Cover Image
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.

The Tokar Delta

The Tokar Delta is located in North Tokar District, Red Sea Province. The delta forms part of the Khor Baraka drainage system originating in Eritrea. The delta itself is about 500000 feddans in area, however, the actual cultivated area is far less. The northwestern side of the delta has not been cultivated since the 1940s when the main stream of the Baraka began moving east. The southeast side is uncultivated at present but soon will be under cultivation as the Tokar Board has been directing the flood in that direction since the early 1980s. At present, from 180000 to 200000 feddans in the central area of the delta are cultivable, although area cultivated depends on flooding and generally is much lower than this figure. Average area cultivated in the Delta is 140000 feddans, divided about equally between cotton and millet/sorghum. Cotton is considered the principal crop of the delta, however, there are large areas where cotton cannot be grown and millet and sorghum are grown instead. The major centre for millet/sorghum farming in the delta is south of Tokar town. In 1986, 67000 feddans of millet/sorghum were farmed in that area. Within the area devoted to cotton, millet is grown as a windbreak around each cotton plot as well.

The Tokar Delta is divided into seventy-nine areas of various sizes called a muraba'a Appendix 7.1). Each muraba'a is divided into rectangles of 160 feddans (800 by 800 meters). Each 160 feddan square is divided into sections of forty feddans divided by a road from east to west (al-arba'aiin) and from north to south (altamaniin). At each juncture of al-arba'aiin and al-tarnaniin there is a post indicating the location. A feddan in the cotton area of the scheme is divided into rectangles ten by fifteen meters in size and two rows of millet are planted along the edges of the entire area as a windbreak Cotton is planted in the centre of each block and three rows of sorghum (shawiir, shawaair) are planted between the blocks.

The average holding in the Tokar Delta is a topic of some controversy. Five years ago it was estimated to be about 12.5 feddans. The range of ownership is from one-half to 1000 feddans with the majority being in the less than five feddan category. Land ownership in the Delta is unclear, individual owners are unwilling to come forward and identify themselves. This situation may be ameliorated in 1989 because the Sudanese government has pledged £2000000 Sudanese to the landowners of the delta providing that they identify themselves, their tribal affiliation, and the size of their holdings.

Unlike the Gash Delta, land in the Tokar Delta can be bought and sold. A feddan of land near Tokar town, for example, can be sold for about £1500.00 Sudanese this year. The price reflects the quality of the land and the distance from Tokar town.

Organisation of labour

The land tenure system in the Tokar Delta developed differently from that in the Gash Delta Government involvement is minimal in Tokar and a three layered land use system is employed in contrast to the four layered system of the Gash Delta. This difference may be due to the greater interannual variability in the flood of the Baraka river and a risk minimisation policy adopted by the tenants and the Government (see below). The following table presents descriptive statistics on the difference in flooding between the Gash and the Tokar deltas. The table illustrates the point that although, on average, the Tokar Delta receives a greater flood, its interannual variability and consequent risk to the farmer is higher.

Table 7.3. Means, standard deviations and coefficients of variation for flooded area, Gash and Tokar Deltas.

Area

Mean

SD

CV

Gash

67580

25517

38%

Tokar

78120

39075

50%

* Dates are 1963 to 1988 for the Gash and 1963 to 1986 for Tokar.

Figures for the Tokar Delta for the years 1900 to 1987, since the beginning of the scheme, are as follows: mean, 67144; standard deviation, 41792; and coefficient of variation, 62.

The following table presents data on flooding and cultivated area in the Tokar Delta from 1900 to the present. Of particular note is the higher interannual deviation of flooding in the Tokar Delta as compared to the Gash.

Table 7.4. Joker Delta, total flooded and cropped areas and average yields In small qantars (100 Ibs), 1900 to 1987.

 

TOTAL

CROPPED

AVERAGE

TOTAL

CROPPED

AVERAGE

 

YEAR

FLOODED

AREA

YIELD

YEAR

FLOODED

AREA

YIELD

 

AREA

COTTON

sm Qantar

AREA

COTTON

sm Qantar

 

1900-1901

19068

2218

7.00

1946-1947

96000

52620

5.70

1901-1902

13369

307

3.70

1997-1948

65210

41580

8.00

1902-1903

14611

2641

7.00

1948-1949

26000

17565

4.20

1903-1904

18465

5273

5.50

1949-1950

56250

30265

3.50

1904-1905

39671

9487

5.00

1950-1951

168000

64340

5.30

1905-1906

33492

6058

6.10

1951-1952

38167

31997

2.10

1906-1907

36332

16397

5.00

1952-1953

50000

25000

4.30

1907-1908

50647

18005

5.00

1953-1954

134949

70000

4.80

1908-1909

27658

11048

4.80

1954-1955

27455

13482

2.40

1909-1910

45324

24655

4.00

1955-1956

2602

0

0.00

1910-1911

51287

39155

3.90

1956-1957

177873

100000

2.90

1911-1912

43923

29721

3.80

1957-1958

22165

15000

2.10

1912-1913

53495

22120

5.20

1958-1959

71787

44540

4.00

1913-1914

30061

11353

5.80

1959-1960

117721

79780

4.00

1914-1915

76598

30550

6.70

1960-1961

23485

6161

0.99

1915-1916

38154

10562

11.90

1961-1962

214838

123699

2.20

1916-1917

122661

44000

5.00

1962-1963

12491

7000

3.95

1917-1918

43190

19000

3.10

1963-1964

22685

12777

2.60

1918-1919

42670

21000

1.90

1964-1965

117435

53500

3.00

1919-1920

47797

30000

5.10

1965-1966

29000

11000

4.60

1920-1921

135977

70000

3.10

1966-1967

27000

17766

7.90

1921-1922

54914

31000

3.50

1967-1968

112000

85000

1.80

1922-1923

42000

21212

3.50

1968-1969

111000

25000

3.90

1923-1924

49863

33000

6.30

1969-1970

28000

14000

2.50

1924-1925

35000

22032

4.40

1970-1971

110000

47972

4.30

1925-1926

31000

14400

2.20

1971-1972

40000

22032

3.40

1926-1927

33900

20000

5.00

1972-1973

82525

44009

5.10

1927-1928

60000

45000

3.70

1973-1974

88546

30594

5.10

1928-1929

75000

50000

2.90

1974-1975

124641

56766

3.40

1929-1930

125000

95000

3.90

1975-1976

167000

64199

3.60

1930-1931

100000

60000

3.60

1976-1977

56000

11700

1.90

1931-1932

85000

38000

4.40

1977-1978

118000

6361

0.29

1932-1933

99000

44000

6.80

1978-1979

128000

22000

3.10

1933-1934

70000

37700

1.90

1979-1980

35953

13000

1.40

1934-1935

66000

31000

4.20

1980-1981

61213

14000

3.80

1935-1936

25000

14050

7.60

1981-1982

55680

20000

4.70

1936-1937

82000

43000

8.30

1982-1983

63535

15000

3.12

1937-1938

43000

20000

4.20

1983-1984

78315

25000

4.50

1938-1939

85000

40000

6.70

1984-1985

35000

10000

2.40

1939-1940

54000

27000

7.40

1985-1986

95000

25000

3.58

1940-1941

50000

33000

10.20

1986-1987

88358

30000

1.87

1941-1942

64000

25596

4.40

       

1942-1943

76000

33000

9.90

       

1943-1944

71480

20558

5.50

       

1944-1945

86000

42052

11.00

       

1945-1946

114000

47560

7.10

       

SOURCE: Tokar Delta Board.

The three strata that comprise the Tokar Delta system are:

1. The landlord (saahib al-dhimin).

2. The tenant (saahib al-nuus).

3. The labourer (saahib al-ruba').

The landlord is required to provide durra and vegetable seeds and pay for the digging of a well for drinking and vegetable cultivation. Cotton seed is provided free by the Tokar Board. The Tokar Board takes five percent from the proceeds of cotton sold for each landlord for the maintenance of the dike around Tokar town and five percent of the proceeds is taken by the District Council. The landlord is entitled to one-half of the harvest.

The tenant is required to clean and burn the field after the harvest and to manage the agricultural labour. He must provide the labourers with one meal a day. He is entitled to onehalf of the harvest. He divides his half with the hired labourers. Unlike the Gash Delta where labourers are paid in cash, in the Tokar Delta payment is made in kind according to negotiated shares of the tenants portion of the agricultural produce.

The tenant, like the sharecropper in the Gash, is found most often today on medium to large farms. His role is more akin to manager-shareholder than tenant. On small farms there is no tenant and agricultural labourers are free to negotiate the terms of their tenure. In this situation the landlord is responsible for cleaning the field at the end of the agricultural year.

The basic unit of agricultural labour in the Tokar Delta is the family. The male and female adult members of a family do the bulk of the agricultural labour and the children are expected to work from an early age and contribute to the household economy. Individuals who go to the Tokar Delta just to harvest are the exception to the above statement. They usually leave their families outside the Delta Each adult member of the family is paid separately. Children's wages are given to their father or guardian. The agricultural labourers are responsible for all agricultural operations except cleaning and burning the field for cotton, millet and sorghum, and vegetables. Men and women do the same tasks in general but women perform most of the cotton harvest. Women cannot work as much as men as they have responsibilities to the children. Women also look after the mink herd kept near the house. In general, women own part or all of these animals. In general, Beni 'Amer women invest their earnings in goats for milk and sheep for market, Fellata women invest in cattle, and Hadendowa women invest in she camels. Women from all groups invest in gold. Men generally invest in pack camels, cattle, and sheep for fattening for market.

The labourers have the right to the following:

1. Twenty-five percent of the actual grain harvest for sowing the crop (hence the name saahib al-ruba').

2. Twenty-five percent of the stalk production.

3. One-tenth of the harvest for harvesting the crop.

4. One-eighth for threshing the crop.

5. The second harvest from the regrowth from the stubble of the first harvest.

6. Twenty to twenty-five plasters for every pound of cotton picked.

7. One-third of the vegetable harvest.

For tomatoes there is a special arrangement made which sometimes works to the advantage of the tenant and to the disadvantage of the labourer. Ordinarily, consonant with the rules regarding vegetable harvest in general, the labourer gets onethird, the tenant gets one third, and the landlord gets one-third of the tomato harvest. The tenant, however, prefers if he can to squeeze out the labourer, who only plants the tomatoes, and take care of the tomato crop himself from planting to the hiring of harvesters. For example, suppose a box of tomatoes sells for £50.00 in Tokar town. Five pounds are paid to the people who pick the tomatoes and five pounds for transportation. The remainder is divided equally between the landlord, the tenant, and the labourer providing that the labourer planted the tomatoes. When the tenant eliminates the labourer at the planting stage he takes two-thirds of the proceeds himself.

Cotton is a special case as well. There are two seasons to the cotton harvest. The fast is during the bulk of the year when labourers are paid a fixed rate for each pound of cotton picked. After June 15, however, when livestock are permitted to graze freely in the Delta, wage rates rise dramatically almost to 50 percent of the sale price of the cotton. In May 1989 labourers were paid .20 plasters a pound or 5 Sudanese pounds per sack and 1 pound of sugar. After June 15th labourers were paid co plasters per pound. Of the sale price of 1.20 the landowner received .70 plasters. This time of the year is called the mustard period in the Delta. Some saahib al-ruba' hide their cotton until the arrival of this period in order to obtain higher prices. This activity is said to be common among most Beja tribes that use the Delta. The Beni 'Amer, however, are reputed to rarely engage in this practice. Generally, wives of labourers do the cotton picking.

The table below illustrates the change in harvest labour rates for cotton, tomatoes, and okra.

Table 7.5. Harvest labour rates in Tokar Delta for cotton, tomatoes and okra; 1980 to 1989.

YEAR

CROP

 

Cotton

Tomatoes

Okra

 

(£S/pound)

(£S/10 kg tin)

(£S/tin)

1980

.010

15.00

10.00

1981

.010

15.00

10.00

1982

.015

20.00

12.00

1983

.020

25.00

25.00

1984

.025

25.00

25.00

1985

.030

25.00

25.00

1986

.050

25.00

25.00

1987

.050

25.00

25.00

1988

.075

50.00

50.00

1989

.200

100.00

200.00

In years of drought the bottom may drop out of the labour market, as happened in 1985. In years of labour deficit, in contrast, the labourers may get more than twenty-five percent of the harvest as negotiated pay. With the twenty-five percent system, however, the labourers stand to make up to forty percent of the harvest when they perform the additional tasks mentioned above. The labourers are provided with one half of their subsistence for eight months of the year in the form of one meal per day, generally the midday meal. Lastly, the labourers have the right to the weeds in the field to use as fodder or for sale.

The share system is preferred by labourers to wage labouring. Wage labour in 1989 was paid at a rate of £25.00 per day in the Tokar Delta. There are two explanations why labourers prefer shares in kind to wages in cash. The first reason is that sharing is simply a better deal. This explanation is plausible enough especially considering the long list of benefits the sharer receives. This, however, does not explain the whole story. Another explanation for the preference for sharing has to do with the stranger status of the Eritrean Beni 'Amer, the majority of the labourers in the delta (see next section). Their political status in Red Sea Province is unclear; they have no rights and are not well regarded by local people. The Beni 'Amer claim that the Tokar Delta formed part of the Beni 'Amer territory before the expansion of the Hadendowa and minor tribes in the 17th and 18th centuries. Because of their present ambiguous status, these labourers prefer shareholding to wage labouring because it makes them appear to have more of a claim to the land (and, for those from Eritrea, Sudanese nationality) than do ordinary daily wage labourers.

Sources of Labourers

The principal source of labour for the Tokar Delta are relatively recent Beni 'Amer (Habaab) immigrants from Eritrea, local Beni 'Amer, Beja labourers from Red Sea Province (mainly Hadendowa), and West Africans. The Beni 'Amer are mostly permanent or temporary residents of the delta area residing on the outskirts of Tokar town itself, in Korayt, a controversial settlement located five kilometres to the northeast of Tokar towns, in the Ma'arafiit area, in one of the coastal settlements south of the delta, in the South Tokar mountains, or in Eritrea The West Africans live mainly in Tokar town or in Korayt and the Hadendowa come from coastal and mountain areas in North and South Tokar Districts as well as from Sinkat and Haya Districts. It was estimated by one informant that two thirds of the men who live along the coast between Tokar and Suakin migrate to the Tokar delta, either as labourers or just for the harvest. The harvesters, qaata'iin (cutters), go directly to the fields and begin cutting. At the end of the day each cutter presents his work to the tenant who apportions the shares. The Hadendowa from southeast and south central Red Sea Province go to Tokar only to harvest sorghum and return with their shares to their home areas. They are not interested in greater involvement in the scheme.

The labourers who live in and around the delta and who are on a one-quarter sharing system move to the fields in September to begin work. Their families follow them later, generally in November. They remain in the delta with their families for eight months until May or June. They take their milk and fattening animals with them to the fields to graze them. If they have many animals they send them to uncultivated parts of the delta for grazing. At the end of the agricultural year the labourers take most of their animals and enough fodder for three months with them to their settlements. Livestock holding as a form of investment is constrained in the Tokar system by limitations imposed by the amount of available fodder and space in the labourer settlements. Most of the labourers who have invested savings earned on farm in livestock send their animals to the South Tokar and Eritrean highlands in May or June for pasture. These animals return later in the year to graze on the scheme.