| Measuring drought and drought impacts in Red Sea Province |
|1. Introduction to Red Sea Province|
Agriculture is one of the two principal land uses in Red Sea Province. With the exception of Khor Arba'at and the Tokar Delta, cultivated area is extremely variable around the province from year to year. Principal crops grown are sorghum (durra), millet (dukhn), cotton, and vegetables. The greatest area is devoted to the principal staple, sorghum. Planting is done by two men using a dibble stick (saluuka). Two medium sized floods are needed before planting takes place. In general in arid and semi arid areas about 100 cm of soil moisture is necessary for millet to complete its growth cycle. Sorghum, less drought resistant than millet, requires slightly more soil moisture. The growth cycle of the variety of sorghum used in Red Sea Province is four months. The growth cycle for millet is about three and one-half months. Planting, particularly in the interior of the province, is done on bunds, or sand dams, called teras (from the English "terrace"), built against the flow of water to impede its flow in order to increase soil moisture. In good years cultivation is done along the general course of a khor but in poor years cultivation is restricted to the sand dams.
In the interior of the province planting begins in September or October, depending on the floods; it can even begin in August. In the Gash Delta, planting may begin earlier. Harvesting in the interior of Red Sea Province begins at the end of November or December and extends for about two months. It may continue until March in the Gash if the year is particularly good. Depending on the soil moisture plants are spaced from 0.75 to 1.5 metres apart. Plants are generally spaced at 0.5 m in the Gash.
Coastal agriculture, with the exception of the Tokar Delta, is somewhat different from that practiced in the interior of the province in that the principal period of cultivation is the winter. If there is good rainfall high in the Red Sea Hills during the summer, early floods will irrigate agricultural areas along the coast, thereby lengthening the agricultural year considerably. Spacing of plants is from 1.5 to 2.0 metres. Along the coast, principally along Khor Akwaat, vegetables are increasingly being grown along with the traditionally grown sorghum.
Vegetables are also grown along Khor Arba'at and in the Khor Arba'at Delta. Pumps and mechanical water diversion are used to irrigate the vegetables. The gardens along the khor are located in the areas of deposition; along the inside of bends in the streambed. Dates and citrus trees are also grown along the khor.
In the Tokar Delta a variety of crops are grown: cotton, sorghum, millet, and vegetables (see paper 8 for further details). Agriculture is more reliable in the Tokar Delta than elsewhere in the province because there are floods from June to September (or October) and also winter rainfall. Soil moisture from the floods is used to bring a crop to about mid-way through its growth cycle and the rains bring the crop to maturity. The origin of Khor Baraka (as well as Khor Gash) is high in the Eritrean mountains and this assures greater reliability of flow from year to year. The map below presents the distribution of agricultural areas in and around Red Sea Province.
Cultivation in Khor Baraka is principally of millet, although some vegetables are grown for home consumption. Planting is done after farmers have estimated that the highest flood of the season has occurred. This period can range from August to October, depending on the year. The usual planting month is September. The fringes of the floodplain are planted first, then closer to the main stream as the flood season comes to a close. Harvesting begins at the end of December an can extend to March. Spacing between plants is from 1.50 to 2.0 metres.
There are several commercial vegetable gardens located at the apex of the delta at Dulubiay.
Porn Sudan is the principal market for the agricultural products of Red Sea Province. Agricultural products are imported from Kassala and Wad Medani in the Sudan and from outside the country as well. Cereals are locally produced and/or may come from the Gash Delta, Khashm al-girba, or Gedarif. There are four sources of vegetables for the Port Sudan market: Tokar, Khor Arba'at, Kassala, and Wad Medani. From the Wad Medani area tomatoes are imported to Port Sudan for most of the year. Tokar and Khor Arba'at tomatoes and other vegetables become available in the autumn. Vegetables become difficult to find in the summer.