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In 1975 the Council of the United Nations University identified three priority areas (or programmers) for its concern: world hunger, human and social development, and the use and management of natural resources.

Each of these programmes is closely related to the others. Better use and management of natural resources would help to solve the problem of world hunger and so release more resources and human energy for human and social development.

By early 1977 the Programme on the Use and Management of Natural Resources had itself identified a series of subprogrammes for its investigation: environmental deterioration in the humid tropics, rural energy supplies, and the ineffectiveness of attempts to apply knowledge to the management and development of arid lands.

In October 1977 it was decided to base the last sub programme in Africa, in the Sudan, at the University of Khartoum, and in October 1979 the Khartoum Workshop took place.

From this there arose an agreement to support a series of studies. The first series of four were published by the United Nations University in 1984 and were concerned with important problems affecting different parts of the arid and semi arid regions of the northern Sudan. It was also decided to support an investigation into the various physical, environmental, socioeconomic, cultural and administrative facets of the development process within a single limited area. It was agreed that this study should be undertaken in the White Nile area of the Sudan and should be a cooperative research project carried out by the Departments of Geography of the University of Khartoum, Sudan, and the University College of Swansea, United Kingdom. This report represents the fruit of this co-operative research.

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