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close this book Measuring drought and drought impacts in Red Sea Province
close this folder 1. Introduction to Red Sea Province
View the document Physical Geography
View the document Precipitation
View the document Political organisation
View the document Infrastructure, economic activities, and employment
View the document Agriculture
View the document Pastoralism
View the document Drought-coping strategies
View the document Population and human geography
View the document Land Tenure
View the document Gender Relations in Beja society
View the document Overview of famine relief in Red Sea Province
View the document References
View the document Appendix 1.1.
View the document Appendix 1.2.

Population and human geography

Until recent times the population of Red Sea Province has been predominantly rural. Urbanisation can be said to have begun with British administration during the first half of this century although settlements at Suakin and Tokar had developed before that time during the period of Turkish control (al-turkiya). Towns were established for a variety of reasons in the province, most often to service the railway. Over fifty railway towns were built in the early part of this century. Many of these towns have remained insignificant, some have developed into small centres, and a few into towns. Other towns were founded as border posts (Garora), military settlements (Gebeit, Halaib, Muhammed Qul), agricultural settlements (Tokar, Ma'arafiit), smuggling centres, ports for mineral exports (Abu Ramad), and as religious settlements (Hamashkoreb and Tumaala). Today, towns of notable size in Red Sea Province include Derudeb, Garora, Gebeit, Halaib, Haya, Port Sudan, Sinkat, Suakin, Tahamyam, Tokar and the two religious settlements of Hamashkoreb and Tumaala. Other towns of smaller size but still of note are ' Agig, Gebeit al-ma' adiin, Ma' arafiit, Musmar, and Sallum. The following table presents town populations for Red Sea Province.

Table 1.1 Town population of Red Sea Province, various dates.

Town

Population

Date

Gadem Gafrit camp

14400

1988

Garora

11000

1988

Gebeit

7002

1983

Hamashkoreb

15000

1989

Haya

3795

1983

Musmar

2000

1986

Port Sudan Town

273436

1987

Sinkat

7918, 15000

1983, 1989

Tokar

12190

1983

The figures for Gadem Gafrit and Garora in Table 1.1 were obtained from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The Hamashkoreb population was estimated by the Environmental Research Group Oxford (ERGO). The Musmar population and the Sinkat population for 1989 were estimated by the Norwegian Red Cross.

Port Sudan, as well as most other centres in the Sudan, has changed considerably in the past 20 years. It has grown in population and has expanded spatially. Maps 1.7 and 1.8 of Port Sudan in 1967 and 1985 illustrate its spatial growth (see James 1969). The size of Port Sudan has doubled since 1967. The bulk of this growth has been in the unplanned settlements, or dayms. The maps below illustrate the growth of Port Sudan as well as the transformation of unplanned to planned settlements.


Map 1.7. Port Sudan In 1967.


Map 1.8. Port Sudan In 1985.

Port Sudan has continued to grow since 1985. Today the dayms have grown and there are new settlements around the town. Appendix 1.2 contains a list of all the dayms in 1989, the settlement dates of recent dayms, and ethnic composition of the dayms

The size of the population of Red Sea Province has always been a subject of speculation. There have been three censuses of the population of the province. The first census was in 1955, the second in 1973 and the last in 1983. Total enumerated population in 1983 was 695854 people. In 1987 there was an update of the census done through the calculation of fertility rates and projecting the 1983 figures forward in time.

Table 1.2. Red Sea Province population by District, 1983 and 1987.

District

1983

 

1987

 
 

Population

%

Population

%

Derudeb

49299

7

59371

7

Halaib

80537

12

96999

12

Haya

42412

6

51008

6

North Tokar

102749

15

123757

15

Port Sudan Town

227968

33

273936

33

Rural Port Sudan

48104

7

57696

7

Sinkat

63072

9

76095

9

South Tokar

81713

12

97835

12

TOTAL

695874

 

836197

 

SOURCE: Department of Statistics 1987 and 1983.

Rural population according to the results of an aerial survey by Watson (1976) in December 1975 was 234259 people. The figure used by Oxfam and the World Food Programme for the allocation of relief food is 400000 rural people. The Environmental Research Group Oxford in an aerial survey done in January 1989 found a rural population of 272000 people (standard error of ±9%). Although these figures provide a rich basis for debate, what is probably more important for most people is the population trend rather than specifics. The following figure illustrates the trend in population growth in Eastern Region since the beginning of this century. Although growth has been great, it should be borne in mind that the population of the Sudan, particularly the central and westerns portions, declined during the last century to an unknown but significant extent because of war, disease, and slavery.


Figure 1.1. Population, Eastern Region of the Sudan, 1900 to 1983.

The Red Sea Province is inhabited principally by the Beja, a Cushitic-speaking group of people that traditionally practiced herding, farming, and trade but now practice a variety of activities many of which involve the urban economy. The Beja are subdivided into five groups', the 'Ababda, the 'Atman (Amarar), the Beni 'Amer, the Bishariin, and the Hadendowa. Minor groups include the Artayga, Ashraf, Halenga, Kumaylaab, Melhitikinaab, Sigulaab, and Shi'ayaab (see Ausenda 1986, Hassan Mohammed Salih 1976, Nadel 1950, Newbold, 1935, Owen 1937, Paul 1954, 1950, Sandars 1933, 1935, and Seligman and Seligman 1930).

Further information about the ethnic groups of Red Sea Province and their seasonal movements can be obtained in ERGO (1989).

With the exception of the 'Ababda and the Beni 'Amer, the Beja speak a common tongue, Tu Bedaawi, although there are identifiable regional differences. The 'Ababda speak Arabic and the Beni 'Amer speak predominantly Tigné. There are questions regarding the inclusion of the 'Ababda and Beni 'Amer with the Beja group. Morton holds that the Beni 'Amer and the 'Ababda should be excluded from the Beja group for ethnic and linguistic reasons. The 'Ababda should not be included for linguistic reasons. He states (1989: 11) that the Beni 'Amer are

... a confederation of tribes, formerly united under a single ruling aristocracy, a system marked by many caste-like practices (Nader 1945, Paul 1950). This system was only abolished in 1948. The aristocracy was Arabic speaking, the vassal groups mainly speakers of Tigré although some spoke Beja. Beni Amer are not now normally considered Beja by themselves, Beja, or others.

Beja society is segmented. Each group claims descent from a common ancestor and traces his or her descent typically four or five generations into the past. For example, for the Hadendowa the common ancestor is Baraakwiin. According to Hassan Mohammed Salih (1976: 38), the Hadendowa social organisation is based on a "... patrilineal genealogical structure which constitutes a segmentary system of sections and subsections." The section, or maximal lineage, is called the 'adaat, and the subsection is called the diwaab. The diwaab vary in size and may be scattered over a wide area.

The most populous of the five Beja groups are the Hadendowa. The 'Ababda are found principally in Egypt, the 'Atman inhabit a broad strip that extends from the Red Sea coast north of Port Sudan and south of Muhamrned Qul to Musmar on Khor 'Arab in central Red Sea Province. The Beni 'Amer are divided between South Tokar District in Red Sea Province, Kassala Province and Eritrea The Bishariin are divided between Red Sea Province, Kassala Province and Egypt. The Hadendowa are split between Red Sea: Province, Kassala Provinces and Eritrea Although a group may be said to be split between two or more areas, it does not mean that there are no links between them. On the contrary, there is much movement across zones and borders in the search for grazing, agriculture, or employment.

The Beja are not the only group that lives in Red Sea Province. Other groups which live there are the Rashayda and Takaariin. The Rashayda are Arabs who began migrating from the Arabian Peninsula about 130 years ago. The migration of the Rashayda, traditional enemies of the House of Sa'ud, increased in the 1920s and 1930s as King 'Abd al 'Aziz consolidated his power over the peninsula and drove out his enemies. The principal occupations of the Rashayda are trade outside the auspices of government regulation and camel herding. The Rashayda have no land rights in the province. They pay land owning Beja for the right to camp and graze their animals. The Takaariin are West Africans who live principally in Tokar and work on the agricultural scheme. They are also found throughout the Sudan principally in areas where agricultural schemes are located. Their ancestors were pilgrims to Mecca who settled permanently in the Sudan (Al-Naqar 1972, Paul 1954, Salih El-Din 1988).

Map 1.9 below presents territories belonging to Beja groups in Red Sea Province. What is immediately evident from the map is that there is a north-south alignment of the territories. This is in fact the general pattern of transhumance for all of the groups living in the Red Sea Province. Most lineage groups possess territory in the north and in the south - in the Gash Delta, along the 'Atbara River, or even on the Nile River. Perhaps the best exemplification of the spread of risk over space in and around Red Sea Province is provided in Hassan Mohammed Salih (1976) in his discussion of the distribution of 'adaat, or maximal lineage section, territory or the Hadendowa Most Hadendowa 'adaat, or as they are increasingly being called, qabiila (plural qabaai°1), possess territory in Red Sea Province as well as in the Gash Delta. Their seasonal movements are, for example, to the north along the Red Sea Hills or coast in the winter and to the Gash Delta or all the way to the 'Atbara River during the summer and fall. Hassan Mohammed Salih (1976) lists 14 Hadendowa maximal lineages and their territories. Ten of the lineages possess territory in Red Sea Province as well as in the Gash or on the 'Atbara River.

In the following discussion of migration patterns, the most northerly of the Beja groups are discussed first. The 'Ababda, principally concentrated in Egypt and not numerically significant in the Red Sea Province, are not discussed. It should be borne in mind that with the exception of well-known cases of ongoing intergroup feuds and land use competition, there are no strict boundaries to land use in or around Red Sea Province; anyone can come and graze his or her animals at any time in any place providing that the rightful owners of the land are recognised and paid a small symbolic tribute. Use rights are completely different from ownership rights in Red Sea Province. Because of the unpredictable amounts and distribution of rainfall, enforcing strict territorial rights in grazing would be a poor survival strategy. This is not to say that this has never been done; in the past there was much intergroup raiding and conflict (see Sweet 1965, Thesiger 1984).


Map 1.9. Beja territories in Red Sea Province.

The Bishariin are divided into two broad groups: the Bishariin Umm 'Aly and the Bishariin Umm Nagy. The territory of the Umm 'aly is situated in the central mountain areas of Halaib District. These are high mountains where precipitation is greater than surrounding areas. The Umm 'Aly move between the coast and mountains in the winter to the Sinkat, Musmar, and Khor Arab and Nile River areas in the summer.

The Bishariin Umm Nagy move longer distances than the Umm 'sly. They graze in the mountains of central and northern Halaib during the winter and move south to the 'Atbara River and west and southwest to the Nile River. Many of the Bishariin who had land use rights along the Nile near Wadi Halfa were given tenancies in the Khashm el-Girba agricultural scheme located on the 'Atbara River southwest of Kassala During the winter rainy season the Bishariin graze their animals along the coast and eastern Red Sea Hills. The Bishariin are also involved in trade with Egypt, principally Aswaan. Morton (1989) found that the principal regional economic centre for the Bishariin Umm Nagy is Aswaan.

The bulk of the 'Atman (Amarar) territory is located in the central Red Sea Hills. During the summer rainy season the Amarar move with their animals to the 'Udrus and 'Arab basins where there is good grazing and cultivable land. During the winter rainy season, the Amarar graze the coast and eastern portions of the mountains which receive rain.

The Hadendowa, the most populous of the Beja groups, move south during the summer rainy season to the Braytek basin, the Gash Dai, the Gash Delta, the Khashm el-Girba scheme on the 'Atbara River, and to the Gedarif area (Abdel Hamid M.A. Bakhit (1988). Sometimes, depending on the distribution of the rainfall they move south into Eritrea During the winter months when the coast receives rainfall the Hadendowa graze their animals from Suakin down to and into Eritrea where they have grazing agreements with the Beni 'Amer.

The Beni 'Amer move in many directions from their mountains. During the summer they move into the Kassala area to graze their animals and to pursue other activities in the agricultural schemes. In the winter rainfall season there are two movements: one group of Beni 'Amer moves down to the Tokar Delta for grazing and agricultural labour and another group of more pastoral Beni 'Amer remains in the mountains or descends to the Eritrean coastal areas if grazing is abundant.

There are two groups of Rashayda that use pasture in Red Sea Province. The first group migrates from the Tokar delta in May-June along Khor Baraka to the Kassala area where higher and earlier precipitation makes good general grazing outside the khors. The Rashayda move to the 'Atbara River and into the Butana Plain. Sometimes, when conditions warrant, they will move all the way into Eritrea. Another group of Rashayda migrate to Egypt from Halaib District's coastal area in the winter. This group migrates down to the 'Atbara area in the summer.

The relations between the 'Ababda, 'Atman, Beni 'Amer, Bishariin, Hadendowa, and Rashayda have in the past been hostile and are today sometimes tense. The major source of conflict in the past and at present are land rights and land use. These groups may be said to exist in a state of competition for scarce resources. The following table, taken from Hassan Mohammed Salih (1976: 135) illustrates the nature of the competition for scarce resources.

Table 1.3. Cases of animal thefts, injuries and homicide among the Hadendowa In the Gash Delta, 1969-70.

Month

Animal Theft

Minor Injury

Major Injury

Attempted Homicide

Homicide

June

145

114

34

2

8

July

27

32

3

1

0

August

36

42

6

1

0

September

69

43

6

1

2

October

104

47

17

2

5

November

68

54

8

1

4

December

67

63

12

1

4

January

58

63

19

0

4

February

50

53

26

0

4

March

91

45

30

1

5

April

58

65

31

2

5

May

116

115

30

2

7

Two points emerge from the table: the conflicts are seasonal and they are violent. The lowest months for murder and all other conflict, excepting attempted homicide, are the months of July and August, periods of plentiful fresh pasture production by floods and rain. The worst periods are those leading up to the new flood and rain year the driest season of the year, when available grazing and browse is at its lowest level.