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Scheme participants' adaptive responses

The adaptive responses revolve around the nomadic tenants' strategy to bring together their involvement with the scheme and its crops on the one hand and their interest in livestock on the other in the light of their own original perception of how the scheme could fulfil their aspirations. Though the starting point is different between participant expectations of what the scheme should offer and what the scheme design was supposed to offer, the present failure of the scheme to reach its targets is important too in generate ing similar adaptive responses among all settlers. The image of the scheme to begin with was high in the minds of both planners and participants in spite of their varying degrees of expectation. Ail participants in the scheme perceive the scheme as a successful means of change to a better life, though the meaning of "better life" may be perceived differently by the various groups. As a result adaptive responses differ, but for all users they are oriented towards interests other than crop production, whether within or off the scheme. Leaning on the livestock economy is a natural option for nomads and a rapidly growing option among the Nubians. The reason for this switch among the Nubians is that the livestock economy, judging from the nomads' experience, is a more secure investment than the rigidly controlled crop economy of the scheme.

Adaptive responses are, to begin with, concerned with each individual's personal situation. For those without animals the only real option is to stay permanently in the scheme and to supplement their income from the tenancy by taking part in any other available on-scheme activities. If they succeed they invest any surplus in livestock and then readjust their life-style to make the best use of returns from both scheme activities and their livestock. They will then invest in one or the other as seems appropriate to maximize returns. For those with large herds which the scheme cannot accommodate, the choice is to keep the tenancy as a base providing fodder, some income, and access to services. Such people consider livestock a secure source of income and an asset that can be realized when necessary for investment flow into agriculture. Reasons given for attachment to the scheme and to the nomadic life are summarized in tables 911. For permanent settlers the opportunity to be settled permanently with some services provided and a new source of income are the main reasons for the attachment to the scheme. For the partially settled, the scheme provides a source of income, fodder, and water for their animals, various services, and a market for their products. The main reason for attachment to the nomadic way of life is that animal-keeping is believed to provide a more financially successful and secure livelihood (table 10).

TABLE 10. Reasons for attachment to nomadic life partially settled nomad tenants

Answer No. %
1. Livestock keeping is more secure and rewarding 39 46.5
2. Better returns from rain-fed agriculture 18 21.4
3. Butana is healthy 12 14.3
4. Butana is home of ancestors 9 10.7
5. Butana is cheaper to live on than scheme 6 7.1
Total 84 100.0

Source: 1981 fined survey

As a group, participants are firmly convinced that it is preferable for them to attach to the scheme and fight for change rather than to leave it all together. When asked how they satisfy the management and qualify to keep the tenancy when it is not productive enough, 72.3 per cent stressed emphatically that they perform the necessary duties carefully and efficiently (table 12). They stated that to keep the tenancy to the management's satisfaction does not demand their presence in the scheme all the time, and in any case the scheme and their grazing grounds are close to each other (about one hour's drive apart), so that they can farm and graze their animals quite easily at the same time. Furthermore, suitable arrangements within the family or between families can be made to ensure that the tenancy is properly looked after.

A first sign of group action to attempt to bring about change is that 27.7 per cent of the interviewed tenants reported an active role in grass-root organizations at the village or scheme level, working for this within the nomadic and Nubian communities. A further indication is the growth in membership of the Tenants' Association, especially among the nomads. Of the nomad respondents, 61.3 per cent believed the the Tenants' Association had succeeded in narrowing the gap between their perception and management's perception of what the scheme should be. However, 57 per cent of the Nubians were less sure of this merely because of its mechanical nomad majority. They argued that the Association had oriented the scheme towards the nomads' interest and cited the inclusion of aura in the rotation and the Association's lack of interest in supporting controls to keep animals away from the scheme.

All tenants of the Khashm el Girba Scheme have in varying degrees undertaken some form of adaptive response to what they see as a deteriorating economic situation (tables 11 and 12). The following are the main measures adopted:

- The tenancy is held as a base for other activities, with some attempt being made to abide by the regulations as far as these other activities permit.

- Reliance is placed on the livestock economy in particular as a primary activity, with a calculated system of tenancylivestock interchanging investment. For large herd owners another option for the tenancy is to depend on hired labour or a share-cropping arrangement, usually with western Sudanese who came originally to the scheme as farm labourers. A leaning towards the livestock economy is a rapidly growing phenomenon among the Nubians, who generally hire Beja, Rashaida, and Shukriya to look after the animals. This has given a large number of herders a chance of access to the scheme and has relaxed the averse attitude that the Nubinas have always had towards the idea of integrating livestock, other than in very small numbers, into the scheme.

- The family is split or the tenancy is assigned to certain members to the family.

- A wakil (tenant representative) is appointed to look after the tenancy. This idea originated with the Nubians and later spread to the nomads. The basis of this system is that one person (or a few people) look after the tenancies of a large number of absent tenants under a mutually acceptable arrangement, which in some cases may involve care for the livestock of those in charge of the tenancies.

- To minimize conflict with the scheme authority, most of the nomad tenants take their animals into the scheme only in years of severe pasture and water shortage in the grazing lands. Most of the time, only weak and small animals in small numbers are brought into the scheme.

- The tenants become actively involved in group actions to press for changes in cropping patterns and administration for the community at large.

TABLE 11. Reasons for lack of full attachment to the scheme (Nubians excluded)

Answer Partially settled Permanent settlers
No. % No. %
1. Animals not accepted in scheme 24 47.1 34 36.9
2. Low productivity and economic        
insecurity in scheme 15 29.4 21 22.8
3. Animal keeping is more rewarding than        
agriculture under present scheme system - - 16 17.4
4. Strong emotional attachment to old life - - 21 22.9
5. Scheme is unhealthy and over-crowded 12 23.5 - -
Total 51 100.0 82 100.0

Source: 1981 field survey

TABLE 12. Main adaptive responses (steps to satisfy management)-former nomads

Answer No. %
1. Perform duties carefully and efficiently and abide by regulations 37 44 5
2. Hold tenancy as a basis but also lean on livestock economy 33 39.8
3. Active in organizations working for change 13 15.7
Total 83 100.0

Source: 1981 field survey

Attachment to traditional culture even among those settled permanently in the scheme is a form of protectional response and a source of unity for confronting management on the one hand and preserving a separate identity in the ethnically complex situation on the scheme on the other. At the same time, the scheme has failed to convert the nomads into an agrarian society. In response to the question why they still stick to their nomadic culture, 52.9 per cent of the permanent settlers said that they believe it was important for them to have a unique identity. They pointed out that the nearness of their original homeland helps to ensure a continuous link with their original culture origins. The rest attribute their adherence to the nomadic culture to the limited challenge brought by the scheme's economic failings and limitations as a representative of an alternative agrarian culture. Another important aspect of cultural attachment among the nomads is a response to the strong cultural attachment among the Nubinas reinforced by the much greater level of services, care, and attention provided for the Nubians by the scheme management and the government in compensation for their enforced migration from northern Sudan. The nomad leadership is advocating a separate local administration for the nomads in the scheme for this very reason. As a result, nomads aspire to pure water and schools, whereas the Nubians are looking for electricity for their villages.

Yet, in spite of the strong cultural attachment which is still further encouraged by the spatial segregation of communities deriving from the decision to allocate different villages to different ethnic groups, including the various nomad groups, there are many signs of the adoption of the habits of life of settled communities. All these adaptive responses are intended to maximize the benefits from a situation that people are unable to change. This situation is vividly expressed in their oral folk poetry. It is a reflection of the state of mind of the nomads in such a situation and a means of expressing their state of dissatisfaction. This poetry mirrors their perception of situations and can be used as a vehicle for expressing and advertising socioeconomic and political discontent and helps people to mobilize themselves towards a common objective. It was used for all these purposes during the Mahdiya in the last quarter of the nineteenth century (Hurreiz 1975).

The resettlement of the Nubians and the creation of the Khashm el Girba Scheme is seen as an alien development by the Shakriya in what they see as a afar [homeland) maintained as theirs against neighbours and other aggressors, and is enough to stimulate this form of protest poetry. Added to this is the failure of the scheme to meet the nomads' aspirations. Of the nomads surveyed, 61.1 per cent said that they have opted to show their discontent in oral poetry not only because they are dissatisfied with what the scheme is providing but also because of their inability to confront the government and the scheme authority with their grievances. The other 38.9 per cent said that they saw it as an outlet for further grievances and a publicity device to get their opinions about the scheme and its organization known.

The poetry attacks the "newcomers" (meaning the government) and stresses the attachment of the Shukriya to their land. It speaks of the glory of the land and its history, and is charged with sentiment as well as bitterness and a sense of defeat. The Butana is personified and addressed by the poets in dialogue in which they remind it of their old days when power was in the sword. The land answers back, reminding them how it has been loyal in providing them with all they need. The poetry deals with the start of the scheme, and revolves around the poets' bitter feelings about the way their land has been usurped, the influx of diverse tribes into the scheme, and the disruption of the traditional style of life and the Butana's natural eco-system. The two verses translated below are examples of the general theme of poetry during this period (Hurreiz 1975):

O Land of thick entwined grass whose soil is cool in the drizzle, Hasn't Abu-Sin, the son of Ali who acts without restraints when he hears the war drums,
Fed the vultures hovering over you on human kidneys and bellies?

Alas! we miss the time when your warriors,
Land of thick entwined grass, were tough and strong;
When our camels were grazing and only hornless beasts were keeping watch over you.
The police have nowadays hovered around and stopped those who know how to wage your war

A second theme concerns the people's acceptance of the reality of life and the difficulty of confronting the government and accepts the idea of reform from within.

The main aim of the poetry is to strike a balance between scheme economy and livestock economy. Recently this has become much more concerned with advocating reforms within the scheme. The need for Nubian support on this issue has reduced the bitterness towards the Nubians as usurpers of the land in the nomads' more recent poetry.

Since the start of the Khashm el Girba Scheme, Shukriya poetry has passed through three phases, with the following broad characteristics (fig. 5):

Phase I projected the bright side of Butana life, describing emotionally the conditions of the wet season, the most pleasant and productive time of the year in terms of pastures and water in the Butana. There was a complete omission of reference to the hard conditions of the dry season. It stressed that what people had left behind was very valuable, and was a way of reminding the scheme management that the people expect the scheme to offer something better. It played down what the scheme offered in comparison to what the people had left behind, in spite of the high returns from tenancies during this period. The average annual net return per tenancy in 1965 was five times that of 1980 in real terms.

FIG. 5. Oral protest poetry among the Shukriya (analysis based on the work of four main Shukriya oral poets)

Phase II was characterized by further details of scheme failure but gave more analysis of the gains from both scheme crop economy and livestock economy. It was a period of a more objective socioeconomic evaluation of the scheme life and the nomadic life. This period coincided with the rapid decline in economic returns from crop economy and the increasing prices for livestock. The poetry described delays in settling joint accounts, the tenants' indebtedness, and their health conditions and suggested a deteriorating scheme. It described the resulting influx of tenants into the Butana looking either for financial help from relatives who were animal owners, for opportunities of work, or for the chance to involve themselves with rainfed cultivation.

Phase III is characterized by increased pressure for reform in which the complimentarity of scheme economy and livestock economy is stressed. The main theme is the personification of the three crops, each showing how valuable it is to the tenant; and also in dialogue between tenants and animal owners the importance of each to the success of the other is stressed. This trend to "reform poetry" can be explained by the growing realization - from experience - of the complimentarity of both scheme and grazing economy, signs of some success for the advocacy of the tenants' aspirations by the Tenants' Association, the recently begun rehabilitation policy which has raised the people's hopes for a new era of management and a restructing of the scheme, the emergence of young poets whose attachment to the Butana is less than that of the old poets, and finally the increasing activity of village organizations in voicing to the management the scheme problems as the tenants see them.

In spite of the various adaptive responses from the participants, conditions in the scheme continue to deteriorate. Inefficiency of management and the lack of a strong affiliation to the scheme among participants can both be noted. The shortcomings of management associated with failures in water supply, the nonavailability of essential inputs when required, and the rigid prescribed crop programme to the virtual total exclusion of livestock has been made worse by the declining value of the products grown. Under such circumstances the tenants' reaction has increasingly been one of discontent: watering is done carelessly, weeds are not cleared properly; animals are introduced illegally, pasture is "accidentally" irrigated; tenancies are left in charge of agents; and external labourer are brought in to do work at low rates of pay. The tenant does not feel it worth his effort to associate strongly with his tenancy because he can earn more from other activities. A general malaise has developed, which inevitably creates a downward spiral unless it can be effectively checked. The various failings not only have their effect on the financial return which the tenants receive from the scheme but are also reflected in health problems. Psychological stress problems are reported among tenants due to a feeling of the uselessness of effort and uncertainty of the future. Failure to insist on proper precautions has led to a marked increase in waterborne diseases such as bilharzia and malaria. A large number of cases of stomach and intestinal disorders have been reported, resulting from the use of canal water not only for irrigation but also for waste disposal by the villagers and the sugar factory, for watering animals, and for drinking, washing, and cooking.

TABLE 13. Health and social consequences of the scheme among formerly nomadic tenants

Answer No. %
A. Causes of stresses
1. Loss of effort without material gains or satisfaction 27 37.0
2. Loss of hope and insecurity 23 31.5
3. Disappointment because of high aspiration at the beginning 16 21.9
Total 73 100.0
B. Adverse social consequences
1. Ethnic group and family disintegration and loss of identity 23 56.1
2. Conflicts and loss of social values and caring for material gains 11 26.8
3. Social evils diffused as a result of the diverse culture 7 17.1
Total 51 100.0
C. Comparison between health in the scheme and in the Butana
1. Butana is naturally healthy 33 46.7
2. Scheme is better because it has more care and other services 21 28.0
3. Scheme is worse because of overcrowding, poor food, and water-borne diseases 19 25.3
Total 75 100.0

Source: 1981 field survey

Table 13 indicates some of the consequences for health and social life as identified by the nomad tenants. It is signify cant that from the point of view of health the scheme rates so poorly in the tenants' minds in spite of the much improved services. The Butana is thought to be more healthy by the respondents because of the fresh air, available milk, and few people, and certainly they experienced water-borne diseases much less frequently before they came into the scheme. From a social point of view too the scheme has had what the nomads consider unfortunate results, the most worrying for them being the feeling of a loss of identity.

The main adverse consequences of the present scheme situation may be briefly summarized:

- Human and animal diseases have spread because of over-crowding, use of canal water, prevalence of water borne diseases, deficiencies in diet, and the low level of care and other services.
- Resources are misused and wasted, and the environment is degraded because of loss of interest, ignorance, ab senteeism, and a lack of strong attachment to the scheme, which is considered expendable government property.
- This is exacerbated by misuse of pesticides and fertilizers and by damage to crops by animals.
- Improper and irregular farming has caused serious problems of soil degradation and the spread of weeds, with a resulting drop in productivity, quality of life, and confidence in the scheme economy.
- All these result in a downward spiral of decreasing productivity, leading to increased disinterest, which leads to even lower productivity, and so on.

This situation is the main reason for the on-going rehabilitation policy which began in 1981. Therefore, it is appropriate next to consider how people believe the scheme could be best restructured.


Towards a restructuring of the scheme

The need to restructure the scheme on a new basis is accepted by all scheme beneficiaries, although there is no firm agreement on precisely what that basis should be. This section looks at the agro-pastoral tenants' view of restructuring for the scheme. Comparison with the Nubian viewpoint is made whenever appropriate.

Willingness to sit with the management to revise the scheme plan to su it al I interested parties-nomads, Nubians, government-is overwhelming (94.6 per cent of the nomads, 100 per cent of the Nubians). Those surveyed gave the following reasons for their willingness to compromise:

- It is in the general interest as the only way to devise a successful scheme (75.9 per cent).
- Discussion is good and brings sound ideas (24.1 per cent).

Of the few who said they are not ready to compromise, two thirds argued that their standpoint was right because it was based on experience whereas what planners advocate is based on assumptions only, and one-third did not trust the management to keep any promises that it made in view of the past record. This makes it evident that the participants are willing to compromise on what they perceive and this is further demonstrated in their responses as to what they would add to and remove from the scheme to suit them (tables 14 and 15). Change in the present management and in the system of rotation to enable livestock to be included is a high priority among the nomads. But, as an indication of a willingness to compromise, 52 per cent of the permanent settlers suggested the removal of inefficient tenants and keeping large herds away from the scheme. At the other end, we notice that 30.8 per cent of the partially settled nomad tenants suggested removal of cotton and wheat, compared with 13 per cent among the permanent settlers. More than half the permanently settled nomads (52 per cent) suggested that a better infrastructure, a new accounting and pricing system, and more tenant participation would be important improvements. Having few animals, they are less interested in the integration of large numbers of livestock and the cultivation of aura (42 per cent); the corresponding figure for the partially settled is 50 per cent. (The Nubians displayed no interest in livestock, whereas 90 per cent indicated improvement infrastructure, the accounting system, and tenant participation.) The support for animals and aura among the nomads is important as management has always resisted both. The rather low percentage suggesting conversion of the scheme to animal-breeding (13.6 per cent) may indicate that, although this is what people may have aspired to, the nomads are practical as they know full well that such a proposition would be rejected outright by both the manage ment and the Nubians.

TABLE 14. Recommendations for restructuring the scheme: negative improvements (Nubians excluded)

Answer Permanent settlers Partially settled
No. % No. %
1. Removal of inefficient staff 26 41.9 30 37.2
2. Change system to include animals 10 16.3 26 32.0
3. Remove inefficient tenants 7 11.3 - -
4. Large herds kept away 6 9.7 - -
5. Change watering system 5 8.0 - -
6. Drop cotton from rotation 4 6.5 13 16.0
7. Drop wheat from rotation 4 6.5 12 14.8
Total 62 100.0 81 100.0

Source: 1981 field survey

TABLE 15. Recommendations for restructuring the scheme: positive improvements

Answer Former nomads (%) Nubians (%)
Settled Partially settled
1. Improvement in infrastructure, accounting, and tenant participation      
52 32 89
2. Include aura, fodder, and animals 43 46  
3. Tenant ownership of land/taken from board 5 9 11
4. Conversion into an animal-breeding unit - 13  
Total 100 100 100

Source: 1981 field survey

TABLE 16. Perceived advantages to the government of consultation with participants (Nubians excluded)

Answer Permanent settlers Partially settled
No. % No. %
1. More production and minimum resource waste 39 49.4 30 36.1
2. Instructions will be followed with minimized expenses 17 21.5 18 21.7
3. People will settle and produce more 13 16.5 18 21.7
4. Make use of people's experience in livestock breeding 10 12.6 17 20.5
Total 79 100.0 83 100.0

Source: 1981 field survey

The respondents are convinced of the merits of consultation and think the government would benefit in returns from the scheme if it consulted people (table 16). To them consultation means more production and minimum resource waste (42.8 per cent} and minimized expenses in adopting government instructions (21.6 per cent). The nomads think that the government would make use of their experience in animalbreeding (16.6 per cent of the respondents). The respondents gave different sets of explanations as to why the government appears unwilling to consult them: most (52.3 per cent) think that the government believes that they have nothing to offer, and a further quarter believe that the government always accepts the planners' viewpoint as correct (table 17).

With regard to the best form of scheme, there is general agreement that the present scheme and system of management are basically satisfactory providing major reforms are carried out. About one quarter of the respondents suggested a free choice of crops to be grown, with the government charging for expenses, and only 14 per cent were interested in the introduction of co-operatives into the scheme system. The respondents agreed with the present basic structure of management, with 58.7 per cent accepting the present management system providing it is carefully improved to accommodate tenants' ideas and a further 26.1 per cent suggesting an independent profit-oriented management. Only 15 per cent looked for a fully integrated joint management enterprise with the Tenant Association (tables 18-20).

TABLE 17. Why the government does not consult (Nubians excluded)

Answer Permanent settlers PartialIy settled
No. % No. %
1. Government planners do not think people have anything to contribute 34 54.0 25 51.0
2. General belief that planners are always right 15 23.8 13 26.5
3. Fear of not meeting commitments and people's needs 14 22.2 - -
4. Too concerned with the Nubians - - 11 22.4
Total 63 100.0 49 100.0

Source: 1981 field survey

TABLE 18. Preferred form of management (settled nomads only)

Answer No. %
1. Existing system but reformed to meet tenants' and national interest 21 50
2. Unfettered agriculture with government charge for expenses 11 26.2
3. Co-operative within the present system 6 14.3
4. Private firm to ensure productivity and tenants" needs 4 9.5
Total 42 100.0

Source: 1981 field survey

This willingness to compromise among the respondents and their realization of a need to maintain the national interest beside their own are encouraging and come out in the views of the best form of development which they believe to be acceptable and practical (table 20). The majority (55.3 per cent) accept gradual development, producing a slow and calculated change, but with their full involvement. A substantial percentage (36.8 per cent) accept this type of development in an integrated crop/animal economy, using both scheme and rain-fed grazing land. Few even among the partially settled nomads would go for development that improves grazing land only. The first and second answers displayed in table 20 give a form of development generally acceptable to nearly all the respondents. The stresses among the two groups are different: the partially settled are more inclined towards accepting an integrated crop/animal or scheme/grazing-land model of development, whereas the permanently settled look towards a flexible system with crop/animal interaction. Empirical evidence suggests that this difference is tied up with animal owner ship and whether returns from agriculture are normally invested in livestock or not.

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