Farmers in El Gezira, located between the Blue and White Niles south of Khartoum, will stage a protest in front of the state’s government offices in Wad Madani coming Thursday.
They plan to submit a memorandum to President Omar Al Bashir, signed by some 10,000 farmers, demanding the dismissal of the newly appointed director of El Gezira Agricultural Scheme, and the replacement of the Board of Directors of the Farmers' Union by a new board, based on their consent.
“We have become desperate about the government policies concerning Agricultural Scheme, as the situation in El Gezira has deteriorated rapidly over the past decades,” a farmer told Radio Dabanga. “More than 50 percent of the homeless, now wandering in the streets of Khartoum, are from El Gezira,” he quoted from a report by the Ministry of Social Welfare.
The farmers refuse the “appointment of any staff at the Agricultural Scheme administration, who has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the mismanagement of the scheme and the disappearance of its competent cadres,” he stressed.
He added that the farmers will establish a committee, “to investigate the various abuses, and the procedures that led to the loss and deterioration of the scheme’s assets and properties”.
El Gezira Agricultural Scheme 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,” a member of El Gezira Farmers Association told Radio Dabanga last August. The farmers decided to cut the cotton production, “because of the high input costs, and the failure of the authorities to set a price for the commodity”, he explained.
He said that the farmers of El Gezira and El Managil accused the Scheme’s management of negligence and a lack of responsibility. They demanded an urgent investigation into the corrupt sorghum seeds sold to the farmers early last year.”
Last January, the Farmers Union denounced the amendments to the Scheme’s policy lines, calling them “catastrophic”. The farmers said that the new measures will lead to land grabbing and “transform the Scheme into feudal farms”.
According to President Al Bashir, El Gezira Agricultural Scheme is non-feasible. “Since the end of the 1960s, the Scheme has become a burden on the country’s budget,” he said at a press conference on 30 November last year.
Cuts in Sudan's agricultural scheme “catastrophe” for farmers (9 January 2015)
'Corrupt agriculture projects in Sudan's Blue Nile': memorandum (5 December 2014)
Sudan: Farmers' fury at Al Bashir’s accusations of theft (3 December 2014)
111 cancer deaths in Sudan's El Gezira this year (28 October 2014)
No sorghum harvest in Sudan's El Gezira (5 August 2014)