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‘Many farms in Sudan’s El Gezira unproductive’: Farmers Association

June 28 - 2016 WAD MADANI
Freshly irrigated farmland in El Gezira state (greatmirror.com)
Freshly irrigated farmland in El Gezira state (greatmirror.com)

A leading member of the El Gezira and El Managil Farmers Association has warned for the consequences of the current “destructive agricultural policies”.

At the annual Ramadan breakfast ceremony, Hasabo Ibrahim, leading member of the El Gezira and El Managil Farmers Association said in his speech that “the laws, the rampant corruption, and the authorities’ criticism and negligence of the El Gezira and El Managil agricultural schemes aim at excluding the region from further production”.

According to Ibrahim the irrigation of the farmlands is currently hindered by the sedimentation in the irrigation channels, which cover ten million cubic metres. Only 40 per cent of the water in the channels reaches the fields.

He said that 25 million cubic metres of channels have been removed by the authorities during the past years. “This has led to the destruction of a part of the irrigation system as the desperate farmers resorted to digging wells arbitrarily. The situation in turn led to widespread destruction of farmlands in El Gezira and El Managil.”

Not feasible’

The El Gezira and El Managil Agricultural Scheme, located between the Blue and White Niles south of Khartoum, used to be one of the world’s largest irrigation projects. For nearly eighty years, it remained the sole source of hard currency for the country, through the cultivation of cotton. During the last few decades, however, the cotton production was reduced to less than 100,000 acres. About 12 cotton gins in El Gezira state had to close their doors.

The acreage of cotton crops diminished again in 2014, to less than five percent of El Gezira Scheme, because of the high input costs, and the failure of the authorities to set a price for the commodity.

In late 2014, President Al Bashir described the Scheme as not feasible and a burden on the country’s budget.

Early September 2015, the Agriculture Ministry decided to replace the farmers’ unions with ‘work associations’. According to Dr Mohamed Yousef of the University of Khartoum this decision was a prelude to the sale of the farmers’ agricultural land shares at the stock market. “The government is betting on the weakness of the financial, administrative, and logistical capabilities of the farmers’ unions - and their failure in the end, to grant the lands to the affiliates of the National Congress Party.”

Mohamed El Jak Abushama, senior member of the Association confirmed to Radio Dabanga at the time that the government intends to sell the Scheme. He explained that the recent amendment of El Gezira Scheme Act aims at transferring the land ownership to the private sector and to foreign investors by targeting the small-scale farmers of El Gezira and El Managil. “This will affect the livelihood of eight million people.”


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