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close this bookBedouins, Wealth, and Change: A Study of Rural Development in the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman (UNU, 1980, 63 pages)
close this folderPART III. Case study: The sultanate of Oman
View the document(introductory text...)
View the document1. An introduction to the new developments in the sultanate of Oman with reference to mobile population groups
View the document2. Changes in the nomad region of Oman
View the document3. Settlement projects in inner Oman, and other measures to develop the rural/nomad region
View the document4. Summary and evaluation of results in the rural/nomad region

3. Settlement projects in inner Oman, and other measures to develop the rural/nomad region

Settlement Projects

In the wake of the successful expansion of the infrastructure the Omani government realized that settlement centres must be created in the bedouin area if emigration of male members of the work force was to be prevented and if settlement of the valuable arable land was to be controlled. The newly appointed Omani government, among many other activities, has introduced two projects: Tanam and Haima.

1. The Tanam Project

This project involves a small oasis within the wadi of the same name a few kilometres southwest of Ibri, an old oasis location (fig. 18). There was formerly no settlement in Tanam and the date groves belonged for the most part to members of the Duru tribe who used to camp around Tanam during the summer months.

When oil was discovered in the traditional territory of the Duru (near Fahud, Jibal, and Nathi), special measures were taken by the government to assist the tribe. A hospital and a school were built at the edge of the oasis; an asphalt road was constructed to link it with the modern road network at Ibri-Buraimi; and in addition a souk (market) was built and the land surrounding the old oasis divided into both small and large fenced-in gardens, each equipped with one or more wells. Dwellings were located next to the gardens.

A project to improve this settlement is planned now. On the basis of its experience in constructing low-cost housing in the capital area of Muscat, the government hopes to establish a settlement with a regular ground plan like that of a chessboard. Each of four square properties is bordered on two sides by streets and by alleys on the others; central supply systems for water and electricity are planned. The most important facilities and offices are located in the central square. The plans for the settlement are made by the government (Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Diwan Affairs) and after its completion, the new settlement of Tanam will be inhabited chiefly by Duru tribesmen.

As much as the state's initiative is to be welcomed and as exemplary as it could be for settlement development in the bedouin area as a whole, it can be criticized on certain scores. The settlement itself lacks economic credibility and no employment opportunities have been created. The rectilinear lay-out of the gardens and the centrally operated irrigation system have also been criticized. It is, furthermore, uncertain whether the bedouins of Oman are ready and willing to live permanently in self-contained settlements, nor was any poll made beforehand of the attitudes of the potential settlers. It has been frequently demonstrated that it is extremely difficult to predict the behaviour of bedouins.

2. The Haima Project

Haima lies within the central wadi region (fig. 18), and both a military post and a police station are located there. Haima is a rest stop on the route between Muscat and Salalah, and in the past it was one of the most important camp locations of the Harasis tribe. In the area around Haima there are numerous small, basin-shaped depressions in the surface of the Jiddat al-Harasi, a broad alluvial plain. There is a sparse growth of halophytic grass in clumps which provides a very limited pasturage for animals. The rest of the Jiddat al-Harasi is completely lacking in vegetation.

The biggest problem of the central wadi region is the almost total lack of ground water at an accessible depth. The bedouins relied on a few ephemeral water holes or they made use of dew by shaking the bushes before sunrise, soaking up the water droplets with leather cloths, and then squeezing the water out and collecting it in vessels. In very dry years water had to be brought in by camel caravan.

An attempt was made years ago to help the Harasis to secure water by drilling a well. The new project includes plans for the construction of several deep wells and a settlement for the Harasi population. No agricultural plots have been planned, however, since even deep wells may not provide a large enough supply of water. The most important consideration in Haima is the supply of drinking water for man and animals.

Haima is also to be laid out on a regular plan, and priority for settlement will be given to the Harasis tribe, who are among the poorest of the nomad groups in Oman.

As in Tanam, little consideration has been given to the economic security of the relocated families, and there is no information available about the willingness of the Harasis to settle.

Other Development Measures

The Omani government has also adopted measures which affect farmers much more than they do nomads, and these measures will be summarized below.

Experimental and production farms

In addition to testing new techniques and fertilizers, plants, and animals, the goal of these farms is to produce agricultural products of all kinds for the local markets. The farms are intended to set an example for the rest of Omani agriculture, and they have been developed in all of the larger oases in the country. The influence which the farms have had has been limited by the lack of programmes for instructing farmers and familiarizing them with the innovations.

Date factories

The object of the new date factories in Rustaq and Nizwa is to improve the preparation and production of dates, the main product of Omani agriculture. Promising progress has been made. Date farmers are being trained to increase productivity and to improve the quality of the dates and thus to become competitive in the export market.

Land distribution

Land may in principle be granted by the government to any Omani but in the Batinah, it is the prosperous inhabitants of the capital region, and a few bedouins, who have obtained the large areas of land. These urban landowners have developed large gardens using well irrigation, but there is a danger that ground-water conditions are being disturbed by the uncontrolled withdrawal of water. For example, some shallow wells on the oasis strip on the coast near Seeb have already gone dry or have been infiltrated by sea water. Numerous date groves have been ruined by salts and the date palms are dying. Since the new private gardens usually produce only enough for the owner, and furthermore are also used to grow luxurious decorative plants, the general economy has not been affected by these gardens. The gardens have not provided a source of employment for the Omani population as all of the workers ;in them are from India and Pakistan. The success of governmental measures for land distribution and for the related use of ground water has been very limited.

The market provides little encouragement for agricultural production by oasis farmers, or for the production of animal products by the bedouins and shawawi. Omani products face stiff competition from imported goods in quality, quantity, and in price. The import of foodstuffs of all kinds has risen steadily since 1970 and the expansion of the country's harbours and airports, and the customs policies, have favoured this development. And there is, in addition to all this, a strong merchant lobby in the country.