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Farmers of Sudan’s El Gezira Agricultural Scheme demand justice

October 13 - 2020 KHARTOUM
The irrigation canals of El Gezira Scheme as seen from space in 1997 (wikipedia)
The irrigation canals of El Gezira Scheme as seen from space in 1997 (wikipedia)

Members of El Gezira and El Managil Farmers Alliance organised a protest in front of the Council of Ministers in Khartoum on Monday. Apart from financial support, they want the alliance’s new steering committee dissolved and the new El Gezira Scheme governor replaced.

In a memorandum addressed to Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, the farmers of El Gezira and El Managil Agricultural Scheme state that the new steering committee includes people who are not connected to the project, and former members of the National Congress Party of ousted President Omar Al Bashir. Among them are also people who have been accused of corruption.

The farmers accuse “forces of the deposed regime of seeking to break the revolution by maintaining the El Gezira Scheme Act of 2005, the amendment of 2015, and the Associations Law of 2011”.

They consider the new El Gezira Scheme governor “one of the symbols of the bygone era, co-responsible for the 2005 Act, and founder of a number of farming companies”.

The memorandum as well criticised the increasing farming and irrigation costs. “The cultivated areas in the eastern section of the scheme decreased to 10 per cent and in Abugota to 32 per cent due to irrigation problems.” The farmers also complain about the high diesel prices.

The farmers demand the abolition of the new steering committee, the removal of the El Gezira Scheme governor, and financial support.

Farmers Alliance leading member Abdeen Bargawi reported that they handed the memo to El Sheikh Khidir, one of the advisors to the prime minister, who responded by saying he would refer the case of the steering committee and the scheme’s governor to the Forces for Freedom and Change.

The advisor further expressed his surprise that the governor continues to work with the Gezira Scheme Act of 2005. He said it was agreed with the new scheme governor that the 2005 Act would be cancelled. The bill of 1984 would be used until a new law has been drafted.

El Sheikh also promised that the irrigation and production costs will be reconsidered.

The farmers will meet with PM Hamdok personally on Tuesday (today).

Farmers from El Gezira and El Managil stage a protest in front of the Council of Ministers (Social media)

'Burden'

The Gezira Scheme was begun by the British while the area was governed as part of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (1899- 1956). The agricultural scheme, between the Blue and White Niles south of Khartoum, used to be one of the world’s largest irrigation projects. Water from the Blue Nile was distributed through canals and ditches to tenant farms lying between the Blue and White Nile rivers.

President Al Bashir described the Scheme in late 2014, as “a burden on the country’s budget”. In September 2015, the Agriculture Ministry amended the El Gezira Scheme Act, aimed at transferring land ownership to the private sector and foreign investors. That same year, the Farmers Union was disbanded by the Al Bashir regime. Farmers Alliance leader Hasabo Ibrahim warned in June 2016 for the consequences of “these destructive agricultural policies”.

The El Gezira and El Managil Farmers Alliance launched a rally in Khartoum in end December last year, in commemoration of the founding of Sudan’s Farmers Union in December 1953. The demonstrators also demanded the El Gezira Agricultural Scheme to be revived.


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