|Natural Resources and Rural Development in Arid Lands: Case Studies from Sudan (UNU, 1985, 85 pages)|
|II. The impact of improved rural water supplies on the environment: The case of East Kordofan district|
The whole philosophy of the colonial administration towards economic development in Sudan is summarized in a report by the Governor-General in 1905:
The welfare of the Sudanese is likely to be promoted neither by spectacular progress of development, nor too rapid innovations in administration. To the Sudan may truly be applied the Arab proverb that "haste is of the devil, slow deliberation is of God".
The old province of Kordafan remained outside the orbit of changes brought about by big projects, but when signs of land deterioration began to appear, the government set up a Soil Conservation Board in 1942 "to report on the present situation in the Sudan with regard to soil erosion and desiccation and the availability of rural water supplies for human and animal population" (Soil Conservation Committee Report 1944). It recommended the creation of a small conservation section within the Department of Agriculture.
This section started work in late 1947. The policy adopted was to open up new areas for settlement so as to relieve the overpopulated areas where soil deterioration was evident. In fact most of the action taken was to improve rural water supplies by means of hafirs, dams, and bore holes. It was believed that, if new water points were established, people and their animals would move to these newly opened areas.
The provision of water proved not to be enough. In many cases water points were opened without adequate planning for good land use, which resulted in further deterioration around many of the new water points. It became clear that the task was far greater than had been realized and that the capabilities of the Soil Conservation Section were inadequate to cope with the twin problems of thirst and land misuse.
After independence there was a change in policy and strategy. A suitable policy would require a "unified programme involving a variety of features all directed towards the protection and conservation of the natural resources" (El-Banna 1961). The Soil Conservation Section was therefore enlarged, renamed the Department of Land Use and Rural Water Development, and made the sole body responsible for planning and formulation of policies for sound use of land, rural water, and plant resources in accordance with the social and economic needs of the country
Despite this stated policy, the Department of Land Use was unable to formulate a national policy to guide its activities However, some basic criteria for new rural water provision emerged:
1. Water need should be determined by the size of both the human and the animal population.
2. New water points should not normally be established less than 8 km from the nearest existing permanent souroes.
3. The potential of the area for economic development should be taken into consideration.
4. New water provision must not lead to further land deterioration but should enhance the rational utilization of resources.
5. The geological situation must be favourable for the proposed method of new water provision.
In practice these criteria were not always applied. In many instances political pressure influenced water provision, thus reducing the distance between boreholes and leading to the overlap of grazing areas (figs. 3 and 4).