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III. The human and physical environments come together: a case-study of the gummuiya scheme

11. The background to the gummuiya scheme
12. The gummuiya development scheme
13. Towards an explanation of peasant response
14. The case reviewed



H. R. J. Davies

Parts I and II have discussed the limitations placed in the way of development by physical and human constraints. The White Nile has been shown to comprise a flat clay plain in the east which gradually changes into one in which sands predominate. The rainfall is less than 300 mm per year and falls during four months at most; the climate is characterized by wide fluctuations of precipitation from year to year and spatially over the region. The soils and the vegetation reflect these difficult conditions. Man's response to this situation under a low level of technology has been to grow dukhn (bulrush millet) on the sand and aura (great millet, a sorghum) on the clays under a system of land rotation. To this has been added the seasonal movements of camel and cattle nomads.

This picture so far would apply to many other parts of semiarid Sudan, but what separates this area off from the rest is the existence of the White Nile. The seasonal rise and fall of the river has made it possible to grow crops along the banks on the gerf land. At the same time nomadic movements of livestock-rearers and their families have also been orientated in some cases into an east-west movement with the seasons to and from the White Nile, instead of the more normal northto-south movement.

A further modifying factor has been the existence of the confluence of the White and Blue Niles at Khartoum before they flow as one river through the deserts of northern Sudan to Egypt. Since soon after the Egyptian invasion of the Sudan in 1821, when the capital was moved to Khartoum, the White Nile has been part of the indispensable river communications network of the country. Of itself this brought about some significant cultural changes. First, there grew up a tradition of individual land ownership along the river and, secondly, the use of riverbank land for agriculture was intensified by the spread of the sagia (Persian Wheel) to this area during the nineteenth century, enabling the cropping season and the variety of crops to be extended.

Nevertheless, as in an earlier period of history, when Soba was capital of the Kingdom of Aiwa and Sennar was the capital of the Fung kings, the White Nile continued to be of lesser importance than the Blue with respect to development. During the Condominium period the railway was built from Khartoum southwards along the Blue Nile, merely crossing the White Nile at Kosti. During the same period irrigation developments were largely based upon the Blue Nile waters, a point emphasized by the completion of the Sennar Dam in 1925. Even some of the lands which it had been decided to irrigate from the White Nile were in the end connected to canals from the Blue Nile instead, and when a dam was completed across the White Nile at Jebel Aulia in 1937, its primary aim was to store water for Egypt, not to encourage economic development along the White Nile in the Sudan. And so it was that the Gezira with the Three Towns became the core of economic development in the Sudan.

Thus, the White Nile area has for long been near to, but not quite a part of, the core economic region of the Sudan. As a result it has often suffered from a drainage of manpower and resources, which have been attracted to this nearby core. At the same time it has benefited from some of the trickle-down effects, one of which has been a rapid expansion of irrigation schemes, beginning with the Alternative Livelihood Schemes in the 1940s and continuing down to the present day. Yet these pump schemes never seem to have had as easy a course of development as the Gezira Scheme.

Part III examines the Gummuiya irrigation scheme, situated on the left bank of the White Nile, north of Jebel Aulia but south of Omdurman. The rainland of this area is subject to wide rainfall fluctuations from year to year and its cultivation is problematic. In such an area the people by tradition have looked to livestock-rearing and riverbank cultivation for their livelihood. To this extent the situation is similar to other areas further south that have marginally more rainfall. However, what makes the Gummuiya area distinctive is its proximity to the Three Towns, the metropolitan core region of the Sudan. Here any process of rural modernization has to contend not only with a rising population and environmental degradation but also with the lure of the urban (or semi-urban) life-style offered by the city. The search for a new ecological equilibrium is a rather more difficult and complex matter than in other parts of the White Nile study area.

11. The background to the gummuiya scheme

J. Briggs


In the early, heady days of independence in Africa during the late 1950s and first half of the 1960s, the solution to underdevelopment was generally seen as rapid industrialization, primarily because of the historical precedence of the industrialized economies of the "North." The need to absorb surplus labour, counterbalance agriculture and industry, and reduce the top-heavy emphasis on agriculture in African economies all served to add support to the "industrialization" school of thought (Myint, 1973). By the mid 1960s, the clear lack of success in this approach was only too evident. The historical conditions of nineteenth-century Europe and midtwentieth-century Africa were very different (Lefeber, 1974), and thus emphasis was switched, often quite subtly, towards the rural sector, although the need for balance and integration between the rural and industrial sectors was none the less recognized (Joy, 1971). Increasingly, throughout the 1970s, the importance of rural development to the overall development process at the national level has been acknowledged, particularly in those countries of Africa which do not possess readily exploitable strategic minerals. This switch in emphasis has been justified on several grounds: that industrialization had failed to produce sustained economic development; that an efficient agricultural sector is necessary to produce food for an industrial labour force and to provide industrial raw materials; that agricultural produce invariably accounts for the major part of valuable foreign exchange earnings; and that most Africans depend upon the agricultural sector for their livelihood.

Much capital and effort have been invested in the rural areas of Africa, including the semi-arid lands of West Africa and the Sudan, in an attempt to stimulate meaningful and sustained development. The most commonly perceived way of achieving this is by the introduction of new technologies ranging from new, disease- or drought-resistant seed varieties through to capital-intensive, large-scale settlement schemes (Floyd and Adinde, 1967; Bernard, 1972). Settlement schemes in particular have been seen by many as a major means of rural development because of the new opportunities they afford to peasants (Chambers, 1969). But this does not alter the fact that the key to rural development is invariably seen as the introduction and adoption of new technologies, themselves frequently designed within the framework of non-African philosophies and priorities and/or imported from the industrialized countries (Slater, 1974; Lele, 1975).

However, despite high levels of investment and technical expertise, rural development strategies have not generally been blessed with impressive success rates, whether these are measured in terms of crude production levels, investment/output ratios, or significantly improved standards of living (Silberfein, 1976). Clearly, a problem exists in that rural development strategies currently in use in Africa would appear to be failing to transform the rural sector of the continent.

To date, rural development in semi-arid and arid Sudan has tended to focus on the technical aspects of water supply development (see, for example, Al-Sayyed, 1953; Haynes and Whittington, 1981) and to have ignored the socioeconomic aspects (although there have been notable exceptions, e.g. Barnett, 1975, 1977, 1978; Dirar, 1970; Wynn, 1968). Not surprisingly, therefore, much of the investment in the rural areas of Sudan has been concentrated on irrigation provision, particularly of large-scale projects such as the Roseires Dam, Khashm el Girba, Rahad, and the large-scale sugar schemes in recent years. As a result, Sudanese small farmers have been overlooked if they live outside those areas earmarked for large-scale development. The present study will be implicitly questioning whether this type of approach is in fact appropriate.

The aim of this study is to investigate the process of rural development brought about by the revolutionary introduction of an irrigation scheme in a part of semi-arid central Sudan. The aim of the scheme was to create a focus for agricultural development in the area and the change was designed to be sufficiently radical as to transform the traditional agricultural activity into a completely modern, cash-orientated mode. The study questions whether the planners' aims for development coincided with the farmers' view of reality, particularly given the still-continuing emphasis in Sudanese planning on the technical rather than socio-economic aspects of rural development.

The choice of micro-level enquiry among participants was deliberate. As Connell (1971) has written, "long before the macro-theory must come the micro-empiricism." The micro-enquiry at the village level is the only satisfactory means of understanding peasant society, its aims and priorities, and how these impinge specifically on agricultural land-use strategies. Only when armed with this type of knowledge can planners plan effectively for rural development.

This chapter provides the background review of the resource base, both physical and human, of the Gummuiya area. It ends with a section on the pre-irrigation scheme economy, to demonstrate how well the peasant production systems were adapted to existing environmental constraints. The next chapter deals with the planners' strategy for the Gummuiya area and the response of the peasants to it. Chapter 13 explores some of the reasons explaining this difference in perception and chapter 14 offers some general conclusions that might be drawn from this study.

Data were collected in four main ways. First, a questionnaire survey was undertaken of a 10 per cent random sample of peasant farmers, focusing on detailed socioeconomic information, including personal characteristics of the farmer, cropping patterns, labour and other inputs into agriculture, marketing patterns, and migratory characteristics. Second, informal but structured interviews were conducted with individuals and small groups of peasants. Decision-making, problems, and attitudes to rural development were discussed in an informal atmosphere, a method which proved to be a particularly useful source of information. Third was attendance at farmers' meetings, etc., where consensus feelings and opinions emerged. Finally, interviews with numerous officials provided background material, as well as insights into the underlying rationale of the planning philosophy involved.

The Gummuiya Area

The Gummuiya area, named after the local tribal group, is located along the west bank of the White Nile in Khartoum Province. The total Gummuiya area extends to the north of Omdurman, but the area chosen for study is the southern part, starting from 30 km to the south of Omdurman and extending for another 20 km southwards to the Jebel Aulia Dam (fig. 11.1).

This study area was chosen mainly because of the establishment of a 7,000-feddan irrigation scheme in 1970, as the central feature of the "Gummuiya Development Project." It was designed as a major innovation, with far-reaching implications for the reorganization of agriculture in the area. its relatively recent introduction meant that structural changes in agriculture in the area were still fresh in peasants' minds and that the processes of change, adaptation, and development were still continuing.

A further reason for the choice was the proximity of the Three Towns conurbation, historically a major attraction for the Gummuiya for employment. This would test the effectiveness of an irrigation scheme as an economic venture and as a means of reducing population flows to the city.

Finally, because of the scale of the development project and the well-articulated aims and land-use strategy for the irrigation scheme, it provided an ideal opportunity to test peasants' responses to the new, potentially far-reaching opportunities against the backdrop of the planners' aims and assumptions. Consequently, a detailed analysis of the reasons behind any major differences could be attempted, an analysis which may help to shed some light on the relatively poor success rates in instituting and sustaining meaningful rural development in semi-arid Sudan and even in Africa in general.

FIG. 11.1. The location of the Gummuiya area

Physical Resources

Central Sudan, in which the Gummuiya area is located, is a hot, dry, and dusty land (ch. 3). Fundamentally, four seasons exist: a cool dry winter; a hot dry early summer; a hot rainy season; and a hot sticky season at the end of the rains before the onset of winter.

Mean monthly rainfall data for the period 1931-1960 for Jebel Aulia to the south of the scheme are given in figure 11.2. The highly seasonal nature of the rainfall pattern is evident, with a marked peak in the months of July, August, and September. In these three months 84.8 per cent of the annual average fall of 204 mm is concentrated. If June is added these four months account for 93.6 per cent. With such a marked seasonal pattern on a low annual total, reliance of agricultural production on rainfall alone for water requirements is at best hazardous. But the situation is rendered even more hazardous when variations between years and within groups of years are considered (figs 3.1 to 3.3 and 3.6 to 3.8). Figure 3.5 shows that if 1921-1950 or 1957-1980 are considered, markedly different annual totals are received.

The high temperatures demonstrated in figure 11.2 coupled with low humidity lead to high evaporation rates, so that Piche evaporation rates exceed precipitation for nine months of the year; if the Thornthwaite method of calculation of potential evapotranspiration is used, then in no month does this exceed precipitation (Davies, 1973).

The underlying geology of the area (fig. 1.1) is the Nubian Series, overlain by riverain clays near the White Nile and by qoz sands further to the west, with the two areas merging and interdigitating. Most of the soils of the Gummuiya Scheme area may be classed as vertisols (see ch. 2 and fig. 2.2). In terms of land capability these soils are among the best in the White Nile, having relatively few agricultural limitations on their use (fig. 2.3). Nevertheless, the author's own soil survey suggests that the soils are rather alkaline, with pH from 28 sample sites ranging from 7.2 to 9.2 (mean of 8.7). Shirlaw (1967) suggests that the optimum pH for crop cultivation is 6.5. It has been suggested that a pH value of 7.5 or greater is too alkaline for the successful cultivation of a great many crops, including lucerne (Bolton, 1962). Worrall (1958), on the other hand, with his more particular experience of Sudanese conditions, has demonstrated that high pH values are not uncommon and that they do not necessarily have too detrimental an effect on crop growth.

High salinity levels in soils can seriously limit agricultural potential. Results from the survey were encouraging, for only 5 of the 28 samples had salt levels that might seriously affect crop growth. One of the worst affected sites was located on the irrigation scheme only 5 m from one of the main feeder canals. Nevertheless, salinity is not yet a problem in the Gummuiya area. (However, Musa is inclined to disagree [ch. 2] ).

It is common for Sudanese soils to be low in nitrogen and phosphorus, but reasonably well-endowed with potassium (Worrall, 1958). In the Gummuiya area, the nitrogen level was very low. Surprisingly potassium content was low, but phosphorus content was generally quite high. Results from the Gummuiya area lend support to the findings of Jewitt (1966), who suggests that most irrigated soils in the Sudan are nitrogen-deficient. Thus the soils of the area, and principally those on the irrigation scheme, are not uncultivable. The pH levels, although markedly alkaline, are not impossibly high, and salinity is not yet a problem.

However, the supply of the three main plant nutrients is clearly limited to a greater or lesser extent. Thus farmers cannot rely on the natural fertility of the soils and must invest time and money in fertilizer application if yields are to be maintained at acceptable levels under a modern irrigation scheme.

It may be concluded that Gummuiya farmers operate under unfavourable environmental conditions with a significant degree of risk, particularly with regard to water availability.

FIG. 11.2. Temperature and rainfall, Jebel Aulia

Agricultural production reliant on natural environmental conditions in the area is therefore tenuous, to say the least. Indeed, it is true to say that it has only been the existence of the annually flooded land on the flood plain of the White Nile that has made a relatively settled form of agriculture here possible, though even this will vary according to the rainfall in the White Nile source areas, which controls the height and length of time of the annual floods. When the Jebel Aulia Dam was opened in 1937, the Gummuiya peasants perceived this as a major threat to their livelihood, in that it would alter the regime of the White Nile and consequently affect adversely the area of riverain, annually inundated lands. It was at this time that the idea of an irrigation scheme at the Gummuiya site was first mooted.

Human Resources

A survey in 1970 by the Ministry of Agriculture in the Gummuiya area gave a figure for the nine villages of the study area of 9,131 in 1,808 households (table 11.1). However, care must be taken in interpreting these figures: first, the initial survey was carried out rapidly; secondly, at the time relations between central government agents and the Gummuiya peasants were bad; and, finally, there was suspicion as to what use the results would be put. Nevertheless, a population figure of more than 9,000 for the study area in 1970 can be accepted. By 1974 (the time of the present survey) the population had probably increased to 10,000. It may have reached 11,000 by 1980. The sex ratio of the area may be estimated at 95 females per 100 males.

The provision of social services in the area, influencing the qualitative aspects of population, is generally less than adequate. At the time of the survey, only one of the nine villages, Sheikh el Bashir, did not have an elementary school (7-12 age group), and there was one general secondary school (12-15 age group) to serve the area. In practice, most children obtained secondary education either in Jebel Aulia or Omdurman. Health facilities were available in seven villages, in six of which the health facility was limited to a dressingstation. A dispensary, one stage further up the hierarchy, was located in the village of Suleimanlya. There were very few social facilities at all before the Gummuiya Scheme was started.

The Pre-scheme Economy

The pre-scheme economy of the Gummuiya and its associated land-use patterns were finely adapted to the existing environmental conditions and resource base. Indeed, it was very typical of White Nile agriculture in this part of central Sudan, in that the system comprised three fundamental parts: rain cultivation, riverain cultivation and livestockherding, all of which were interdependent.

The Gummuiya appear to have adopted this system in the seventeenth century, when they made the transition from true nomadic pastoralism to that of cultivator/ pastoralist (HarriesJones, 1972). Rain cultivation began in June with the first rainfall, but because of the small amount and its temporally variable nature, it was very much in the interests of the peasants to plant at the earliest possible opportunity, so as to maximize the available rainwater. As the area can experience as few as six showers during the rainy season, the critical importance of this is only too apparent. The spatial pattern of rainland cultivation demonstrated a marked adaptation to physical features such as wadi channels, which, because of their tendency to retain moisture more effectively than the surrounding area, had concentrations of aura planted in them. Teras (bunds) were also constructed on the clays to increase locally the effectiveness of the rainfall.

By the end of June all the planned aura was planted, along with perhaps some limited areas of Iubia (hyacinth bean), used as both a cash and fodder crop. Harvesting lasted from the end of September until the end of October. Production levels from the rainland fluctuated significantly from one year to the next, the prime cause being variability in rainfall. Dura in particular suffers from variable rainfall (AlSayyed, 1953; Graham, 1969), thus making the rainland area an unreliable source of food supply for the Gummuiya; indeed, Gummuiya peasants estimated that one year out of every four would be very poor for rainland production. The Gummuiya could not therefore rely exclusively on the rainland for their needs.

TABLE 11.1. Gummuiya area Households and population by village (1970)

Village No. of households Estimateda population
Mugdab 426 2,151
Shiqeila 353 1,783
Suleimaniya 239 1,207
Id el Hid 200 1,010
Garaza 183 924
Jebel et Tina 172 869
Sheikh el Bashir 109 551
Samra 66 333
Tireis 60 303
Total 1,808 9,131

The estimated population per village was calculated by multiplying the number of households by 5.05, the mean size of household in the total survey. Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Team of Investigation, "Agricultural Survey Section, Gummuiya,'' unpublished report, 1970.

Riverain cultivation, on the other hand, was considerably more secure, being related to the more dependable annual flood of the White Nile, although the final area of cropped land was still dependent on the height of the flood. The flood plain of the White Nile was inundated annually from the beginning of July until September, giving the land a thorough soaking. Cultivation started as soon as land emerged. Bunds helped to retain moisture on these lands and in more recent times small petrol-driven pumps have replaced sagia and shadouf as lifting devices, extending the length of the growing season.

A wider range of crops was grown on the riverain land than on the rainland, primarily because of the more reliable supply of water. Bamia (okra), lubia, melons, cucumber, and a variety of vegetables (particularly tomatoes and onions) were grown as well as aura. The area devoted to aura depended primarily on the success of the rain-grown crop. If a good crop had been obtained from the rainland, then a larger proportion of the riverain land was put over to the production of other crops, particularly vegetables. Graham (1969) has noted similar variations in the Rahad area in eastern Sudan.

The third part of the pre-scheme economy involved livestockherding. This aspect of the Gummuiya economy had been in decline for many years as the people became more settled and placed greater emphasis on crop cultivation. Nevertheless, livestock were still an important component of the Gummuiya economy during the years immediately preceding the introduction of the scheme. Responsibility for the livestock was placed on the older boys and young men, and they might be away tending the herds for several months at a time in the pastures of Kordofan, returning to the villages during the dry season to the more reliable supplies of fodder and water from the White Nile. During the present century, this nomadic practice has gradually disappeared. Its abandonment is the dominant reason for the decline in livestock numbers, because the resource base of the Gummuiya area is simply incapable of supporting large herds of livestock in situ all the year round.

There is little doubt that this three-part economy of the Gummuiya was an efficient adaptation to the existing resource base of the area. Risk was spread across the economy in that overdependence on any one part was deliberately avoided. If the rain was poor and rainland production limited, then the alternative option of riverain land was available. This does not imply that agricultural life was without its trauma, but it did mean that Gummuiya society was capable of surviving and reproducing itself.

The Gummuiya system of agriculture was disrupted to a significant extent by the completion of the Jebel Aulia Dam in 1937. The dam was designed to benefit Egypt by providing a means of flood control and by storing water in the flood season which could then be released for irrigation purposes in Egypt during the dry season. The Egyptian government provided E750,000 in compensation for the White Nile peasants whose land had been lost by inundation. The money was used to build protection banks along the side of the river and to establish several Alternative Livelihood Schemes for those peasants who had been most seriously affected. The Gummuiya gained nothing from the compensation because their land was downstream of the dam, and thus inundation was not a problem.

The Gummuiya problem was that not enough riverain land was now being covered by the annual flood to maintain the traditional system. With the opening of the High Dam at Aswan the role of the Jebel Aulia Dam has been reduced in importance in the overall Nile Basin strategy, and as a result, since the mid 1960s, the levels and timing of floodwater release have been altered so that the original pattern has been restored.

In the meantime the Gummuiya had been pushing the idea of an irrigation scheme located on the main rainland area. This, it was argued, would be fair compensation for the loss of production from the riverain land. Indeed, in 1948, a very positive attempt had been made to establish a Gummuiya cooperative to oversee the construction and operation of an irrigation scheme, but it foundered due to financial difficulties; however, the idea was not forgotten. In 1969 the Member of Parliament for the area once again raised the issue, supported by the Gummuiya people. The MP's political influence at the national level ensured success, and by the middle of 1970 work had commenced on the construction of the irrigation scheme, some 33 years after the first disruption to the economy caused by the Jebel Aulia Dam.

12. The gummuiya development scheme

J. Briggs

The Planners' Strategy

Two broad reasons underlay the government's decision to support the introduction of an irrigation scheme in the Gummuiya area (fig. 12.1). Firstly, the vulnerability of the Gummuiya economy to the vagaries of annual rainfall was recognized, and the resulting fluctuation in production levels was seen to be unacceptable, particularly given the location of the area, only 30 km to the south of the Three Towns capital (Khartoum, Khartoum North, and Omdurman). With a dependable water supply from the White Nile the scheme would be an attractive, economic proposition to the Gummuiya, and its success would result in both the riverain and rainland systems becoming relict forms of agricultural production in the area.

The second broad reason was that agricultural produce from the proposed irrigation scheme could be marketed in the Three Towns. Particularly during the dry season, periodic food shortages, especially of fruit and vegetables, occur here, and even when these foods are available high prices prevail (up to six times the rainy season prices). The proposed irrigation scheme would therefore be in a position to produce foodstuffs during the dry season for the Three Towns market, thus alleviating the problem of seasonal food shortages. In addition, distribution problems would be minimized as the scheme was only 30 km away.

The clear rationale behind this thinking was rooted firmly in accepted economic theory, particularly with regard to the workings of price mechanism principles. The new opportunity for the Gummuiya to produce foodstuffs to be marketed during times of shortage when prices are high was seen by the planners to be a major incentive for production on the irrigation scheme. Simply expressed, the Gummuiya were now expected to increase production so as to ensure the maximum income from their new resource, the irrigation scheme. Evidence from other studies in Africa has suggested that an essential element of any rural development policy is the introduction of cash crops (see, for example, Clayton, 1964; Roder, 1965). Roder's study of the Sabi Valley irrigation projects in Zimbabwe was seen as something of a pointer by the Gummuiya planners in that it showed that Sabi Valley peasants had been willing and able to take advantage of all-year-round
cultivation associated with the provision of irrigation facil ities.

The choice of site and landholders for the irrigation scheme serves to confirm the economic rationale. Since the construction of the Jebel Aulia Dam, the main argument for an irrigation scheme in the area had rested on the notion that it would be a means of compensation for those peasants who had lost riverain land. However, the site chosen for the scheme took in most of the rainland, ignoring the riverain land, and the allocation of land/cultivation rights on the new scheme was based on the total area of land parcels each peasant had rights to on the rainland. In other words, peasants' right of access to a plot of land on the new irrigation scheme depended not on the amount of riverain land lost because of the dam, but rather on how much land they had access to in the rain-cultivation area. Compensation gave way before the principle of maximization of production and economic returns in the eyes of the planners. Peasants were allocated either five- or ten-feddan plots, depending on the area of rainland that they could prove a right to. Few disputes occurred, and these were settled amicably.

The total cultivable area of the scheme was planned to be between 7,000 and 8,000 feddans, and by 1974 had reached 7,380 feddans worked by 867 tenants. Offices were built north of Shiqeila whose administrative functions were to supervise the scheme generally, to provide advisory services, to rent out machinery, and to collect water charges, which were set at S1.100* per feddan per watering, payable in advance by the tenant. The planners were very undecided as to how the water charges should be recovered. Initially, in 1971, a sharecropping system was established, but peasants were quite ready and willing to bypass the scheme offices in marketing their produce and so no reliable record of production could be calculated against which the share could be worked out. Consequently, the currently used direct payment system was implemented. Unfortunately, the relatively high costs have led peasants to use less than
the optimum amount of water for cultivation. Opinion from other parts of the Sudan is divided. Wynn (1968), discussing pump-schemes in Northern Province, argued that monetary charges are hard to collect, and recommended a cropsharing arrangement, particularly where subsistence production dominates. However, sharecropping can be a disincentive to production, particularly when it becomes more commercially orientated (Abdalla and Simpson, 1965; Dirar, 1970). Davies (1964), working in the Gedaref area of eastern Sudan, has highlighted the problems of sharecropping and attributed its failure in this area to the ease with which aura in particular could be smuggled away to private merchants, thus avoiding official accounting procedures.

From the outset, the Gummuiya scheme had few regulations applying to its tenants, perhaps reflecting the more liberal attitudes of the government at the start of the 1970s in promoting the notion of peasants having a greater say in running their affairs. Apparently the only serious offence is misappropriation of water, but it has never been clear what sanctions could be taken against offenders. Eviction of tenants is proscribed, and this idea is now seen by many peasants in the area as being counterproductive and requiring rescinding. For existing tenants the problem of an uncommitted tenant, who cannot be evicted, next to his own plot can create serious problems. Weed infestation soon spreads and if a tenant at the head of a feeder channel supplying nine plots fails to pay for his water, then invariably water is not allowed to flow down the feeder, thus penalizing the other eight tenants too. For peasants without a plot on the scheme it can be frustrating to see opportunities wasted, opportunities that they feel they could make more of. Influential Gummuiya peasants succeeded in convincing some of the planners that access to land had little to do with efficiency and everything to do with rights and inheritance. Certainly, this puts the operation of the scheme under pressure, as eviction is invariably used as a final resort in many other irrigation schemes in Africa, as in Zambia (Kay, 1965) and eastern Nigeria (Floyd and Adinde, 1967).

It was against this broad background that the planners introduced a land-use strategy for the irrigation scheme which comprised three basic parts: 1. Bersim (lucerne) was to be cultivated as a fodder crop for the farmers' own livestock. The maximum recommended area was two feddans per holding. 2. Dura was to be cultivated as a food crop for the farmers' own requirements. Any surplus production could be sold for cash. The stalks of the harvested crop were to provide a further source of animal fodder. 3. Vegetables were to be cultivated primarily as cash crops for the Three Towns market, and were to include bamia, cucurbits, tomatoes, and onions, all of which were already being grown on the riverain land. This part of the strategy was designed to be the spearhead for the development of the cash economy of the area.

There is no provision in this strategy for cotton, an unpopular decision among the Gummuiya peasants because Sudanese peasants in general perceive cotton as a major source of cash income, as in the Gezira, Khashm el Girba, and Rahad schemes. The ostensible reason for this decision was that the soils were unsuitable for cotton. Since 1970 the Sudan government has made stringent efforts to diversify agricultural production away from cotton, particularly encouraging other crops such as groundnuts and gum arabic for export and wheat and sugar cane for import substitution. Observations in the Gezira (Simpson, 1970) show that cotton yields in that area had not risen substantially with the application of fertilizer and that the real revenue from cotton has been steadily falling. Herein lie the true reasons for the decision not to allow cotton to be cultivated.

FIG. 12.1. Gummuiya area: soil and land use

In the initial stages of the land-use proposals, citrus trees were to be grown, but this idea received little support from the Gummuiya and was shelved. Initially too aura cultivation was to be excluded. Public opinion among the Gummuiya caused the planners to include it in their strategy, because it provides the food staple of the region and the stalks are a useful source of animal fodder.

It is clear therefore that the Gummuiya irrigation scheme was planned as a cash-orientated mixed farming enterprise with emphasis on commercial vegetable production for the Three Towns market, with a secondary production of food and fodder crops for the region's own needs. The success of the scheme hinged on the farmers' responses to new market opportunities, for unless these were positive the scheme would not be economically viable.

The Gummuiya Peasant's Response

Land Use

The land-use response of the Gummuiya farmers to the new agricultural opportunities need to be viewed in relation to the planners' proposed land-use strategy. From table 12.1 it can be seen that the only recommended crop to have been widely adopted is bersim. However, whereas bersim had been planned as a fodder crop for the farmers' own use, it had in fact become a low-value cash crop, with almost one-half of the farmers who grew it selling over threequarters of their production.

Despite the fact that bersim was largely uncultivated in the Gummuiya area before the irrigation scheme was established, the planners and scheme officials have been largely successful in getting its adoption accepted. It has been a fairly successful crop on schemes in other parts of Africa, and Carruthers (1970) reported that in the Mubuku scheme in Uganda high yields of the crop have led to the development of high-grade cattle-raising.

Bersim's nitrogenous fixing properties are of clear value to the scheme. Of more direct and immediate relevance to the peasant is the fact that bersim is an easy crop to cultivate, and a regular harvest can be obtained with minimal effort (table 12.2). The crop provides a steady, if low, income for those peasants cultivating it, and is a valuable source of fodder for their own livestock.

Dura, in spite of the strong local request for its inclusion in the scheme strategy, has only 35 per cent of farmers cultivating it as a grain crop. The planners had hoped that two or even three crops per year would be grown, but none of the 43 farmers involved had done so. All planted their one aura crop in June or July with the start of the rainy season so that, as far as possible, the water requirements of the growing crop could be met by rainfall, thus avoiding any need to use expensive irrigation water. This marked response to opportunities outside the constraints of the irrigation scheme was well exemplified in 1972 when heavy and persistent rainfall in the area resulted in farmers planting every available piece of land, including access roads, with aura. This choice was made quite independently of irrigation opportunities. The author was made aware of the opinion among many peasants that the irrigation scheme was in fact using up valuable rainland (fig. 12.1 ) and had done little so far as they could see to enhance the productivity of the area involved. Dura is grown primarily as a subsistence crop; less than 35 per cent of those peasants growing aura sell more than one-half of their harvest.

Abosabayn (aura cut green for fodder) on the other hand, has been widely adopted by the Gummuiya farmers (90 per cent grow it). The crop is cultivated exclusively for fodder and is harvested before the grain-heads have matured but when the stalks are particularly nutritious as animal feed.

Of the 12 farmers not cultivating abosabayn, at the time of the survey six had chosen not to grow any crops at all on their scheme land, so that only six farmers (5 per cent) were growing other crops in preference to abosabayn. Abosabayn is easy to cultivate; the labour input is minimal; no fertilizer or insecticide is applied; and only one weeding is required. As one peasant succinctly put it, "Weeds and grass growing in with the abosabayn can be an advantage, because they help to increase the bulk of the harvested crop!" Harvesting is generally undertaken by teams of labourers, most of whom are employed by merchants from Omdurman who buy the crop and are then responsible for harvesting and transporting it. Most of the abosabayn is grown for sale, with 88 per cent of those peasants growing it selling at least three-quarters of their crop. Abosabayn, again, provides a steady, albeit low income, but one which many Gummuiya peasants perceive as very satisfactory in relation to the input level required.

TABLE 12.1. Crop cultivation on the irrigation scheme

Crop No. of farmers (n=120) Percentage
Bersim 89 74.2
Dura 43 35.8
Bamia 5 4.2
Broad beans 1 0.8
Abosabayn 108 90.0

TABLE 12.2. Number of bersim harvests obtained by peasants over the preceding. twelve months

Harvests No. of peasants Percentage
5-10 50 56.1
4 20 22.5
3 7 7.9
2 or fewer 12 13.5
Total 89 100.0

If this second part of the planners' land-use strategy is characterized by limited success, then the third part can be described as disastrous. In the first year of cultivation on the scheme in 1970, a total of 219 feddans of vegetables were grown, but the subsequent expansion of vegetable cultivation in the following years failed to materialize. In 1974 the scheme office estimated that not more than 50 feddans of vegetables were being grown. The author's survey revealed only six farmers (5 per cent) cultivating vegetables: five growing bamia and one growing broad beans for his own consumption "because he liked them"! Clearly there has been a major divergence between the planners' aims and the farmers' responses to this aspect of the strategy. The spearhead of the cash economy of the area, as the planners envisaged, has not been realized. The impact has been serious in that the Three Towns have not got their vegetables and the peasants have lost confidence in the viability of the scheme in the form proposed by the planners.

A consideration of off-scheme land-use arrangements, primarily on the riverain land (fig. 12.1), are revealing. Far from being redundant, this land is still actively worked and cultivated by many of the same farmers who are adopting a low-key approach towards the scheme (table 12.3). The planners had expected that the new opportunities of the irrigation scheme would lead very quickly to a full commitment to the scheme at the expense of the riverain land. However, experience from elsewhere in Africa suggests that the Gummuiya response is not uncommon. Bernard (1972) has noted in Kenya the reluctance of peasants on settlement schemes to give up off-scheme interests. Sorbo (1972) and Abu Sin (1985) have both observed similar responses in other parts of the Sudan, for example at Khashm el Girba. Here peasants have retained off-scheme interests as an insurance policy against crop failure, or because they disliked the organization of the irrigation scheme itself, or saw their offscheme land as a convenient way of supplementing their income.

Table 12.3 shows two important points. Firstly, many of the suitable crops that had been firmly rejected by farmers on the irrigation scheme were being widely grown on the riverain land. Bamia, grown by only five farmers onscheme, was being grown by 80 farmers on their riverain land; cucurbits, and lubia-cultivated by no one on the scheme-were being grown on the riverain land by 29 and 31 farmers respectively. Even aura was grown by a slightly larger proportion of farmers on the riverain land than on the scheme land. Secondly, table 12.3 shows that much of the riverain production is for commercial purposes, with all four crops, but especially bamia and cucurbits, providing a significant income for Gummuiya farmers. It is surprising to observe that bamia and cucurbits should both be grown so widely on the riverain land for commercial purposes but are ignored on the irrigation scheme, where their widespread cultivation would almost certainly have helped to make the scheme more economically successful than it has been so far.

In short, it is apparent that Gummuiya agriculture has not been transformed to anything like the extent envisaged by the planners. Production on the irrigation scheme is dominated by low-value fodder crops with some commercial production. By contrast, the riverain land, far from becoming obsolete, still maintains its position as the basis of the cash economy of the area, even though it is only operative for individual farmers for about four months in each year. In addition, the crops planned for the scheme remain largely uncultivated there, whereas these same crops are widely grown, often by the same farmers, on the riverain land. There is a very clear conflict between the planners" aims and the farmers' responses as far as land use is concerned.


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