Winter crops threatened in Sudan’s El Gezira
Farmers in El Gezira in central Sudan have renewed their complaints about the scarcity of irrigation water in large parts of the state, which is threatening the winter crops production.
“Nothing has been done about the accumulating sedimentation in the irrigation canals, and the lack of machineries,” a farmer told Radio Dabanga. “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.”
The farms of the El Gezira’s El Rahad Agricultural Project are also in need of more irrigation water. An El Rahad Project manager reported in October that the water provided by the Ministry of Irrigation is “far from sufficient”.
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.