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Sudan: El Gezira Scheme mortgaged for millions of pounds

December 5 - 2016 WAD MADANI
El Managil in Sudan's El Gezira (encyclopedia)
El Managil in Sudan's El Gezira (encyclopedia)

Farmers in El Gezira have condemned the Agricultural Scheme’s administration for mortgaging assets worth millions of pounds to Sudanese banks.

“The El Gezira Scheme’s administration has mortgaged assets with the value of SDG341 million (over $52 million) for financing the cultivation of 271,000 acres during the current winter season.

Abdeen Bargawi, the spokesman for the El Gezira and El Managil Farmers Association, described the administration’s step to Radio Dabanga as “a fatal error.

“The agricultural season's success is linked to many factors. such as the weather and the availability of irrigation water. If the production is negatively affected by these factors, the Scheme will lose its assets and go bankrupt,” he warned.

According to Bargawi, the central government is planning to seize the scheme’s assets.

The farmers of El Gezira have complained more than once about the administration’s policies, and the lack of clean irrigation channels in the state.

“Nothing has been done about the accumulating sedimentation in the irrigation canals, and the lack of machineries,” a farmer told this station last week. “We have knocked on all the official doors, to no avail.”

Hasabu Ibrahim, leading member of the El Gezira and El Managil Farmers Association, warned in June this year for the consequences of the “destructive agricultural policies”. According to Ibrahim the irrigation of the farmlands is hindered by the sedimentation in the channels. Only 40 per cent of the water in the channels reaches the fields.

He said that a large number of channels have also 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.

In late 2014, President Al Bashir described the Scheme as a burden on the country’s budget. Early September 2015, the Agriculture Ministry amended the El Gezira Scheme Act. A senior member of the Farmers Association explained to Radio Dabanga at the time that the amendments aimed at transferring land ownership to the private sector and foreign investors. “This will affect the livelihood of eight million people,” he said.

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