. (Kitchener was the military leader who conquered the Sudan in 1898 and became the first Governor-General of the country.) Both institutions worked in close co-operation until they merged. These two institutions were upgraded three times between the end of the Second World War and 1956, and the names High Schools, Khartoum University College, the University of Khartoum mark stages in this upgrading.

During this history, and particularly after the Second World War, the University of Khartoum came to have strong connections with the centres of higher learning in the United Kingdom, and in particular with the University of London. It was through this connection that the three African universities, Khartoum, Ibadan, and Makerere got their traditions and became the most famous colleges in English-speaking tropical Africa, outside South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In terms of numbers and by African standards Khartoum is a fairly large university. The total number of students is over 6500, and this includes over 400 postgraduates. The qualified teaching staff numbers over 550, most of whom received their first training in Khartoum and who later went abroad for higher degrees. Most of this higher training was done in the United Kingdom and the USA, but a few staff members received training in France, Germany, Egypt, the Eastern European countries, and Australia.

Khartoum University Library is large and most of its reference works are in the English and Arabic languages, with those in English constituting the majority. There are also a few references in the French and German languages. The library also contains many of the leading international scientific journals.

Most academic subjects that are traditionally taught in other universities are taught in the University of Khartoum, namely in the faculties of Agriculture, Arts, Economics and Social Studies, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Pharmacology, Sciences, and Veterinary Sciences. There are some institutes, such as the Afro-Asian Institute and the Institute for Economic Research and Development, that are also engaged in teaching and in the supervision of research, but the main teaching and research are done at the level of faculties.

It is one of the important traditions of the University of Khartoum to encourage academic research, and in particular research on the Sudan; thus the University has been brought into close contact with Sudanese society. Although they are not part of the University of Khartoum, some learned societies, such as the Philosophical Society of the Sudan, and some journals, such as the Sudan Notes and Records, are mostly "fed" by academics working in the University. Much of their research is also published outside the Sudan.

The greatest pride of the University of Khartoum, however, is its tradition of academic freedom and non-government interference. Such traditions were in part due to the process of transplantation from the University of London, but they found a good soil in deeply rooted Islamic traditions and in. a general public opinion which was always ready to resist any attempt to break this tradition.

The University of Khartoum is well-established and now has a good reputation world-wide, but it faces a number of problems. The first of these is-financial. The cost of education, especially at the university level, is very high and the Sudan is a developing country with scarce resources. Moreover, the cost of education is increasing with the rise of inflation. Books and equipment, for example, are becoming terribly expensive. Furthermore, mechanical equipment can become out-of-date in a very short period, and in consequence spare parts become unavailable. The problem, therefore, is not only how to find the finance to acquire equipment, but also how to keep such equipment working.

The second problem is also particularly financial, and this is how to keep Sudanese staff in the University of Khartoum, since many of the teaching staff go to work in the oil-rich Arab countries where they are paid between four and eight times their rates in Khartoum. However, it should be remembered that most of those who emigrate return to Khartoum after they have accumulated some money for the sake of building a house etc., because most of them think that Khartoum has some valuable traditions in teaching and research facilities, and that if they are to continue as reputed university teachers they must return to Khartoum.

A third difficulty is in the field of interdisciplinary studies. The structure of the University is based on departments and faculties that are separated and guarded by imaginary walls of alleged independence and non-interference. This has encouraged disciplinary work but has had an adverse effect on interdisciplinary efforts. This, however, is not a static situation, for in the last few years some changes have occurred and more are expected. The reasons for this are many. Many members of staff study in or visit European countries and the USA where much work of an interdisciplinary nature is conducted.

Organizations such as the old Philosophical Society of the Sudan play the role of a platform for all disciplines, and their conferences are meeting and discussion places for people of different training. Some departments, such as the Geography Department, are interested in the work of other disciplines, and these become strong advocates of interdisciplinary research. The concerted effort of establishing an Institute of Environmental Studies is a sign that a wind of change is blowing.

In conclusion it must be stressed that the University of Khartoum has good capabilities, mainly in its sound traditions and experience, but for the University to expand and achieve what is expected of it requires material support.


In discussion of Dr. Khogali's paper it was agreed that there would appear to be possibilities of making teaching and research in the Institute of Environmental Studies more relevant to the indigenous characteristics and problems of the Sudan than are many features of the University as it exists today. One means of doing this, it was suggested, would be by encouraging the participation of social scientists in the work of the Institute. Such an involvement might help to counteract emphasis on the purely technological aspects of change which had unfortunately characterized many development, research, and training programmes in the past. Khogali commented on the successful establishment of the two-year M.Sc. programme in Environmental Studies at the Institute in mid-1979, and on the progress of research projects under the Arid Lands Sub-programme. These were expressive of the relevance of research and training activities at the Institute to the needs of other African countries in the arid zone, and the important part which the University of Khartoum could play in any network of institutions associated with the United Nations University.

Dr. Ibrahim renewed his earlier suggestions for future developments at IES, particularly for the establishment of a field station for research and training in an area affected by desert encroachment, preferably at El Fasher.

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