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close this book Measuring drought and drought impacts in Red Sea Province
close this folder 2. Measuring drought and food insecurity in Red Sea province: in 1987 and 1988: a technique for Pthe rapid assessment of large areas. Roy Cole
View the document Summary
View the document Introduction
View the document Methods
View the document Results
View the document Conclusion
View the document Discussion
View the document Limitations of the study and comments on the research method
View the document An alternative method
View the document References


Although the method for the rapid assessment of large areas used in the present study appears useful, there are some problems in the interpretation of Maps 2.2 and 2.3 that need to be addressed. The maps themselves are not directly comparable because each zone's value in the map is influenced by the scores of the other zones. While this is a useful method to understand the relationship between the zones in one year it is less useful when comparing zones between years. For example, a change from best to worst for a zone between the two time periods does not necessarily mean any great change in the drought impacts or food insecurity in that zone. The change may be related, instead, to change within other zones that alter the position of the mean value and the position of all other values to the mean. This is what happened between 1987 and 1988 and it reflects the extreme annual variability of the environment of the southern and central portions of Red Sea Province. From 1987 to 1988 the southern part of the province, with the exception of the perennially well-off Khor Baraka basin and the lagging South Tokar District, leapt from last place to first place, principally because of the unprecedented rainfall. This caused the position of the northern zones, ordinarily receiving an unpredictable scattering of from 25 to 50 mm of rainfall annually, to apparently decline. These northern areas are in fact relatively immune from drought because they exist is a state of perpetual aridity.

In order to address this problem (and also to standardise the units of comparison) Map 2.4 was made. Map 2.4 presents a direct comparison of the raw scores for each zone on the map that had observations for both years. Indeed, the greatest changes took place where there was the greatest potential for environmental variability - in the southern and central parts of the province. The relatively low change in one area that received much rainfall, Zone 13 (1988), in the southwest of the province, may reflect the infestation of locusts in that area and also to its east toward Suakin. The extreme difference from 1987 to 1988 at the northern tip of the province was exactly -5.

Poor rain in 1988 was the reason why area was classed so low in 1988 but as it is a borderline case perhaps it would best be classed with the next group up, the -2 to -4 class. Relative lack of change in the northern areas as mentioned above reflects the perennial state of affairs in this area. The northern exception is the Khor Oko area which scored above the mean in 1987 and well above the mean in 1988. The good rains of 1988 were responsible for this as well as the nationally and internationally connected social support network of Shariif Aderob of the Mosque at Tumaala. The same observation holds for the Mosque of Shaykh Sulaymaan at Hamashkoreb in the extreme south of the province. The two religious settlements provided assistance to destitute people during and after the drought. The population of children in the rural khalwas, religious training centres associated with the mosques, rose dramatically during the drought as did the founding of khalwas.

Zone 24, the Erkowit area, registered a 4 point decline from 1987 to 1988. Although rainfall was good, vegetation, cash crops, food crops and employment opportunities were not. There is evidence to indicate that there have been significant changes in vegetation in the Erkowit area (Vetaas 1989). These changes may have had impacts on livestock production and recovery. It is known from reports that planting in the Erkowit area had to be done several times because of excessive flooding and crop damage. This may have been responsible for the food crop problems.

The only area that had a relatively high decline in points from 1987 to 1988 in the south of the province was the coastal strip from 'Agig almost to Garora The poor rain along this portion of the coast plus the high numbers of refugees from Eritrea living in poor conditions resulted in a low score

Based on our study what can we say about the economic recovery from drought? Quite simply we may state that at present those areas that scored poorly in 1988 did so for reasons different from those relating simply to drought or the general economic climate. In South Tokar, for example, the principal reason for poor scores was war in Eritrea and the influx of refugees. It should be mentioned that the majority of these refugees are indistinguishable from the people living in South Tokar District. The only difference is that, unlike their Sudanese cousins, they have no land or cultivation rights in Red Sea Province. They used to seasonally migrate with the rains from Eritrea to Red Sea Province in search of grazing and employment. When the Sudanese-Eritrean border was closed and mined by the Ethiopian government many of these people were trapped on the Sudan side and lost their livestock in the dry season. When the border was reopened after the Eritreans took the border areas in the mid-1980s it was too late for these people; they were already destitute.

The environment of northern Red Sea Province is an example of low potential for change. The rainfall is scattered and low. The economy in northern Red Sea Province, however, is one of the strongest regional economies in the Sudan. This economy has two linked components: a pastoral economy centred on camel and sheep raising for sale to Saudia Arabia and Egypt and a settled economy which is involved in the smuggling of other goods. The variables used in the present study may not have measured the strength of the northern economy as well as expected.

Lack of recovery in certain areas of Red Sea Province today is less related to environmental or economic factors than to political instability and the specific social conditions of individuals and should be addressed in a more appropriate manner than that done presently by international donors. A specific programme to address the needs of people marginalised by the Eritrean conflict who live outside the camps in South Tokar should be undertaken. Efforts should be undertaken to target vulnerable groups: divorced or widowed women with dependent children and limited family support, pregnant and lactating women and children of weaning age.