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8. Marketing and trade in White Nile province

A. Trilsbach

Editor's Introduction

Whilst cotton from the irrigated pump schemes is marketed through specialized government agencies and the cheese often has its own separate marketing arrangements through the cheese factory owners, much of the rest of the agricultural produce is sold at various rural and local urban markets. This applies to goods bought and sold not only for local use but also for consumption outside the region. Merchants from the Gezira or the Three Towns either come to buy goods themselves or arrange purchase through local agents. Such merchants are also involved with local traders in the supply of imported goods to the region, whether they originate from abroad or from another part of the Sudan.

Such markets play a significant role not only in the economic but also in the social life of the area. Their potential for the dissemination and diffusion of new ideas and innovations should not be overlooked.

Author's Introduction

Rural Markets in Africa

In many developing countries, rural markets are as import ant for the national economy as exports and international trade (Bromley, 1971). Furthermore, for some of the poorer people in Africa, they provide essential opportunities for the exchange and barter of locally produced goods and for the sale of livestock and the purchase of manufactured consumer goods. Hodder (1965) suggested that the bartering system was a possible origin of rural markets, but nowadays barter is being replaced by cash transactions. The price of goods in such places is generally cheaper than in larger settlements with permanent trading facilities.

Daily and periodic are the two main types of rural market that can be identified. Both are considered in this chapter, together with two other types of trading institutions: the large permanent trading/shopping centre at Ed Dueim, the province capital, and the individual permanent shops that occur in some of the smaller towns and villages.

Spatial and temporal patterns of markets are of fundamental importance in the White Nile. Skinner's model (1964) based upon experience in China is used with modifications made by McKim (1972) from north-east Ghana. This identified five major types of market which increase in importance up the marketing hierarchy.

1. Minor (incipient) markets: These are the smallest markets in the hierarchy and are often organized on an informal, if not irregular, basis. Locally produced goods are usually bartered and exchanged between people of neighbouring villages, and only rarely are goods of any value transferred. Transactions are "horizontal" in that the goods are of roughly equal value. The main role of this category of market is to "even out" local regional imbalances in production, especially of agricultural goods.

2. Standard markets: These are of slightly more importance than minor markets in that they tend to serve a larger market threshold and often allow for the exchange of higher order goods. Quite often these markets act as a starting-point for the flow of locally produced agricultural and craft goods into higher levels of the market ing hierarchy (Scott, 1972), and also the termination of downward flows of goods which are intended for the rural population (McKim, 1972). In effect, therefore, although these markets retain the "horizontal" functions of minor markets, they also show some degree of "vertical" activity.

3. Intermediate markets: These are one stage up the market hierarchy from standard markets. They are similar, but the intermediate markets serve a much larger threshold and have a larger "vertical" flow of higher order goods. Quite often these markets are associated with the larger villages and small towns, which usually have permanent trading facilities incorporated within them.

4. Central markets: These are usually located at a strategic site on the transport network. They usually serve a large market threshold and often have important wholesaling functions attached to them.

5. Regional markets: These are associated with the larger central places and are often in urban areas. In many cases, such markets operate daily and may function both in the mornings and evenings.

Standard, intermediate, and central markets tend to function predominantly on a periodic basis, whereas the two extreme categories are different. Minor markets are often haphazardly organized and have too small a theshold to attract traders on a periodic cycle, whereas regional markets are often large enough to support permanent establishments operating on a daily basis. Each of these five types can be identified in the study area.

McKim (1972) has suggested that the location of markets relates to the distribution of population and settlements and Hill and Smith (1972) add the degree of mobility of traders and consumers. In Yorubaland (Nigeria), Hodder (1961) believed that the size and distribution of population was not important and that rural markets tended to space out at 10-kilometre intervals, even if there was no settlement at that location; this represented the maximum walking distance for those wishing to attend. Jackson (1971), in southern Ethiopia, however, believed that population and market densities were closely allied.

FIG. 8.1. Periodic markets in part of White Nile Province

The question of mobility also appears to have variable components. In particular, Scott (1972) suggests that the factor of mobility is now less important, as many people have access to buses or lorries. Mobility also relates to the personal characteristics of traders and consumers. Hill and Smith (1972) distinguished two main types of traders: those who traded in local markets and those who travel round the markets on a circuit. Nowadays, this latter group usually travels by lorry and covers large distances. These individuals are often "on the road" for several days before returning home. Where such traders sell nonlocally produced goods, they break off occasionally to buy in new stocks. An understanding of consumer behaviour is not quite as simple. Hill and Smith (1972) recognized two general types of consumers: those who attended markets regularly and treated it as a social occasion and those who went infrequently to buy goods as required. The assumption that consumers always visited their nearest market has been questioned (McKim, 1972). Local ones were often bypassed in favour of higher order markets with a wider choice of goods. This phenomenon was clearly significant in the White Nile.

The social role of rural markets in the developing world can be as important to those taking part as the economic one. In northern Nigeria, Scott (1972) observed that women, in particular, visited the markets for social reasons. This was also found to be true in the White Nile. Market day is a time for relatives and friends to meet, and markets have a large number of catering establishments associated with them which are used for these various social gatherings.

Data and Methodology

Field work for this study was carried out in the latter half of 1980, and involved discussion through open interviews with permanent traders, and periodic traders of both consumer items and livestock. Information derived from this source was backed up by 52 questionnaire interviews which included a 5 per cent sample of all registered traders at Ed Dueim and a complete coverage of permanent traders at Arashkol. Permanent traders were also interviewed at Shabasha and Esh Shuqeiq. Complete records involving 1,708 transactions were obtained for all livestock sales at Esh Shuqeiq market in August and December for both 1978 and 1979, representing wet and dry seasons in wet and dry years respectively. Primary data was also backed up by information derived from relevant literature.

This chapter is divided into three main sections. Firstly, a general background to the periodic market system in the research area is provided (fig.8.1). This is followed by a detailed case-study of the large periodic market at Esh Shuqeiq, with particular emphasis on the sale of livestock. The final section is a general analysis of some of the permanent trading facilities, followed by some concluding remarks and comments about possible future study.

Periodic Markets in the White Nile Research Area

Each settlement in the research area has some form of trading facility, ranging from isolated shops in small villages (such as Arashkol) to the large trading complex (regional market) at Ed Dueim. Here permanent shops and market combined had 712 registered traders in 1980. In villages like Shabasha, Suq el Helba and Esh Shuqeiq, small permanent trading units are supplemented by periodic markets which bolster the trading facilities of those settle meets. Figure 8.1 is an attempt to summarize this distribu tion in the study area by using Skinner's classification. In the figure, however, minor markets have been eliminated as they are informally organized within most villages and do not have any official records pertaining to them. Table 8.1 lists the markets by day of operation. The area as a whole is served by one regional market (Ed Dueim); two central markets (Umm Damm and Esh Shuqeiq); four intermediate markets; and twelve standard markets.

TABLE 8.1. Markets in the study area and adjacent areas

Market Sat. Sun. Mon. Tues. Wed. Thurs. Fri ?
Ed Dueim * * * * * * *  
Es Sufi   *     *      
Idd en Nibaig   *            
Idd el Ud'   *            
Et Tura'a   *     *      
Suq el Helba     *          
Shabasha     *     *    
Qoz el Baird     *     *    
Shatawi     *     *    
Esh Sheikh el Hasin       *     *  
El Muqeirinat       *        
Umm Rimta       *        
El Humara         *      
Zireiga         *      
El Alaqa *       *      
Umm Damm           *    
Ed Dubasi             *  
Esh Shuqeiq *              
Ma'tuq               *

The distribution highlights the relative abundance of markets in the riverain zone adjacent to the White Nile (Ed Dueim, Shabasha, Es Sufi, Qoz el Baird, Ed Dubasi) and in the transition belt between the riverain and rainland areas (Et Tura'a, Esh Sheikh el Hasin, Shatawi, El Alaqa). Despite this relative concentration, the largest and most important market centres, apart from Ed Dueim, are on the rainlands, for example at Esh Shuqeiq and Suq el Helba; the former is notable in particular as a livestock market. Where this activity is concerned, Esh Shugeiq is one of the most important markets in the Sudan, the nearest comparable ones being the market at Umm Damm and the daily markets at Omdurman and El Obeid. With the exception of the daily market at Ed Dueim, markets in the riverain zone usually function on two days per week, whereas those on the rainland are only held on one.

Past studies of periodic markets elsewhere have made detailed analyses of weekly cycles by plotting the daily movement of traders (Skinner, 1964; Stine, 1962), but in this area such patterns do not appear to be very consistent. One notable exception is the "rainland cycle" (fig. 8.1). Here traders (mainly from Shabasha, Suq el Helba, and Esh Shuqeiq) follow a regular cycle between the largest rainland markets: Saturday, Esh Shuqeiq; Sunday, Idd en Nibaig; Monday, Suq el Helba; Wednesday, El Humara; Thursday, Umm Damm. These traders sell goods brought in from outside the research area, notably tea and sugar, which are in constant demand and provide a regular income. Although the rainland cycle is continuous, individuals leave it from time to time to replenish stocks. Out side the cycle, traders tend to be local people taking advantage of the centralized marketing conditions on the appropriate days. It should be noted, however, that some markets are grouped in close juxtaposition and enable traders who wish to do so to take the opportunity of visiting two or more markets in the group in any week. Examples of such groups include: El Humara-Idd en Nibaig-Suq el Helba; El Alaqa-Shatawi-Es Sufi-Esh Sheikh el Hasin; Esh Shuqeiq-El Muqeirinat-Suq el Helba; Es Sufi-Esh Sheikh el Hasin-Esh Shuqeiq; Shabasha - Et Tura'a-Qoz el Baird; and Shatawi-El Alaqa-Umm Rimta (see fig. 8.1).

In the smaller markets (standard and some intermediate) the main types of goods sold are locally produced, especially grains such as aura and dukhn; that is, "horizontal" transactions predominate. Only a few non-food items are sold, such as rafia food covers (tabak). In the larger market centres, including some intermediate, cloth and imported items are available and assume added importance as one moves up the hierarchy. For example, at Esh Shuqeiq, a central market, such local goods as fruit, grains, herbs, dates, etc., are supplemented by commercial items brought in from outside, including cloth, hardware, toothpaste and toothbrushes, sweets and cigarettes, shoes, and handicraft items. Therefore "vertical" transactions assume a greater importance than in smaller markets.

The morphological layout of markets varies according to size and function. Figure 8.2 shows examples for Shabasha, Es Sufi, Esh Sheikh el Hasin, and Esh Shuqeiq. Although the diagrams have been highly generalized they show that in some markets the distribution of livestock and other goods is adjacent (Es Sufi and Esh Sheikh el Hasin) whilst in others these functions are separated (Shabasha and Esh Shuqeiq). Furthermore, Es Sufi and Shabasha are good examples of livestock markets being contained within a fixed boundary, delimited by other buildings, whereas at Esh Sheikh el Hasin and Esh Shuqeiq they are open on at least one side, enabling the area available to expand as required. This is particularly important at Esh Shuqeiq in view of its major significance as a national livestock market.

Livestock Marketing

The marketing of livestock is the single most important function of the larger markets and is a function of the smaller ones at least to some extent. Two distinct phases may be distinguished: firstly, sale from pastoralists to wholesalers (usually through middlemen); and, secondly, sale from wholesaler to customer.

In general, markets to the west of the research area generate lower prices than those near to the river. This is because they are closer to the traditional extensive rainland pastures stretching from White Nile Province westwards into North Kordofan, South Kordofan, Northern Darfur, Southern Darfur, and Bahr el Ghazal Provinces. As a result middlemen often purchase animals at rainland markets, such as Esh Shuqeiq and Suq el Helba, and drive them to the river for resale at higher prices at Shabasha, Es Sufi, and elsewhere. A secondary movement may then occur by which other middlemen sell these animals on to Omdurman or across the White Nile by ferry to Ed Dubasi and Ma'taq. From these last two markets, they are sold on again to reach eventually Wad Medani and other towns close to the Blue Nile such as Hasaheisa, Mesellemiya, and Rufa'a.

For both pastoralists and middlemen, the staggered daily arrangement of markets is significant as it allows them to move between markets, thereby increasing the potential number of satisfactory transactions. Usually, animals are moved "on the hoof," but such movement is determined by the availability of pasture. When pastures are suitable, the extra grazing can be beneficial, though additional walking can have the combined drawbacks of making animals more muscular (and hence meat tougher) (Khogali, 1979), and increasing the grazing pressure on the local pastures. Movement by lorry is expensive and is usually restricted to the movement of large numbers of sheep and goats which have been purchased directly by wholesalers.

Animals are sold for milk production (cattle and goats), meat (cattle, camels, sheep, and goats), and transport (donkeys, camels, and horses) in the markets, with sales for meat being the most important. Sales for transport are often direct offshoots of this, as described below with reference to Esh Shuqeiq market. Sales of milk, as opposed to meatproducing animals, are negotiated privately with the owners of cheese factories, and with town dairies at places like Ed Dueim.

The existence of a livestock market depends upon two specific functions: the licensee and the sales witness. The market licensee is an individual who has made a successful application to the local council (North-west White Nile Region Rural Council) for a licence. The cost depends upon the expected number of sales in the market (for example úS1,000 at Shabasha compared with úS6,000 at Esh Shuqeiq). In return the licensee collects revenue from both buyer and seller for each transaction at his market (20-30 piastres for goats and sheep; 50 piastres for cattle; 75 piastres for donkeys; úS1.00 for horses; and úS1.50 for camels). The licensee usually collects his fees personally in the smaller markets (as at Et Tura'a), or through representatives in some of the larger ones (Shabasha and Esh Shuqeiq).

Equally important is the market witness (who may in some cases be the same person as the licensee). Witnesses also have to purchase a licence from the council. Their role is to supervise sales and to offer documentary proof that an animal has been transferred between owners. In the event of a dispute over ownership, the witness is held responsible for confirming the sale. Consequently, these people need to have a sound local knowledge. At Esh Shuqeiq, the market is too large for one witness and the number of tribal groups represented is so great that each major one attending brings its own witness. In return for his work, the witness also receives a fee from each side involved in a transaction, usually about half of the sum received by the licensee.

FIG. 8.2. Simplified morphologies of selected markets

Livestock sales have varied markedly over the years, from year to year and between seasons within any particular year. In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the demand for meat both from within the Sudan and from other Middle East countries. This has led to a fivefold increase in meat prices in as many years (Shakesby and Trilsbach, 1982). Superimposed upon this trend have been fluctuations between individual years, usually reflecting variations in rainfall. During drought years, traders are not willing to buy from producers as they are afraid that the animals may be ill or not strong enough to walk to the major markets with only meagre pastures along the way. Pastoralists, on the other hand, would prefer to sell more at this time to reduce their losses, but in practice they are unable to do so. One result of falling sales in drought years is that animals accumulate on such grazing land as exists and contribute even more to degradation of pastures.

Sales also vary within individual years. During the rainy season, sales tend to be greatest. Relatively reliable pastures allow the movement and sale of livestock from western Sudan into the White Nile area. Suitable pastures also make animals fatter and more healthy, which helps to generate higher prices. The opposite process works in the dry season. Two further factors affect annual sales. Firstly, during October-November sales tend to decrease, as many animal owners are busy either harvesting rainland crops or selling them rather than livestock. The second important factor is the timing of the Big Eid, a Muslim festival traditionally associated with the slaughtering of lambs. This usually goes hand in hand with a large increase in sheep sales. Owing to the Islamic calendar, however, this occasion does not fall at any specific time of the year and thus the demand necessarily cannot be satisfied by standard breeding and marketing cycles.

Esh Shuqeiq Livestock Market

Esh Shuqeiq market had its origins in the mid nineteenth century, but first began to flourish during the Anglo Egyptian Condominium in the early years of the twentieth century (Sheikh el Tayeb Beshir Maghboul, personal communication). Originally it was held on a Friday, but during the 1930s it was moved to Saturday. Friday caused problems owing to the difficulty of looking after livestock whilst attending the mosque. This contrasts with markets in northern Nigeria, where Friday is popular owing to the possibility of combining visits to the market and the mosque (Hill and Smith, 1972).

The market at Esh Shuqeiq is similar in structure and organization to the others in the area, but the main difference is in its size and the diversity of animals passing through it. It is attended by people from several different tribes and socio-cultural backgrounds located in areas ranging from the local White Nile area to parts of Northern and Southern Kordofan, Northern and Southern Darfur and Bahr el Ghazal provinces. The present market is one of the largest in the Sudan and now covers about 1.5 square kilometres at its maximum extent. Bakheit (1972) demonstrated that the market capacity is influenced by environmental conditions, especially rainfall and pasture. He stated that between 1950 and 1959 the market received an average of 12,000 head of livestock weekly, but this fell to about 5,000 following the major drought year of 1960, and returned to about 10,000 after 1963. More recent figures are not available.

Some indication of the relative success of the market can be derived from the level of profits. Bakheit (1972) mentions a drastic reduction of sales and prices in the wake of the 1960 drought, when cattle were sold very cheaply. Thereafter, the licensee's annual profits rose steadily until 1970 (1970-1971: úS3,400), after which a decline set in once more (1972-1973: úS3,050). This reduction may reflect the impact of the "Sahel drought," but since then, although statistics could not be obtained by the author, profits appear to have risen steadily in accordance with the increased demand for meat.

Bakheit (1972) concluded that only a small fraction of livestock sold in the market are consumed locally, and that only 28 per cent of livestock in the market came from local sources. Sixty-seven per cent of the market's supply came from the five western provinces. From the most distant of these areas, the journey to Esh Shuqeiq usually begins in early May, but varies in precise date according to the exact source of livestock and the reliability of rainfall and pasture. The journey from these areas takes from two to three months; it is slow so as to preserve the condition of the animals. Many pastoralists who own animals that they wish to sell do not attend themselves, but employ drovers to drive their livestock to the market. Drovers are usually paid according to the number of head of livestock they look after or at a daily/weekly rate relating to the length of journey involved.

On arrival at Esh Shugeiq, pastoralists and drovers like to keep most animals away from the settlement itself to continue grazing. A few head of livestock are selected each week by middlemen and taken to the market; such middlemen account for about 90 per cent of the livestock trade at Esh Shuqeiq (Sheikh el Tayeb Beshir Maghboul, personal communication). This process continues until all the livestock have been sold, or until the onset of the dry season, when less pasture is available. Now drovers and pastoralists alike return to their cars (tribal homelands) until the next season. In general pastoralists prefer to sell male animals in order to retain maximum breeding potential in their flocks and herds.

At Esh Shuqeiq market the sales system varies according to the type of livestock involved. Most of the cattle come from western Sudan from the areas of Muglad, Babanusa, Ed D'ain, Nyala, and El Fasher (fig. 8.3). The most important tribal group involved are the Rizeigat, whose cattle tend to be smaller than the local ones and are not good milk producers. Local cattle can be easily recognized by their white hide, compared with the characteristic tan colour of the Rizeigat cattle. Usually, local cattle come from the Hassaniya, Kawahla, and Ga'aliyin tribal areas and are good milk producers as well as giving good quality meat. Consequently, in 1980 the local cattle sold for about úS180 per head, compared with úS150 for the Rizeigat animals. Most of the buyers come from Omdurman and Gezira Province. The route to Omdurman is usually by way of a grazing corridor, whereas that to Gezira

Province takes the animals across the White Nile, either by way of the Es Sufi ferry or over the Jebel Aulia Dam.

Sheep and goats form the largest of Esh Shuqeiq's four livestock units. Like cattle, though some animals are derived from local sources, most come from more distant places to the west. The Rizeigat are again involved in bringing animals from areas around Nyala, El Fasher, and Idd el Ghanam. Most sheep and goats from western Sudan, however, tend to come from Northern Kordafan Province, notably from Hamrat esh Sheikh, Dar Kababish, Dar Hamar, and from the area between Bara and El Obeid. Most of the local sheep and goats come from the Kawahla, Ga'aliyin, Hassaniya, Magdia, and Shuweihat tribal groups. Whereas animals from western Sudan can take many weeks to reach the market, only rarely do local pastoraIists and shepherds travel for more than five days. Destination areas for sheep and goats are similar to those of cattle, although relatively more are consumed locally (Bakheit, 1972). Also, when large numbers are purchased by wholesalers from Omdurman, they are often transported there by lorry. On average, the prices of sheep and goats varied between úS25 and úS45 a head during 1980, with a notable rise in sheep prices as the Big Eid approached.

FIG. 8.3. Livestock movements: Esh Shuqeiq market

Most of the smaller livestock markets in White Nile Province do not have camel sales and this increases their importance at Esh Shugeiq. Besides local sources, notably from the Kawahla, most animals come from Northern Kordofan Province, especially from Dar Kababish, Dar Hamar, and Dar Hamid. Camels prices varied in 1980 between úS300 and úS400 per head. The main purchasers are local people, who use them for transport, and traders from Omdurman.

The pattern of donkey sales is quite different from that of other animals. The best quality donkeys come from Northern Province, from around Dongola, and also from the Gezira and the northern part of the White Nile Province. Large numbers are also purchased at the market in Omdurman to be sold at Esh Shuqeiq. The buyers are the pastoralists and drovers who have travelled from western Sudan. They take the donkeys back with them to use for transport. Generally, they cost between úS30 and úS150 per head according to age and quality.

The sale of horses is the least important role of the market. They come from western Sudan, notably from the Rizeigat, but the numbers sold are very small, with prices ranging between úS100 and úS300 per head.

Table 8.2 shows the total numbers of livestock sold at Esh Shuqeiq during August and December in both 1978 and 1979. Of these, 1978 is representative of a wet year and 1979 of a dry one. August and December represent the rainy season and dry season respectively.

Figure 8.4 illustrates graphically some of the figures in table 8.2. The predominance of cattle sales in wet years is a common characteristic of the market. During drought years, cattle are driven over greater distances than in wet years in search of pastures and their owners are also less keen on selling them because there is a greater risk of cattle deaths, and so greater numbers of animals are held back to increase future breeding. Similar arguments apply to sheep, but are less true for goats. The market records also revealed that over 50 per cent of the animal transactions in the three drier sample periods involved just one animal, especially when goats were involved, but in August 1978 these represented only 30 per cent. This suggests that in wet years animals are sold not only in larger numbers but also in larger lots.

As with other markets in the area, so with Esh Shuqeiq sales vary markedly between seasons within any one year. Sheikh el Tayeb Beshir Maghboul, a former licensee of this market, estimated that in an average rainy season 3,000 cattle would be sold against 200 to 300 in the dry season. He says that this is due to the unreliable pastures around Esh Shuqeiq, which encourage pastoralists to drive their cattle direct to Omdurman. In his opinion, sales during the dry season constitute about 10 per cent of the peak reached in the rainy season. However, this is not true with respect to milk cattle, where sales reach a peak between September and December. Sheep sales also are highest in the rainy season. In contrast, camel and donkey sales peak in the drier months, especially in November/December, which is the popular season for buying animals for transport. This is when rain cultivators have begun to sell their crops and have sufficient cash available to buy animals.

TABLE 8.2 Animal sales at Esh Shuqeiq market

  Aug. 1978 Aug. 1979 Dec. 1978 Dec. 1979
Sheep 2,519 988 1,504 1,826
Cattle 2,056 508 224 345
Goats 1,756 500 682 508
Camels 12 16 39 22
Donkeys 42 23 52 25
Horses 4 2 0 0

FIG. 8.4. Seasonal variations in livestock sales (for sample months)

The Effect of Esh Shuqeiq Market on the Local Area

There is no doubt that the market has had a significant impact on the local area. First, the concentration of animals in the vicinity of Esh Shuqeiq is resulting in desertification due to overgrazing, excessive trampling, and the destruction of young plants. Where there is a succession of grasses and other plants, an invasion by less palatable species is common. Not only do animals visiting the market suffer, but also local animals, which are sometimes forced to survive on aura stalks, dry hay, and ombaz.

Secondly, the concentration of animals at the market is conducive to the spread of animal diseases. A veterinary office was opened in the village but this has so far done little to help solve the problem. Many diseased animals are not taken to the veterinary officer for treatment as their owners cannot, or are not willing to, pay for the treatment (Bakheit, 1972). Yousif Hussein Abdalla (personal communication) estimated that this could amount to as much as úS250 per year for the owners of some of the larger herds At the time of field work, there was no qualified veterinary officer at Esh Shuqeiq. Those pastoralists wishing to use medicines were forced either to make their purchases on the black market or to buy them directly from wholesalers in Khartoum or Omdurman

Thirdly, the rapid growth of the market during this century has had several implications for the economy and society of the local area. The increased demand for labour has led to the growth of neighbouring villages(Bakheit, 1972) and the mixture of migrants from western Sudan and of merchants from the Three Towns has affected the traditional life-style of many of the local inhabitants. Women tea-sellers are to be found in the cafes and this is an excellent indicator of social change (Khogali, personal communication). The general market has also encouraged the sale of a variety of goods between nomads, local inhabitants and traders from the clay plain of White Nile. Mohammed (1972) considered this to be one of the most important roles of the market. "Shuqeiq market...has developed as a main focal point of interaction between...nomad groups and the semi-sedentary inhabitants of the White Nile. Animals, cash, grain, and market goods are regularly exchanged between the two sectors."

Recent social developments in the settlement include the building of schools and a dispensary, although a shortage of qualified staff, as in the case of the veterinary office, has reduced their effectiveness. Some other social changes have been less advantageous. The local people do not like the congregation of traders, nomads and their animals as they compete with them for land and lead to the spread of diseases, both among animals and people. The dominant position of middlemen in sales activities at the market has lessened the tension somewhat by separating the parties. Furthermore, many middlemen are inhabitants of the village itself. The weekly role of the market is another source of social problems. Many of the traders present on market day do not participate in the rainland cycle and so are underemployed for the rest of the week. Bakheit (1972) states that they spend much of their spare time in drinking locally produced beer and in gambling, and are accused of stealing money and property. However, the local police believe that this is now less of a problem than before.

Periodic markets are often described as catalysts for the diffusion of innovations and new ideas, and can be a significant factor in bringing about social and economic change in rural areas. Esh Shuqeiq is no exception to this rule and there is good reason to believe that the other rural markets play a similar role.

Permanent Trading Establishments

Running parallel with the periodic market are the permanent trading establishments, which, like the markets, form a hierarchy, from the odd village shop with a few items to sell at the bottom to the well-organized and well-stocked shops of Ed Dueim at the top.

Within these broad limits a wide variety of shop types and arrangements may be seen. These include crude kiosks made of wood and zinc seen along roadsides selling fruits and drinks, street traders who sometimes possess little more than a mat, and small shops (kanteens) attached to most of the numerous cheese factories scattered throughout the area. In small villages, like Arashkol, a few isolated shops are dispersed amongst the houses, but in some of the larger settlements, such as Shabasha and Es Sufi, they are somewhat more organized (fig. 8.2). When associated with periodic markets they often form a boundary around an open space which is used on market day. At Esh Shuqeiq, the layout is different. Here cafes form the boundary of the market area whilst permanent shops are scattered throughout the village. At Ed Dueim, cafes and shops surround a large permanent market area which is sub divided into sectors for fruit, vegetables, meat, wood, and other items (El Huda, 1964; Abd el Ati, 1976) (fig. 8.5).

FIG. 8.5. The trading quarter in Ed Dueim

Goods sold can be divided into three main types: perishable foods; other foodstuffs; and other items. Perishable foods include vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, rocket cress, jew's mallow, okra, and potatoes, most of which are produced locally. Fruit is often brought in to the area from more distant locations, especially from northern Sudan-for example, bananas, oranges, and dates -whilst watermelons and limes are produced locally. Meats, including lamb, mutton, beef, goat, and camel, are the other items in this category.

The most important non-perishable foodstuffs are grains, especially aura and dukhn and some wheat. All of these are produced locally. Sugar grown in White Nile Province and on sale here comes from the Kenana and Assalaiya Schemes.

Tinned foods, tea, coffee, artificial fruit juices, and soft drinks are among the food items brought in from Khartoum,, Kosti, and Omdurman.

The third group comprises various domestic items, hardware, and "luxury" goods and includes clothing, furniture, soap, toothpaste, and cooking utensils. Items restricted to the larger settlements, such as Ed Dueim, Es Sufi, and Shabasha, include water pipes, locks, paints, spare parts, and constructional timber. Luxury items are also restricted to such centres and include electrical goods, especially radio cassettes, toys, sweets, cigarettes, and snuff. Apart from some items made locally, most of these goods are obtained from wholesalers in Khartoum, Khartoum North, and Omdurman.

Most traders spend between seven and fourteen hours per day at their business, on six or seven days per week (including a short working period on Fridays). By national law, the slaughter and sale of animals is prohibited on two days per week, and at other times must be witnessed by veterinary staff and licensed by local authorities. The result is that meat traders work a shorter week than the others. BY contrast, fruit traders will work very long hours if they still have fruit on their hands to sell. Most of these trading outfits are one- or two-man businesses, though they will often take on temporary assistants. About a quarter of the traders in the sample had secondary occupations, and these were nearly all vegetable-sellers who grew much of what they had to sell.

Over the past ten years the number of traders and the volume of business have expanded but the range of goods for sale appears to have declined. At Ed Dueim, for example, a large increase in the town's population has raised substantially the demand for domestic food items and the number of traders. Those goods which generate regular sales, like cheese, had previously been sold by a few traders who satisfied the market threshold, but with new increased sales potential more traders have been encouraged to sell them. Examples of new items include spare parts for private cars, canned fruits, fruit juice powder, and a wide variety of Eastern European jams. The larger traders have attempted to monopolize the sale of these items. Many more items appear to have disappeared from the market in recent years. Some locally produced products, such as sugar, flour, and rice, have become unreliable in their supply from farms and mills, and hence traders cease either to deal in them or at least to rely on them for their living. Goods brought from more distant areas have suffered from transport problems. Frequent shortages of fuel and spare parts have made transport unreliable and expensive. In turn many of these difficulties relate to the Sudan's national economic difficulties.

Other changes relate to fashion. No longer is the wooden angareeb (bed) so popular, and its place is being taken by iron sprung beds.

Problems Facing the Permanent Trading Establishments

Many of the problems facing these traders arise from the difficulties expressed in the previous section relating to the non-availability of trade goods. Under such conditions periodic shortages will inevitably occur. Whilst it is true that these conditions may allow a few to do well out of black market trading, for the many it prevents them maintaining a steady income and inhibits the investment of capital in their businesses.

Competition was described as another most important problem and can be related to three main and seemingly contradictory factors: inflation, stable prices, and an influx of new traders. High inflation, which is often above that for income, has encouraged many potential customers to buy alternative, cheaper products, especially locally made cloth, and other local products rather than imported goods. At the same time relatively stable prices for locally produced goods with an expanding market associated with population growth has encouraged many ax-farmers in particular to take up employment in the trading industry. Many of these new competitors are street traders with very low overheads compared with the shops, who consequently are often able to offer goods more cheaply. Meat traders throughout the Sudan have been faced by a third main competitive element. Legal restrictions apply to the slaughter of animals, but many illicit butchers slaughter and sell meat on the prohibited days. Furthermore, by avoiding veterinary and licensing fees, they are able to undercut the prices of those legally registered. However, even without various forms of illegal competition there has been an inevitable increase in licensed traders. For example, in Ed Dueim there were 642 licensed traders in 1978, and this number had risen to 712 by 1980, an increase of almost 11 per cent.

Throughout the region further factors are involved in increasing the movement towards trading. Poor returns from agriculture and a series of dry years have attracted people away from agriculture towards alternative occupations, of which trading is one. At the same time many of the better off have moved towards urban centres. Some, it is true, have moved to Ed Dueim but most have left the region. Whilst their places have been taken in the rural area largely by migrants from the west, most of these are poorer and less experienced in commercially oriented agriculture.

The conclusion must be that in general the problems for the trader relating to supplies and transport, the increasing impoverishment of the population as a whole, and the dramatic increase in numbers involved both legally and illegally outweigh the increasing opportunities made available by an increasing population. Another conclusion must also be that many businesses are underfinanced and that some 40 per cent have virtually no profits ploughed back into their development.

The Future of Marketing and Trade

Undoubtedly marketing and trade in this area are facing problems, but compared with other employment activities they are relatively successful. This is borne out by the flood of potential newcomers into the industry, compared with the trickle leaving it. In 1980 the new periodic market at El Muqeirinat functioned for the very first time. Despite scepticism by some rural councillors, initial results were encouraging, and this could indicate a potential for further new markets. Village leaders at Arashkol are keen to open one. If this occurred, it would be located reasonably close to Shabasha, Idd el Ud', and Et Tura'a, possibly making these markets more efficient as an integrated unit.

Undoubtedly, too, better organization is required by those responsible for the markets. At Esh Shugeiq an improvement in livestock management would reduce the environmental effects of overgrazing and excessive trampling; provision of employment for market workers on days when they have no work would improve social conditions; and a sounder arrangement for ensuring that there are qualified veterinary staff equipped with an adequate supply of drugs would raise standards of livestock management considerably.

Additional problems face permanent traders. In general population growth over the last two decades has raised the market threshold quite substantially, enabling considerable numbers of new traders to enter the system without causing serious competition. Superimposed upon this situation are the local effects of migration. Migration patterns show the movement of people to be from the more remote poorer areas of western Sudan to the economic "spearhead zone" (between the two Niles north of the Kosti and Sennar line). As this area straddles these two regions, it is experiencing both in- and out-migration. Ed Dueim is an example of the latter and Esh Shuqeiq of the former. However, fuel shortages, a lack of spare parts, and impassable roads in the wet season present severe difficulties. Sudan's economic position makes it difficult to solve the first two, but new all season roads are appearing, and the one on the east bank of the White Nile has already been constructed.

It must be concluded finally that trading is seen by many as being a way out of farming. The recent series of dry years have acted as a catalyst encouraging movement out of the area towards the spearhead zone and into the main urban centres of the country. The long-standing effect of the position of the region on the line of communication provided by the White Nile is again demonstrated. Movement from these rural areas has encouraged migration from the west by those wishing to improve their material living standards and their quality of life, especially when they can move into vacant places on irrigation schemes along the White Nile.

Trading patterns have changed here in response to the changing economic circumstances. The region is marginally peripheral to the main spearhead zone of development in the Sudan. It is therefore from this area that solutions to many of Sudan's arid land development problems may be expected to arise. In any programme of ecological, economic, and social development, the potential role of the rural and urban market centres to facilitate or inhibit the acceptance of sound innovation must not be overlooked.


The author wishes to acknowledge everyone who helped in the preparation of this chapter. Particular mention should be given to the field interpreters, Abd el Moneim Muzzamil Abd Alla and Mohamed Adam Khalil; Harun, the Land Rover driver; the Social Science Research Council, U.K., for financial assistance; the British Council for providing a Land Rover; and Sarah Wood, for coding questionnaires and providing a provisional summary of the results. Above all, the author wishes to thank all of the traders and officials in the White Nile Province for their assistance and time and Sheikh el Tayeb Beshir Maghboul, for accommodation on numerous occasions and for many evenings spent discussing Esh Shuqeiq and its market.


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