Sudan: The 2016 Heavy Downpours – Bane or Boon?
analysisBy Yahia Al-Hassan
Khartoum — Compared to what happened last year, this year’s rainy season has seen higher rates of rainfall , described by meteorologists as “an extreme natural phenomenon.”
Meteorologists maintain that such an unusual downpour cannot, of course, be avoided but with due precautions its harmful effects can be mitigated.
However, the situation on the ground manifests a big shortfall in such precautions, mainly the absence of a viable drainage system in urban areas which, if readied, could have turned such a big rainy season into a blessing.
Reports in late June spoke about a thousand homes being turned into rubble in some neighbourhoods of Sinja, Capital of Sinnar State in Central Sudan.
TV footage from al-Foola town in the mid-west shows the town quarters submerged in rain water with wide damage in property.
Many other urban areas had seen heavy downpours around the country, sadly causing fatalities in those areas.
Reports speak about 12 fatalities, 9 of them in al-Fashir, Capital of North Darfur State. Two fatalities were reported in Khartoum and one (a woman) in the Gazeera State.
The entire Central Sudan from the Blue Nile State down to Khartoum was described as ” a pool of water.”
The scene in towns’ centers and neighbourhoods is one of water and mud everywhere, with motorists and pedestrians laboring to find their ways to and from their homes (see Photos).
This heavy rainfall, as devastating as it is, is also feared to cause a delay in land cultivation.
Reports incoming from the Gedarif State of Eastern Sudan ( seen as the Sudan’s silo of sorghum and sesame) say that the farmers were- for a long time- unable to deploy their agricultural machinery in the fields, because of the heavy and continuous rainfall. ” We are praying for the rain to stop, so that we can start the farming operations” said one farmer in the region.
The situation in the Blue Nile State, also one of Sudan’s biggest farming areas, is not any different.
But the situation is not all gloom. These hardships should not distract us from the changes on the ground that occurred as a result of these heavy downpours.
The countryside has reportedly been converted into an expanse of limitless green. A traveler from al-Obayyid (in the mid-west) to Khartoum said from her bus window she could not see any color but green. “It is graded green, not just green!” she mused, meaning that she could see different types of green color as the bus sped along the road.
Irrespective of the delay caused by the incessant rainfall, the farmers and the farming administration are upbeat about a good crop season.
The Ministry of Agriculture said Sudan is expected to cultivate 44 million acres with different summer crops this time.
The state-run Agricultural Bank says it is projecting SDG 5 billion in farmers’ funding and that disbursements from this sum are now available for the farmers to begin with cultivation operations.
The Bank has also said credits of defaulting farmers had been rescheduled and asked those concerned to come along and take loans and go ahead with their farming work.
The heavy rainfall has helped to boost the situation in the major irrigated schemes. In the Gazeera Scheme the rainwater has saturated the water canals, a matter that could help with easy and quick flow of water towards the fields. There the rains have also closed the cracks in the clay and softened the soil. This can help with smooth plowing and easy land flattening.
For farmers it is not heavy rainfall at the beginning of the season that matters. They always hope for a steady and well distributed rainfall. They look for plentiful showers at different intervals until the crop matures. By then they can speak about a bountiful crop season.
Farmers are also apprehensive about possible attacks of pests that can destroy the crops.
The 44 million – acre-area projected by the Agriculture Ministry does not pass without questioning from experts who say it is not the area that matters but productivity.
Outstanding columnist Abdullatif al-Boony wrote that if such an area was cultivated using modern farming technology and farming aids, the output per acre could be 20 bags of sorghum instead of the humble two or three bags the acre yields at the moment, using traditional means. Dr. Al-Boony is also a university professor of politics and economics. He also cultivates his own farm in the Gazeera Scheme.
However , the Agriculture Ministry argues that it was doing its best to introduce sophisticated technology in order to achieve higher productivity. It says about 50% of the Gadarif farmers have now learned to use technological packages as part of a steady programme to raise productivity nationwide.