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El Gezira irrigation scheme farmers demand funding and reform

March 16 - 2020 KHARTOUM
Members of the El Gezira and El Managil Agricultural Scheme (file photo)
Members of the El Gezira and El Managil Agricultural Scheme (file photo)

Members of the El Gezira and El Managil Scheme Farmers Alliance demand El Gezira state to provide full funding for the irrigation scheme. They also want the implementation of an agricultural reform programme.

The farmers’ alliance delivered a memorandum to Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok at the office of the Council of Ministers in Khartoum on Sunday afternoon.

The protestors demand a conference to address irrigation issues, especially after the level of the El Roseires dam reservoir was raised.

The protestors want the immediate repeal of all laws that suspended the scheme, facilitated its pillage and legalised corruption within the scheme.

The farmers also call for the abolition of the Animal Production Owners Law of 2011, the dissolution of all associations of agricultural producers, and the re-establishment of Sudan’s Farmers Union. They seek the formation of a preparatory committee of honourable farmers until elections can be held after the transitional period.

The memo recommends that all crop accounts, boardroom expenses, tax funds and fees, and farming contracts be reviewed. It also recommends that the state ensures transparent tenders for seeds and fertilizers.

The farmers claim that the scheme was damaged as a result of the delay in appointing a director, although the alliance proposed names and stressed the need for appointing a new director.

The farmers’ alliance calls for the immediate investigation into the cooperative property of the scheme and the farmers’ share in financial institutions, banks, and the cotton company. They want files to be opened on corruption, embezzlement, and looting, and they want to bring the perpetrators to justice and recover the looted money.

The farmers call upon the Ministry of Finance to provide funding to the farmers.

They also want an end to the cultivation of genetically modified crops, which allegedly led to an increase in cancer in El Gezira. The state has a disproportionate share of Sudan’s cancer and kidney failure victims.

Last month the Alliance of Farmers of El Gezira and El Managil Agricultural Scheme accused remnants of the ousted Al Bashir regime of trying to thwart the winter harvest in the irrigation scheme. The farmers experienced shortages of water at that time.

In December 2019 the farmers’ alliance staged a rally from Wad Madani, capital of El Gezira, to Khartoum to demand the revival of the agricultural scheme.

Kanabi

The farmers’ alliance’s memorandum pleads for a technical and specialised committee that will investigate the position of the kanabi, the ‘camp workers’ that live in the agricultural scheme. The committee should investigate housing, land ownership, compensation for injustrices and unfair dismissals.

The memorandum describes the kanabi as a cornerstone of the production process within the scheme.

The kanabi moved to El Gezira in the last century from western parts of the country, mainly Darfur. The workers settled on the outskirts of villages and near irrigation channels and water banks.

As the successive El Gezira state governments considered them temporary workers, they did not provide many services. Their lives can be characterised by poverty and isolation, due to government policies and the discrimination they face based on ethnicity and culture from the surrounding population.

According to the Kanabi Congress some 2,5 million kanabi were living in 2,095 ‘camps’ in El Gezira in 2018. They make up 39 per cent of the total population of El Gezira.

 


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