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close this book Measuring drought and drought impacts in Red Sea Province
close this folder 7. Land tenure, agricultural labour, drought and food stress in the Gash, Gash Dai and Tokar agricultural areas. Roy Cole
View the document Summary
View the document Introduction
View the document Production in the Gash and Tokar deltas
View the document The Gash Delta
View the document The Tokar Delta
View the document The schemes and food stress
View the document References
View the document Appendix 7.1: Agricultural districts of the Gash Delta.
View the document Appendix 7.2: Blocks (Muraba'a) of Tokar Delta.

Production in the Gash and Tokar deltas

The Gash, Gash Dai, Tokar Delta and other planned and unplanned agricultural areas produce six categories of products:

1. Grain.

2. Sorghum or millet stalks.

3. Weeds.

4. Stubble and residual weed grazing.

5. Vegetables.

6. Fruit.

The first product from the schemes is grain, either sorghum or millet. The Gash Delta produces almost exclusively sorghum and the Tokar Delta produces more millet and sorghum. The principal variety of sorghum grown in the Gash is Sorghum bicolor; the specific variety is termed aklamoi. In the Tokar Delta Hijiiri sorghum and finger millet are grown. Grain yields in the Gash vary depending on soil type from ten to thirty ninety-kilogram bags per feddan according to our informants. According to Ausenda (1987), yields vary from between six and twelve ninety-kilogram sacks per feddan (almost 2 tonnes per hectare on average). In the present good year yields are reported to be high.

Systematic farming-system type studies need to be conducted in the Gash to improve our understanding of agricultural production and the links between agriculture and pastoralism. In the absence of such studies all figures must be treated with caution. Yields and prices in the Tokar Delta are comparable to those in the Gash. One half pound of grain is needed to seed a feddan at a spacing of 50 by 75 cm, the usual spacing in the agricultural schemes. Spacing of plants in Red Sea Province varies from 50 by 50 to 200 by 200 cm depending on site conditions.

In the Gash at Tindulai in January, 1989, a bag of sorghum was worth £110.00 Sudanese, however, at Delai Station, 100 kilometres north of Tindulai, it was worth £130.00, and in Port Sudan, £170.00.

Traditional grain flows from the Eastern Sudan are to Eritrea and the Arabian Peninsula (Paul 1954). According to reports, most of the grain produced in the Gash in 1989, as in most years, was sold in Eritrea because of the relative scarcity of grain there and consequent higher prices (£500.00 Sudanese per ninety-kilogram sack). In the past cotton was also smuggled in large quantities to Eritrea. Because of the illegality of unofficial exports, it is difficult to estimate the trade flows from the Gash and Tokar Deltas to Eritrea and Saudia Arabia. It is probable that Eritrea accounts for the major portion of the production of both schemes. It may also be that market shares are divided according to distance and price variables with the bulk of the Gash production going to Eritrea and much of the Tokar production to Saudia Arabia This is an unclear area

Traditionally, grain is stored in underground silos (matmuura, mataamiir) roughly 75 cm deep and 120 cm in diameter. Ten ninety-kilogram bags can be stored in each of these silos. Silos are dug separately or in swarms representing a family or several families of the same minimal lineage. The site is guarded by a family member who receives one small ruba' (3 kg) from each silo and one quarter of a ruba' from each person who adds to or removes from the stock. Ownership of production is by individual family and the guard keeps a list of all grain owners.

Sorghum stalks (millet and sorghum stalks in the case of Tokar Delta) are a second product of the agricultural schemes. Income from the sale of stalks varies from £100.00 to £300.00 per feddan depending on whether they are sold standing or cut and bundled. The value of sorghum stalks was another item that differed substantially from that found by Ausenda in 1986. Ausenda found that sorghum stalks per feddan were sold for £12.00 per feddan, a difference of a factor of ten; this is not easily explained by inflation.

A third important product from agricultural areas are weeds. In some years weeds may be more important than cultivated crops. Each feddan may produce up to 300 bundles of weeds (principally Echinochloa colonum and Cyprus rotundas). These bundles (kulega) are sold at £0.50 per bundle. This represents an income of up to £150.00 per feddan. This income is, as is income derived from the other sources mentioned above, variable.

The fourth product from agricultural areas is stubble and residual weed grazing. Outside the agricultural part of the Deltas (and in the Tokar Delta this means most of the delta itself) grazing on annual grasses (considered "weeds" on the scheme) is the principal use of the land. In many areas of the Tokar Delta these grasses remain green for up to nine months. They remain palatable for up to 3 to 5 years. Along the southern and eastern sides of Tokar Delta there are thick stands of Sueda fruticosa (adliib), excellent pasture for camels. In the Gash there is no adliib, however, pastures of annual grasses are plentiful and rich. Although it is difficult to evaluate the importance of stubble and residual weed grazing to the household and regional economies in money terms it is undoubtedly one of the major inputs to the livestock economy and is responsible for a large part of the weight gained and milk produced by livestock in and after the rainy season. The rest of the year is a period of weight loss for all livestock. This period of weight gain is of major importance for the survival of livestock in the dry season.

The fifth product from the schemes is vegetables. These are produced for home consumption as well as for the market. Although the distinction between food and cash crops is difficult to establish as most food crops are also cash crops the following division is useful. Market crops are tomatoes, watermelon, sorghum and millet, ful masry, beans (lubia and fasuuliya), spinach, cucumber, squash (courgette), carrots, okra, and greens. Crops that are used in home consumption are sorghum and millet, groundnuts and "sauce" crops like okra, greens, and squash.

A sixth product produced in the Gash, but not the Tokar Delta, is fruit. Small plantations of mango trees, orange trees, lemon trees, grapefruit trees and bananas are located along Khor Gash around the scheme area and reportedly all the way to Eritrea.