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close this bookDevelopment Projects in the Sudan: An Analysis of their Reports with Implications for Research and Training in Arid Land Management (UNU, 1979, 58 pages)
close this folder5. Project improvement
View the document(introduction...)
View the document5.1 Research priorities
View the document5.2 Training

5.1 Research priorities

From the project analysis. three major questions of socio-economic concern have arisen:

1) What is the long-term yield potential of arid land under permanent cropping patterns or grazing schemes ?
2) What is the optimum land use organization under the given natural. economic, and human restrictions ?
3) What are the determining factors for better social acceptance and economic viability of projects in arid lands?

All three questions mark particular research priorities. They have to be answered in this sequence despite the fact that scientific experiments about permanent cultivation of arid land would require time periods too long for planners to wait for. Understandable as this position may be, a solution may be found in two directions: first, experiments should be established in all key areas as quickly as possible; second, if projects must start earlier. all efforts must be directed towards using the previous evaluation data of similar projects. This consideration assumes that there is a general understanding among planners and the relevant project population that permanent cultivation is the major goal and, therefore, restrictions are accepted. If, in contrast, windfall gains are looked for, as some mechanized farming schemes have shown, then maximization of profits in the short run is of course the only interest. The author of this study takes the position that short-run considerations will not be for the country's best, and most public statements from politicians, administrators, and scientists in the Sudan support such an opinion. If this is really true. future project policies have to follow scientifically established indicators for optimal long-term land use on the one hand, and for improved social acceptance of projects on the other.

5.1.1 Long-Term Yield Potential

On the basis of the foregoing assumption, the long-term yield potential of an area is determined by natural, economic. and human factors. Previous planning of projects has usually tried to collect the available data with more emphasis on the natural than on the socioeconomic conditions. Future efforts therefore need a better balance of research activities among these three factors.

Information about natural factors, in this context, relies not only on data of climate, rainfall, transpiration. soil structure, water levels, vegetation cover, etc., but also calls for insights into additional aspects, such as
-the salinity risk of different irrigation systems,
-soil fertility reduction through cultivation practices,
-the surface loss following erosion problems.
-vegetation changes due to permanent cultivation, and
-weed infestation from various irrigation methods.

Such extended research on natural factors must then be combined with research efforts to establish more details of
-relevant land use systems,
-suitable local plant breeds,
-improved native livestock herds,
-necessary plant and animal disease control,
-possibilities of increases in yield stability. and
-variability and availability of soil moisture under varying conditions.

The decisive role of water in arid land management is underlined with the demand for particular research information, such as
-the possibilities of water conservation through methods of reducing evaporation and transpiration;
-the chances of adjusting the water supply to the specific needs of plants by varying the irrigation system, including the use of trickle irrigation, night watering, etc.;
-the risks involved in using saline water for particular soils and crops;
-the potentials of some water-collecting methods such as the catchment approach and runoff water storage; and
-the use of water sources such as dew and fog underground reservoirs, and horizontal wells.

The viability of livestock projects depends partly upon better plant research. But besides the very complex issue of fixing the carrying capacity of grazing areas, which apparently has not been solved satisfactorily in any project (it therefore needs more very substantive research), some additional aspects may find solutions through answering the following questions through local research efforts.
a) What are the chances for improving local breeds under given natural feed conditions ?
b) What are the long-term consequences of the eradication of animal diseases for the total balance of the natural forces operating in an area ?
c) What are the necessary veterinary services and infrastructural requirements for supporting changed numbers and better quality of the animals kept in arid areas ?
d) What is the optimum combination of livestock numbers and volume of feed production. as well as of food and cash crop cultivation in irrigation projects ?

5.1.2 Human and Economic Factors

Data on human factors for most observed projects are rare for two reasons: (1 ) the number of social scientists doing this type of research work is quite limited, and (2) the data collected at the local and micro level have severe limitations for general application. Both restrictions have to be overcome to improve project performance. Most reports mentioned that the shortcomings of interaction of human and natural forces have led to a high degree of vulnerability of the resources. To illustrate this point the following research aspects are mentioned.
a) What are the relevant agricultural production techniques which reduce soil fertility risks ?
b) What is the adaptive capacity of people for innovations at a given level of motivation and training ?
c) What are the relevant advisory services and incentives that allow a self-supporting development process ?
d) What are the goals of the local population in the development programme for their area ?
e) What are the vested interests against reducing the environmental threats in a particular project area ?
f) What are the socio-cultural factors standing in the way of modernization ?

Whether individuals or the society as a whole will gain from project activities is expressed in terms of costs and benefits. These can be of material and immaterial value. Their estimation has to be based upon the available project figures as well as upon additional data about social costs and benefits, investment sources and conditions. foreign exchange contributions or losses, etc. Whenever possible, alternative choices for public expenditures should be discussed before final decisions are made. To increase the chance that projects will contribute positively, there is also the need to undertake research on all relevant economic factors which influence the regional development as a whole, such as
-national price and marketing policies,
-the regional availability of production factors,
-the local potential for productive employment,
-nutrition and health conditions,
-the state of education and institution building,
-the organization of marketing and credit,
-planned improvement of the infrastructure,
-the production targets of the national economy, and
-the export chances in the world markets.

5.1.3 Project Requirements

The most suitable form of organization has to be agreed upon for each type of project. Particular information needs therefore arise. Data to support such processes have to be collected from other projects in the country and must be supplemented by information from other arid regions across the national borders. In many cases. it would have been advisable for planners to tour other projects before starting their own, as this could help avoid the expensive. timeconsuming trial-and-error process which usually takes place in development projects. The information gained would be very valuable in the initial planning. Special local considerations would then be dealt with in a second, more detailed planning stage. Project size, volume. layout, and duration. as well as project administration, financing. and reporting systems. etc., can certainly be better based upon international experience than upon the planner's intuition only. Necessary in each case is a proper statement of the aims for each project in very clear terms to make it understandable for everybody involved.

Clearly, particular care must be given to the selection of the most suitable carrying institution. Projects have been implemented in the Sudan by national and international institutions in a variety of organizational setups. such as public corporations, semi-public authorities. subsidized private schemes, publicly supported collective farming programmes, etc. Future research efforts should include studies which give a ministry of planning enough basis for judgement of which project type will fit the targets best and for what reasons. They should also establish a basis for selection of the most suitable mixture of governmental and private participation, the role of co-operatives, etc.

To summarize the additional local research needs for the Sudan from the projects' analysis, it may be helpful to differentiate according to the land use- rainfed or irrigation, settlement or nomadic grazing schemes. For each type, three major questions should demonstrate the needs: a) Rainfed areas What are the most suitable crops adjusted to changing rainfall patterns ? What is the optimal seasonal organization of labour and equipment input? Will minimum tillage operations improve yields and restore soil fertility ?
b) Irrigation projects What organization is needed to distribute land and water rights equally ? What health aspects have to be observed in irrigation systems ? Are optimal water use models available to economize water consumption ?
c) Settlement programmes How can land ownership problems be solved before a project starts? What type of supporting services are needed to help the settlers to produce and live in the area ? What social links have to be observed to keep the danger of conflict at a low level ?
d) Nomadic grazing schemes What is the local solution to the problem of common ownership of land vs. individual ownership of herds ? What is the role of tribal land rights for the allocation of capital investment to improve pasture use ? What minimum standards of social facilities and services are needed to keep people at the schemes ?