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Wood resources and agricultural land use

No discussion of the use of wood resources in the area can be complete without reference to agriculture. The agricultural potential of the Nuba Mountains area has long been recognized, and modernized mechanical agriculture has now been added to the traditional systems of agriculture. Both have had significant effect on the wood resources of the area.

Traditional Agriculture

Traditional agriculture is the major activity of most of the inhabitants in the study area. The official estimate for Southern Kordofan Province shows an estimated potential of 30 million feddans (12.6 million ha) of arable land, of which some 15 per cent is already under modern or traditional cultivation. The remainder is used for grazing. The province is estimated to have 2 million cattle, 1 million sheep, half a million goats and 90,000 camels, owned by a diversity of ethnic groups. The Nuba themselves are sedentary agriculturists, who keep goats and a very few catt le.

The official statistics do not suggest excessive livestock numbers because they only show the animals owned by the people of the province itself and fail to include the large numbers brought in from Northern Kordafan and White Nile Provinces during the dry season. The volume of this temporary animal and human migration has increased in the last ten years owing to the environmental deterioration in the north. Members of such groups as the Meganin and Shenabla have become common in the area during the dry season. With heavier grazing in certain parts of the study area, especially the northern parts, a serious deterioration and reduction of the vegetation is taking place, as is very apparent in recent aerial photographs and satellite images.

The large number of goats found among the Nuba, especially in area A, is to an even greater extent responsible for the reduction of the quality of the vegetation cover. Goats are ubiquitous feeders that can thrive on anything but absolute desert and eat all the plants within reach, leading to the loss of practically all vegetation and the consequent prevention of regeneration. With most of the vegetative cover of the hillsides now cleared for terraced cultivation and with competition for lowland grasses from cattle, camels, and sheep, the goats attack the small trees and bushes in or near the settlements. The result is the creation of an identifiable "desert" perimeter around most of the settlements in the area. Within these areas only tall trees such as heglig (Balanites aegyptiaca) are found, the other bushes and small trees having been either eaten by goats or cut for fuelwood.

The shortage of water and the uneven distribution of water courses are also responsible for the creation of such perimeters of deterioration in the area. During the dry season especially, both provincial and migrant pastoralists stay with their animals at or near the unevenly distributed permanent water sources in the area such as hafirs, deep bores, and shallow wells. On average a 15 km radius around these sources is very intensively over-grazed. The situation is worse in and along the khors and wadis in the area and around the shallow wells because watering is free and the pastoralists naturally prefer these to other sources.

Though it is very difficult to give an accurate figure for the amount of wood resources lost or misused through intensive grazing, it is evident that in the overstocked areas, and especially around water sources, degradation of the vegetation is taking place both quantitatively and qualitatively. Some estimates of the annual losses through grazing and traditional agriculture are attempted later.

Traditional systems of cultivation vary with soil type, ethnic group, and penetration of the cash economy. They are of the peasant type, organized in small units, dominated and generated by the family, and mostly directed towards subsistence so that food crops dominate. Usually the family will have a house farm and a more distant one. Among the Nuba two types of house farm can be identified: the jibraka (literally, the area around the house) type is associated with migrants from the hills who now occupy lowlands near water courses; terrace cultivation is associated with those still living on hills or who have very recently migrated and occupy foothill sites or sites along wadis and khors in the more mountainous areas.

The jibraka is always situated inside the village, and, because settlements are always chosen as near as possible to water resources rather than on the basis of soil fertility, soils tend to be shallow, gravelly, and so not as fertile as those of distant farms on the clay plains. The people therefore use the dung of domestic animals as manure. Because food shortages are common prior to the main harvest, early maturing varieties of sorghum and maize are grown together with some vegetables such as okra, cucumbers, and lubia (Dolichos lablab). The jibraka is usually held by older men and women, because the land within and around the village is inevitably acquired by old people rather than younger ones and because older people cannot manage the relatively long journeys to the distant farms. On the jibraka farms, unlike on the distant ones, the family works jointly on the same piece of land. The cultivated area is small and used every year without rotation. The whole vegetational cover is removed, including the mature trees.

Distant farms are bigger than house farms and are situated on the clay plains from 5 to 15 km from the settlement. Farm size depends on the available technology, the labour supply, and the availability of cultivable land. The average size varies from 5 to 10 feddans; but sheikhs, traders, and other well-off local people with access to better technological devices and/or more labour may farm 50 to 100 feddans.

Agricultural land among the Nuba is communal, belonging to the tribe or village, and individual members can acquire it by clearance for cultivation or by inheritance. Once acquired, the land can be further inherited, sold, lent, or rented, but all these methods except inheritance are a recent and very limited phenomenon.

Farming is run on a family basis, and family members constitute the main labour supply, with the wife or wives each having a separate plot to farm and each being usually assisted by her children. The farm is cleared in the first year of grasses and bushes by burning (hariq cultivation). Depending on the loss of fertility of the soil or the appearance of certain types of grass, cultivation will continue for five to ten years before the farm is abandoned and a new one is cleared Ishifting cultivation). Late maturing aura and maize are the main food crops grown on distant farms for subsistence. Newly introduced cash crops include cotton and sesame. although the former is losing its importance because of meagre returns, its high demand on labour, and fluctuating prices. Food crops constitute more than 80 per cent of the cultivated area on average, with cash crops of greatest significance on larger farms and almost totally absent on smaller ones.

The distant farms are usually fragmented, so that each cultivator has several plots or farms. This fragmentation creates many problems and has led to a complex system of land tenure. Much time and effort is expended in moving between the different farms and plots, and it is difficult to guard against intrusion by pastoralists' animals and to scare birds away effectively. Other difficulties facing traditional farmers include shortage of water supply, especially during harvest time, grassland fires, pests and diseases, and, among hilly communities in particular, a shortage of cultivable land. Moreover, the long distances between the home and the main farms necessitate the building of temporary huts, where the time from sowing till harvest may be spent.

The dominance of simple farming tools, such as the seluka (digging stick), garraiya (thresher), and kadanka (a form of spade), combined with other traditional methods and the fluctuations in rainfall from year to year and within any one season are the main factors behind the characteristic low productivity. This in turn, ncesssitates the extension of the cultivated area, which also means more destruction of wood resources.

Modernized Agriculture

In the early 1970s the government began a programme which aimed to modernize traditional cultivation in the Nuba Mountains area. The main objectives were to group the dispersed small peasant farm units into larger ones so as to make it easier to provide them with modern machinery and better seeds and agricultural services, and to accustom the farmers to modern technology with which to replace the traditional. Grouping the farmers together in this way is intended to make it easier to form agricultural cooperative societies with those new units as the nuclei. All this, it is believed, will raise productivity and consequently the income of the farmers, and so provide them with more purchasing power and therefore more chance to accumulate funds to invest in the future development of their farming and society. The Nuba Mountains Agricultural Production Corporation is vested with responsibility for the creation and supervision of such modernized schemes.

The corporation was granted two million feddans to establish modernized units and schemes of up to 3,000 feddans each in different locations. Criteria for the selection of sites include high density of population, fertile and suitable soils, availability of water resources, and accessibility. In 1978/79 there were more than 70 modernized schemes in South Kordofan Province occupying an area of about 93,000 feddans. Most of these schemes in the study area are concentrated in area B. Within the scheme each farmer is allotted 15 feddans to utilize as follows: 5 feddans for cotton for the main cash (and compulsory) crop, 5 feddans for aura for subsistence, and 5 feddans to be left fallow. The aura crop goes entirely to the farmer and revenue from the sale of cotton is divided, after the deduction of main costs, as follows:

- 78 per cent for the farmers,
- 15 per cent for the corporation,
- 2 per cent for social services,
- 3 per cent for local government, and
- 2 per cent for a reserve fund for the farmers against crop failures.

The main responsibility of the farmer is to clear the land and prepare it for cultivation, while that of the corporation is to provide the farmer with seeds, machinery, and advice.

In practice cotton production is decreasing, with cotton areas being used for aura. Low prices, low productivity, high labour inputs, managerial problems relating to cotton production, and good prices for aura are responsible for this development.

In the preparation and establishment of the schemes, most of the vegetational cover has to be cleared. All the grass and bushes and most of the younger and less hard trees such as talh, sahab, and arrada are removed. Only very mature and hard types like heglig, which are very difficult to cut down with the available technology, are left. Nevertheless, the small sizes of the farms, the smaller area cultivated in comparison with that cultivated by mechanized farming, and the interest of certain communities here in preserving certain types of trees render the negative effects of this type of farming, though serious enough, less signifi" cant than those of mechanized farming.

Mechanized Farming

In 1968 the government, with the objective of increasing crop production and putting an end to the periodic famines resulting from shortages of aura in western and southern Sudan, started a mechanized crop-production programme in the Nuba Mountains region similar in many respects to that already applied in Blue Nile and Kassala provinces. The programme started in the Habila area with schemes covering some 200,000 feddans under the Mechanized Farming Corporation (MFC). At the same time a number of unofficial schemes were developed in the same area. The MFC provides these and its own schemes with improved seeds, machinery, and maintenance services in exchange for payment.

Today there are some 375,000 feddans under official planned schemes. Of these, privately operated schemes under the MFC occupy some 200,000 feddans (53 per cent of the total area) and are the most active. The main criterion for allotment of a scheme is proof of the acquisition of enough capital to purchase the necessary farming equipment and to cover the running costs of the agricultural operations. The result has been the concentration of these schemes in the hands of a small minority of traders and wealthy people, usually from outside the region. Most of these schemes are run through hired resident agents (or wakils).

There are 28 state farms in the area, each of 1,000 feddans. The MFC controls and supervises the running of all agricultural operations. Besides producing a surplus of grains, these farms are intended to introduce modern agricultural practices to local farmers.

"Directed" schemes started in 1973 with credit financed by the World Bank. The loans from the Bank are provided to the MFC, which then distributes them to farmers. Beside loans for clearing the land, the corporation provides each farmer with a tractor, a disc, and a trailer if available. The repayment period for loans extends over five years, while land clearance loan repayment extends over ten years. Schemes are allotted 1,500 feddans and are to be cropped on the basis that onethird will be left fallow.

The co-operative sector is similar to the directed sector from the point of view of services. The only difference is that in the assignment of lands, priority is always given to co-operative schemes.

The general services that are provided for these different schemes include hafir (water reservoir) excavation, machinery maintenance, harvesters, seeds, general necessary information about varieties of seeds, sowing dates and harvesting times, and also help in resolving conflicts between individual farmers and between the farmers and nomads.

The area under cultivation fluctuates from year to year for three main reasons:

- fluctuation in rainfall;
- intensity of weeds, which now occupy 30 per cent of the area and are expensive to eradicate and delay sowing operations; and
- lack of spare parts and the untimely arrival of fuel supplies for the tractors.

The main crops grown on mechanized schemes are aura, cotton, and sesame. They are supposed to be grown in a rotational system with 50 per cent devoted to aura, 25 per cent to cotton and sesame, and 25 per cent left fallow. In practice many scheme owners pay little attention to this, which results in an over-cropping of the area devoted to aura at the expense of fallow and other crops, encouraged by the high prices for aura and meagre returns from cotton.

Mechanized farming is the agent most destructive of wood resources in the area. Preparing the schemes for cultivation means felling all trees and clearing and burning all the vegetative cover. Once a farmer is assigned a piece of land, his main interest is to prepare it as quickly as possible for the new growing season before the rain starts for fear of losing a whole season. In contrast with the situation in the modernized schemes, where during the clearing of the new land there is co-operation between the corporation and forest agents for the use of the felled trees for charcoal under the supervisor of the Forest Department, in the mechanized schemes clearing is done on an individual basis without any co-ordination with the department. The wood is totally destroyed without being used because organized felling, collection, and processing would consume time and effort of the very limited labour which is badly needed for agricultural operations. Moreover, the remoteness of the cleared areas from the centres of consumption of firewood and charcoal together with difficulties in transportation would render attempts to utilize the wood economically unfeasible.

The main criterion for selection of land to be cleared for mechanized cultivation is an observational one. Good stands of talh are looked for, as this usually indicates soil (black cracking clays) well suited for this kind of mechanized farming. As a result, large expanses of talh-the species preferred by both local inhabitants and those in neighbouring regions for fuel, building, and craft industry -are destroyed, and local people, immigrant farmers, and farm labourers all become dependent on neighbouring areas for their supply of fuelwood. Another result of this destruction is that the soil becomes exposed and loosened, leading to the erosion of the top soil. Soil deterioration leads to lessening of productivity, which means that in a short time new lands have to be opened up again and more wood resources are destroyed. This cycle has already taken place in previously established mechanized farming areas in Sudan such as Gedaref, Dali, and Mazmum.

In an attempt towards an evaluation of the amount of wood resources lost by clearing for mechanized cultivation, our research team surveyed the plant cover at uncleared sites and came to an average figure of 200 trees and bushes per feddan. Since the beginning of the mechanized farming in the province, an area of at least half a million feddans has been cleared, suggesting the destruction of at least 100 million trees in Southern Kordofan Province. This number of trees could have given an annual yield of firewood of 2.5 million m of solid wood, which shows how serious the loss is.


Wood for construction

Almost all households in the area use wood for construction in one form or another. Differences in house types leads to a different consumption pattern. Most of those in small village settlements are of the hut type, the only exceptions being government buildings. Two sub-types can be identified according to their demand on wood: the woodgrass type and the mud-stone type. The first type, which is the most common on the lowland plains, is made entirely of wood and grass. The dwellings are usually circular, but rectangular and square ones are not uncommon. An average hut needs about 70 averagesize trunks (2 m long, 10-15 cm in diameter), about 16 forked stems (sheiba) 25 cm in diameter, straw and binding material, and bark (liha) of certain types of trees. The second type, usually associated with mountain dwellers, consists of a circular or a rectangular base made of stone set in mud mortar or mud and stalks covered with grass. In both cases the hut has a roof made of wood and straw, very similar to that of the wood-straw hut and requiring the same amount of wood for the roof (30-35 small stems). Furthermore, quantities used are increased by the necessity of building further temporary wood-straw huts on the clayplains farms.

In the urban centres, brick buildings are commonly constructed for use by the government as schools, hospitals, etc. and for residences for senior officials as well as traders and high-income earners. These usually occupy a considerable area of the urban settlement. Almost all of them use wood for the roof or part of it, as well as for doors, windows, and most of the furnishings. Other residences usually consist of a group of wood-grass huts. They differ from those in rural areas in having a larger number of huts per household, an enclosure (bosh) of wood and straw or stalks, latrines and bathrooms of wood, and special huts for cooking (rakabas). All this means that the traditional residences in urban centres use more wood and other vegetative materials than do the rural ones.

Yet in spite of this, the survey suggests that rural areas in fact consume more wood for house-building and repair than do urban areas. First of all, nearly all the wood needed for construction in urban areas has to be bought either from the Forest Department or from individual traders in wood and prices in urban centres have escalated rapidly in recent years (table 5). Individuals therefore are generally reluctant or financially unable to afford repairs or rebuilding, and so the house-owner puts these off for as long as possible. Secondly, the na fir system of co-operation in the rural areas with its associated marisa (beer) drinking parties encourages more frequent repairs and changes. The absence of such a co-operative system adds to the cost of house-building in the urban areas. Thirdly, the long idle periods in the dry season in agricultural areas causes woodcutting for house-building to be thought of as a leisure activity. (The cutting of wood for building is a men's activity.)

TABLE 5. Increase in prices of timber for construction in Lagawa, 1977-1980

Description Unit Price (piastres) Increase ( %)
1977 1980
Base-pole (kad) piece 7 25 257
Roof-pole (matrag) piece 2 4 100
Supporting pole (sheiba) piece 10 30 200
Bark (liha) bundle 40 100 150
Estimated overall        
increase       ca.175

Source: 1980 fieldwork

TABLE 6. Consumption of wood for house construction in the study areas (m per year)

  Per capita Average per household
Area A 0.70 4.20
Area B 0.22 1.32
Area C 0.28 1.68
All areas 0.40 2.40

Source: 1980 field work

The greater rural consumption in area A than in the other two areas (table 6) appears to be due to wood-destroying organisms, especially woodworms and termites, being particularly active in the area that also has the bestorganised nafir system of nonagricultural-season activities.

Types of trees used in the region for building include sahab, babanus, talh, kitr, habil, arrada, Acacia sebeniana (umm surrog), and dom. The first three are preferred because they are hard and durable and because the trunks are usually long and straight. Sahab is preferred in area A because it is strong and resists wood-borers and termites. The fact that some species are preferred means that their resources are being exhausted due to over-cutting. The accelerating deterioration of the preferred types in the neighbourhood of the settlements in area A is also due to woodworm infestation.

The cutting of wood for construction in the rural areas is in its own way done very rationally. The need for base poles etc. necessitates the cutting of the branches that are used as supporting poles. Moreover, the cutters use the selective coppice method, cutting only some branches of the required kinds of trees. In any case, the rather primitive tools deter cutting down the more mature trees.

On the other hand, the fact that building is a dry-season activity (because the people are engaged in cultivation in the rainy season and immediately thereafter) accelerates deterioration, because in the dry season trees are unable to reproduce their branches very easily.

Some trees have useful bark. The bark of Adansonia digitata (tebeldi, or baobab) is used to make rope to bind grass to the wood, especially in the conical thatched upper part of the hut roof. However, removing the bark leads to further deterioration of wood resources by at least hampering the natural growth of the trees even if it does not kill them. On the other hand, the use of mud and stalks in construction reduces the amount of wood that has to be used.


Vegetative resources for furniture and craft industries

The study area, like many other regions in arid Sudan, is characterized by a diversified and widely distributed pattern of cottage industries utilizing local raw materials. Such industries are usually carried on at home, with the products being mainly for home consumption, although a certain proportion reach the outside market. Furthermore, vegetative raw material for cottage industries is also exported for processing in other parts of northern Sudan. Many lorries are seen carrying dom palm leaves, naal grass (Cymbopogon nervatus), and wood and fruit from the tebeldi and kitr to markets in Kosti, El Obeid, Abu Gubeiha, and elsewhere. Mats, ropes, and baskets are made from dom palm leaves; traditional medicines are prepared from certain tree fruits and barks; certain grasses and woods are used in furniture-making; and the marisa and pottery industries use grass and wood for fuel. Except for furniture and to some extent the textile industry, most of the other cottage industries are in female hands. Engagement in a cottage industry is usually a supplementary activity carried on in the dry season and initiated by the home need. Even when it is oriented to serve a market, it still is usually only supplementary to other home activities.

Industry as a major activity is limited to urban and semiurban centres and to a few large villages, where it includes blacksmithing, baking, tailoring, general repair, and furniture-making. In this case it is mostly male work. Even here the various units may work only in the dry season, since both employers and workers are engaged in cultivation during the rainy season.

In this area industry in general (with the exception of the building and charcoal industries, which are dealt with separately) is not particularly demanding on vegetative cover and uses it in a rational way. In fact the use of certain trees in industry has led to their preservation in and around most villages: dom palms in area A, tebeldi in area B. and kitr, tebeldi, and hashab in area C have all benefited in this way.

A more detailed analysis of the use of wood resources in three cottage industries is now presented.

Zaaf Commerce

The production of various commodities from zaaf (dom palm leaves) is widespread, especially in area A, mainly because of the large number of dom palms found in and around most villages in the region. The inhabitants cut the young leaves in a selective way so as not to prevent the tree developing and fruiting in a proper manner. Zaaf is carried on the head to the weekly market or to the nearest service centre to be transported further to other markets in the north. Cutting, collection, and processing of the zaaf is entirely a women's occupation. Men take part only in service centres, where they engage in commercial aspects of the zaaf trade.

Items produced from zaaf include baskets for transporting agricultural products and pottery, mats, and ropes, the last being an important item for bed-making and housebuilding. Various designs of baskets and mats are used, generally without colour. Colouring is a tradition of zaaf products worked in more sophisticated northern areas where dye materials are more readily available.

Nomads represent a very important market for zaaf and its products, especially for ropes of different thicknesses. What they do not make themselves they buy from the local weekly markets.

The quantity of zaaf used by the rural industry does not exert any undue pressure on local resources. On average three to four bundles, representing the amount cut and dried from four or five young trees, are enough to meet the demands of a household. On the other hand, the demand for dry zaaf for export exerts more pressure and locally may represent a factor of deterioration. Another threat to the dom palm is the value of its trunk for building. However, the cutting of dom is a sign of the non-availability of other species that were previously used for building in this area.

The Bed Industry

Another widespread industry in which wood is used is the making of beds (angareeb). Most of the beds are intended for local use and are made in widely scattered places on a very small scale. However, a more industrial production of beds is to be found in centres such as Heiban, Talodi, Habila, and Kadugli. In contrast with the use of zaaf, modern bed-making is exclusively a men's dryseason occupation. On average each household needs two new beds annually, requiring eight to ten middle-sized to small stems of certain trees, such as kitr, sidr, layoun (Lannea spp.), and umm surrog. The last three are usually preferred because they are easy to cut and to work. Bedmaking for the family may be done with the help of a male relative or friend without any cash or other payment in return. The more commercial bed-industry serving government officials, schools, and traders prefers the harder teak and andarab (Cordia africana), which are often obtained from the Forest Department's sawmills in Southern Kordofan.

The Pottery Industry

Pottery making as a cottage industry is widely dispersed throughout the region, especially in area B. However, in spite of its importance as a supplementary source of income, its remarkably varied output, and in general, reasonable quality, it need not concern us further. Potentially it could be a serious consumer of wood in the firing process of manufacture but so far dung is almost exclusively the sole source of heat used.


A model of wood resource misuse in the Nuba mountains area

"Misuse" refers here to an irrational use of a resource without heed to ecological consequences, leading ultimately to total destruction of the resource and a general deterioration of the environment.

From all that has been previously discussed it can be clearly seen that a serious misuse of the vegetation, especially of wood resources, has been taking place. With the help of recent satellite imagery and aerial photographs in addition to our surveys, it is possible to construct a model of this process and to map it. Figure 7 is compiled in this way. Areas are classified as experiencing severe, moderate, or slight misuse, as being threatened by misuse, or as being so far unaffected. The agents of misuse identified in the text are mechanized cultivation, modernized cultivation, traditional cultivation, grazing, bush fires, and urban and rural wood use for firewood and charcoal production.

From the map it is evident that the modern, mechanized type of cultivation is responsible for the most severe misuse of wood resources, because it necessitates the complete clearance of natural vegetation. As a result these areas are short of fuel, so that firewood and charcoal have to be brought from other areas. The upset in the ecological balance has led to high levels of soil erosion and to a general deterioration in resources. Certain areas within this category also suffer from over-grazing and bush fires, which can in themselves lead to an almost total disappearance of wood resources. However, by themselves over-grazing and bush fires are of far less significance than mechanized cultivation. Other badly affected areas include the abandoned terraced cultivation on the mountains, where the surface has been reduced to almost bare rock.

Moderate misuse is linked with areas of modernized agriculture in association with intensive grazing activities. This type of agriculture is less severe in its impact than wholly mechanized cultivation because it occurs on a smaller scale and does not include the use of the most modern machinery. The land is therefore not completely cleared; some trees and bushes are still to be seen. Furthermore, the inhabitants of these areas, being of a more rural way of thinking, are also concerned to preserve certain trees for shade, for medicinal and religious purposes, and as raw material for local cottage industries

FIG. 7. Wood resource misuse in the Nuba Mountains

The areas of slight misuse are in general those where traditional agriculture is carried out. Here, the mature and harder types of trees are not destroyed when the land is first cleared for farming. Shifting cultivation, in association with the practice of rotating crops and allowing the land to lie fallow for a certain period, also allows the soil to regain its fertility and the trees and bushes to grow again. This system, however, is disrupted in those areas where rapid population increase has led to an increased pressure on resources and a consequent shortening of the fallow period. The system can also break down if intensive grazing is practiced, and where bush fires are common.

The areas threatened by misuse are those that are beginning to experience more intensive cultivation and grazing as a result of the influx of animals and human population abandoning decertified areas of Northern Kordofan Province. Very significant too are the plans for the expansion of mechanized cultivation into these areas. However, at present these areas still retain a rich vegetative cover and could be reserved as fuelwood supply areas to serve the deteriorating regions of the north.

There do remain some areas where misuse is not taking place. They include, on the one hand, areas reserved by the Forest Department and, on the other, areas unsuitable for cultivation, grazing, or any other human activity because of inaccessibility, poor soils, severe topography, or shortage of water.

FIG. 8. Models of wood resource use in the Nuba Mountains

Within any area there will be variations in the pressure of .use (or misuse) at the more local level. Studies of fuel supply and of desertification at the local level in the Sudan have suggested a concentric ring model to explain and illustrate this. It has been suggested that such a model would be applicable to all parts of the country, including the Nuba Mountains area. Observations made during this study cast doubt on such an assumption. In practice several different patterns of land use around settlements may be identified, depending on the location and size of the settlement, the distribution of wood resources, the availability of cultivable land, and water supply. Four such different systems are identified in figure 8.

The first (A) represents a traditional hill-community area, the village of Tagoura in area A. The model is almost oval in shape, determined by the shape of the highland area itself. The innermost zone comprises the water source (here shallow wells) with small orchards. Trees are very sparse and there is an absence of bushes and grasses. The second zone is the actual settlement area on the foothills with sparsely distributed households and jibraka farms. Trees are almost absent in this area, having been cleared for cultivation. The third zone includes the slopes of the hills facing the settlement area. Here a few trees are to be found, such as doleib and tebeldi, mostly satisfying uses other than for fuelwood. The lowland area behind the mountains is the clay plains occupied by thin forest alternating with small farms where shifting cultivation is practiced. The trees are mostly young and short, some of them deformed and blackened by burning as a result of clearance for cultivation. This is also the major area for collection of wood for fuel and building purposes.

Model B represents a traditional community on a lowland area lying on a khor or a saraf (a spring at the base of a hill). The type of land use is almost the same as that shown in model A, but the model is elongated because of the flatness of the land.

Settlements with concentric resource-use patterns are to be found mostly on the plain using water from a nearby hafir or shallow well. This situation is shown in model C. The width of the zones depends on the size of settlement, the availability and proximity of cultivable land, and the soil type, which largely determines the vegetative cover. Even in zone 1 a few trees are found, particularly heglig, dom, and doleib.

The negative effect of a limited water supply is displayed in model D, representing a water yard (Kurtala in area C). The overconcentration of human and animal population in and around the water point is responsible for the misuse and consequent deterioration of resources.


III.4. Conservation policy

Factors that have inhibited the adoption of a woodlands conservation programme
Government forest policy
The need for a new resource conservation policy
Recommendations for wood resource conservation


Factors that have inhibited the adoption of a woodlands conservation programme

The Nuba Mountains area has been shown to consist of a variety of well-defined land forms: hills with various degrees of slope, rugged land surfaces consisting of alternating rock outcrops and troughs, and plains and valleys with associated water courses. Their interrelationships have been shown to be reflected in the varying depth, structure, particle size distribution, and, therefore, varying hydrological behaviour of the soils. This in turn has an effect on the nutrient status of the soils and is ultimately represented by welldefined plant communities or associations (Harrison and Jackson 1958). But these components of the ecosystem are seldom left to express their true effect in the ecosystem, mainly because of human interference.

As land forms determine plant distribution through nutrients and moisture availability, they also affect the distribution of human settlements through the availability of drinking water and suitable sites for habitation. The main agents of human interference have been shifting cultivation aided by fire (and more recently, the use of machines for mechanized crop production), grazing by an everincreasing livestock population, and cutting for fuel and timber. These practices are both persistent and extensive. Their impact is repeated year after year in the same locality, and the area involved is constantly expanding. The old mode of shifting cultivation, by which land is allowed to rest to restore its fertility, is no longer followed and the return to old areas is so quick that land becomes truly exhausted. Aerial photographs of the region show that the regular outlines of cultivation rarely lie in close juxtaposition to developed vegetation stands except for rocky areas. Other land without signs of recent cultivation is usually degraded beyond practical use. Overgrazing is even more taxing on the resources since it is concentrated by the availability of drinking water for animals and proximity to settlements. Frequent bush fires complete the degradation picture.

Over-cutting occurs mainly near human settlements and on flat lands suitable for crop production. By 1980 Habila had expanded to 205,000 ha, double its size in 1972. Where grain can be cultivated mechanically, the cut timber is burnt into ashes and only rarely is timber salvaged for use. Mechanized farmers are in a hurry to catch up with the rainy season and cannot wait for timber to be collected, sorted out, and transported out of the area. The mechanized farmer and his urban financiers are not interested in revenue from the farm clearance. The Forest Department is an interested party but normally does not have the financial ability to cope with the fast chain felling. The damage does not stop here, as neighbouring areas frequently are burnt too because fire lines are rare outside forest reserves. The area is also full of combustible grasses ready to transmit fires to wide areas. The felling of large trees allows wind speeds to increase and spread the fires more widely.

The main elements in erosion are wind and precipitation, and their effectiveness depends on the distribution of rainfall during the year and its intensity. At Kadugli, in the south of the region, only six months have an average fall exceeding 20 mm (May to October), with the maximum fall averaging 172 mm in August (figure 6). Statistically, however, one can expect a daily fall to exceed 100 mm five or six times a century. {The highest recorded fall this century was 123 mm in September 1936.) Falls in excess of 50 mm in a day can be expected twice a year. Severe erosion can be generated under such conditions if the vegetation has been severely denuded, and in the equally long dry season the winds can blow away considerable quantities of dust, especially from the clay plains when the trees have been removed. Thus the study area requires a careful management programme that conserves all the resource components of soil, vegetation, and water. The cropping, grazing, felling, and fire practices that predominate at present are conducive to the degradation of resources rather than their preservation.

We may summarize the cause of this state of affairs as the increased population of humans and animals without a sufficient adaptation of traditional land-use methods to accommodate the increased pressure. Until recently local people have not really had to face up to the slowly deteriorating situation, and have not known what remedial measures to take anyway. The situation has worsened recently because of laudable attempts by the government to expand food production and modernize cultivation methods. Unfortunately the attitudes of many of those involved have caused a rapid deterioration in the ecological conditions, due partly to their ignorance and partly to short-sightedness, At the same time the government does not seem to have been aware of the likely impact of its new policy. In recent times the series of dry years of the Sahel drought has brought to everyone's attention the fragility of ecosystems in arid lands.


Government forest policy

The apparent lack of a suitable lead from the government, however, is not due to a complete lack of a coherent policy. A statement of forest policy laid down in 1932 is stilt official today. It stipulates for the study area (after Shawki 1957):

- A proper system of reforestation that will yield an annual increment from accessible forest areas sufficient to cover the annual demand for timber and firewood is to be created. (The need for such a system has long been recognized. )

- For the system to operate with assurance of continuity, a definite policy is now laid down for the guidance of all concerned. Legislative powers to give effect to this policy are given by the Forest Ordinance and the order made under the Royalities Ordinance.

- All felling, other than such as is required for village needs (and where possible for this too), is to be con centrated in definite felling areas, to be called Forest Reserves. Outside these, felling is to be checked by making it compulsory to pay royalties on all wood cut for commercial purposes.

- Cutting in Forest Reserves is to be controlled by licence in accordance with a rational programme.

- Private landowners are to be encouraged to regard timber as a marketable product to be grown on a rational basis similar to food crops. Royalty is collectable on such produce if the material is used for trade.

- Provincial officials are to educate local inhabitants in the duty of forest protection against damage by fire orgrazing. Local authorities are to help.

This forest policy has been and still is confronted with many constraints, including lack of finances, shortage of manpower, and ineffective extension work. It has also suffered from being just a forest policy rather than a resources policy and has therefore not been recognized by agriculturists and other land-users. It is hardly surprising that it has failed to achieve the desired impact.

The Soil Conservation Committee Report (Sudan Government 1944) contained many recommendations for the study area and these were accepted by the government. They touched on many aspects of today's problems and recommended measures against soil erosion, improvement of catchment areas by the use of vegetation, drainage of waterlogged areas, and planned management of village lands to avoid over-grazing. In some cases specific areas were mentioned, with reclamation measures suggested for the Berdab area and soilconservation methods to be tested in Kinderma.

The main conclusion to be drawn is not that the Sudan Government had no policy or was unaware of the deteriorating situation in the area, but that for various reasons it did not implement its own recommendations.

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