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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 folder3. Project analysis
View the document3.1 Simsim mechanized farming project.
View the document3.2 Khashm el Girba settlement scheme
View the document3.3 Sag el Na'am irrigation project (northern Darfur).
View the document3.4 Babanusa nomads' settlement project
View the document3.5 Nuba mountains agricultural production corporation (NMAPC).
View the document3.6 Gerih el Sarha settlement scheme.
View the document3.7 Agadi state farm, Blue Nile province.
View the document3.8 Mechanized Dura production schemes, Gedaref region.

3.6 Gerih el Sarha settlement scheme.


The specific objectives of the scheme were set out in unpublished government documents prepared by the Rural Development Department between 1969 and 1975 as follows:

a) well-planned utilization of grazing lands for development;
b) establishment of an economic basis for agricultural production in the grazing lands;
c) settlement of nomads to enable other government departments to offer services such as health, education, etc.;
d) establishment of a well-planned water distribution system.

Development Problems

The Sudanese Government proposed the Gerih el Sarha Settlement Scheme (a reservation of 200 km² between long. 27°- 34° and lat. 14°-12° in northwestern Kordofan in the Kababish Rural Council) in an attempt to maintain vegetation cover and to improve grazing land by controlling the usage of the land.

The planners suggested the formation of a cooperative society consisting of 50 members only (each family considered as a member). The only condition for membership should be the payment of a share of £S 50. Reasons given for the formation of such a society and its goals were as follows.
a) The co-operative would provide marketing facilities to assist the peasant in his efforts to dispose of his production; it would develop organizations to supply members with household and consumer goods of good quality and at reasonable prices.
b) The government can provide certain facilities to co-operative societies which it cannot to individuals, e.g., tax concessions, and loan and bank facilities at low interest rates.
c) A model village was to be constructed inside the enclosed rectangular area in which the members of the co-operative society would have to reside.
d) Three water yards, each consisting of a number of watering centres. were to be established with the objective of making the grazing radius from each water point only 4 km. At each of these water yards a fruit and vegetable garden was to be established.
e) Milk, wool, and camel hair were to be the livestock products. The milk was to be processed into cheese; the wool and camel hair was to be used to develop local craftmanship.

3.6.1 Work Accomplished (1969-1975)

The work programme was started in 1969. The first phase was started by demarcating and clearing the entire boundaries of the project area. Then the boundaries were dry-hedged. The area was divided into the 50 paddocks provided for in the targets of the scheme. At the same time. work started on the contour maps and the vegetational maps for each paddock.

In October 1969 a meeting was held at Umbadier to discuss the membership and the establishment of the cooperative society. The co-operative society was then established. It consisted of 50 members. The members of the group were those who had the desire to settle and to participate, and who were able to pay the share (£S 50 each).

Two mobile clinics were brought into the area, one for human use and the other for veterinary use. The members of the co-operative society planned to build stationary clinics on a self-help basis. There are no schools at Gerih el Sarha. Educational facilities are at Umbadier, the Hamrat el Weiz and El Obeid primary schools.

The optimum animal unit per sq. km was determined by its carrying capacity. The grazing area was marked accordingly. cleaned, and fenced while the inner and the outer firelines were opened. in 1971 /72, surveys were carried out to estimate the carrying capacity of the area to avoid overgrazing. As a result of these studies, the carrying capacity was doubled, mainly due to the use of rotation in grazing. In addition, these studies helped a great deal in making useful suggestions for improvement of grazing areas elsewhere and in the introduction of new types of vegetation in the scheme area.

The multi-purpose co-operative society at Gerih el Sarha. which was officially registered in 1970, helped the members to make real use of the project. The enrolment fee of the 50 members represents the original capital for the society, but in addition to this. the penalties for animal owners when they allow their animals to enter the project area is another source of capital for the society. The original capital was used to finance a grocery, a poultry unit. contributions towards a vegetable farm, contributions towards provision of first aid and medical facilities, wages for three security officers, and contributions towards the provision of spare parts for the tractor and oil for the water pumps.

To settle the Kawahla the camel nomads of the western Sudan, was the main objective of the scheme. The carrying capacity of the enclosed area will never permit more than 50 families, as estimated by the planners. The 50 families now form the members of the co-operative society and are the only ones to enjoy the benefits of the scheme. Up till 1975, there were 38 families who were already settled in the model village inside the scheme enclosure: the rest were still in their traditional tents scattered outside the project area.

3.6.2 Data Collection

There were no data available on which to base plans. The data on water sources were inadequate. The settlement project at Gerih el Sarha was carried out without the essential data on the socio-economic and political situations. But it seems that the overwhelming majority of the population stood with the scheme. Included are the poverty-stricken people who eke out a living from unreliable agricultural practices on small patches of land with low yield. They are always on the look-out for jobs and serve as a reliable pool of labour. To these people. the scheme is a generous unexpected gift as long as it solves their problem of employment (two hundred of them were employed in clearing the firelines in 1969). These people expressed their admiration and delight on hearing about the scheme and their desire to participate in it. but they cannot pay the fifty pounds in a lump sum.

The second group is the cultured or the enlightened group who command a better view of their economy, and who have come to understand that the traditional pattern does not guarantee them full utilization of their animal resources, that they must think of accepting advice to maximize the products of their livestock to create a cash economy resting on broader bases and to assure them full utilization of their potentials.

Another enthusiastic group supports the scheme on the grounds that the scheme area, or the Kawahla tribal land, will be supplied with water, health, and educational facilities, or other forms of public services such as transportation or marketing facilities.

The fourth supporting group includes those who cannot put up with the tiresome task of loading and unloading the burden animals in the distasteful process of roaming from place to place after water and pasture. These people advocated the idea of the project as long as it promised them settlement and a relief from the pains of nomadism.

3.6.3 The Opposing Groups

Of those opposed to the scheme, the first group is composed of people who think that it is an intelligence device of the government to numerate and tax their herds; they abhor it.

The second group includes those who reject the scheme just because they love nomadism; they despise settlement in a village and are reluctant or unwilling to part with their traditional way of living. They look down upon settlers and they are opposed to living in a dark, one-door cottage.

The third group opposes the idea because the scheme area is a common grazing ground for their herds. Once the land is fenced and reserved for the ranch and for the members of the co-operative society only, they will be losing an important part of their pasture.

The last group opposes the project mainly because they think such a scheme will result in the breaking down of the tribe and the tribal structure; the tribe is the core of these people's thinking.

3.6.4 Causes of Failure

In the first phase the project was administered from Khartoum. The remoteness of the scheme area and the poor network of communications resulted in a serious administrative problem. Later, the centre was moved from Khartoum to El Obeid. the capital of Northern Kordofan.

The project area is 250 miles from El Obeid and only 147 miles from El Fasher (the capital of Northern Darfur). The roads between El Obeid and the project area are only suitable for high-speed travel in the dry season. while in rainy conditions they are impassable and the only road is through the province of Northern Darfur, a 570-mile route! There is a network of better roads between El Fasher and the Kawahla tribal land. It is impossible to administer the scheme from that distance. If the administrative centre were changed to El Fasher, it would be easier for transportation and communication and would save effort, time, and expense. The shortage of transportation affected the success of the project. It is interesting to know that in 1970/71 the transportation budget amounted to zero! There are no maintenance centres nearby and maintenance therefore presents a problem.

In the case of Gerih el Sarha, the planners rightly thought that if all animals were allowed to graze inside the scheme. over-grazing would result. This would defeat one major goal-to restore the carrying capacity to its original level or even increase it by introducing new plants that have more nutritive values. To solve this problem. it was recommended that only 1,000 animal units should enter the scheme during the dry season; the rest would have to graze outside. During the wet season, however, all animals should graze outside in order to save the grass inside for use during the dry season. But this meant three things:
1) The settlement idea would be destroyed. since the nomadic movement would continue.
2) The scheme would serve as a fattening place for a selected number of animals only.
3) While the animals of non-members would be denied entry into the scheme, they would have to share wet season grazing outside the scheme with the preferred members' animals.

The following calculation makes the problem quite clear.

a) Fifty families at Gerih el Sarha own 1 3,000 animal units-260 for each family.
b) The total carrying capacity of the scheme is thought to be 1,000 units per 100 km².
c) To allow all livestock of the 50 families into the scheme, the area would have to be enlarged to 1,300 km².

Such enlargement seems to be impossible without clashing with the interests of other Kababish nomads, who number in total 28,000 families and have only 48,000 km². They would need 62,800 km² if the scheme's carrying capacity of ten animal units per km² is used. On the strength of this vast difference between the total safe limit of carrying capacity of any of the nomadic regions and the total animal units owned by the nomadic population of a specific region, Khogali concludes that the approach to settlement should not be a direct one because this is usually expensive and yields poor results. as seen at Gerih el Sarha. A better approach is through the provision of services and infrastructure. If water points, schools. dispensaries. and market centres are opened, then the nomads will try to make use of them and gradually change their pattern of movements from nomadic to transhumant.

Wagialla adds one additional point: to maintain an optimal number of animals on the land, a fence is of prime importance and should be strong enough to prevent free movement of animals in and out of the area. The hedge which is being used for this purpose needs constant maintenance and there are insufficient watchmen to see to this. Consequently. there are frequent gaps and animals can roam freely. It has been suggested that the fence should be barbed wire but it is doubtful whether the scheme can afford this.

3.6.5 The Kababish-Kawahla Tribal Conflicts

Conflicts between nomadic tribes are always connected with pasture and water, but in the case of these two tribes there are more reasons. The origin of political conflict between the two groups in the area lies partly in the fact that British administrators in the Sudan tried for a long period of time to feed and strengthen the Kababish power to take care of British administration interests in western Kordofan. As the Kawahla tribe supported El Mahadi's revolution, the British administrators tried to suppress them. The Kawahla revolted against this suppression in 191 3, the result being that their leader was replaced by Ahmed Abdul Gadier el Eiser.

In 1925 the unfriendly atmosphere between the two tribes nearly led to war over the Umgawzien grazing area. Negotiations were conducted by a number of neighbouring tribes which resulted in a peaceful compromise. Late in 1969 a Presidential Act was passed to dissolve the native tribal administrative system, so that the Kawahla were able to gain their independence and their own identity. They are no longer under the supervision and control of the Kababish.

In the early discussions of the Gerih el Sarha scheme, Syed Hamed el Toum, who is Kababishi by birth, and who was the regional manager of Kordofan Province, stated his opposition to the scheme because he held that it had been designed for the exclusive benefit of the Kawahla and not the Kababish. Syed Hamed el Toum suggested that Um Endira in the Kababish tribal land was a suitable area for such a scheme, and that it was in even greater need of improvement of its grazing land.

He had, however. raised the very important point that the Gerih el Sarha area is a common grazing area for many nomadic tribes. including the Kababish and the Kawahla, where they gathered seasonally in summer. He anticipated the tribal conflicts which might arise. However, he was overruled by the initiator of the project and the plan of operation was passed.

Later on, the Kababish started to declare their opposition to the scheme and to stand as a real obstacle to its progress. In 1972 they set fire to a large portion of the grazing area inside the Kawahla enclosure. On another occasion they put stones into the well pipes to damage them and to prevent water from passing. Frequently, they brought their cattle to graze across the boundaries of the scheme against the watchmen's will.

A committee was elected to discuss the situation at Gerih el Sarha and to find out if solutions were possible.

The committee at last came to an agreement:

a) The water points outside the project boundaries are for common use and the water is to be equally distributed.
b) An official from the Rural Water Corporation has to be posted at each water point to supervise water distribution.
c) The situation necessitates a police station at Gerih el Sarha to control tribal conflicts and to help in finding solutions.
d) To cool down the conflict, ten Kababish families should join the scheme as full participant members with equal rights with the Kawahla tribe.
e) The number of watchmen (boundary keepers) around the boundaries should be increased to control the free movement of cattle across the boundaries.
f) No further open utilization of the grazing area should be allowed. Rights are reserved only to those who are officially registered in the co-operative society; even they must limit the numbers of their cattle in line with the stated carrying capacity of the land.
g) The committee suggested that a meeting be held between the local administrators and the technical staff of Kordofan Province together with the technical staff of Darfur Province. The aim should be to find suitable grazing land for the benefit of the Kababish in the dry season, when there is a scarcity of water and shortage of grazing lands which results in a seasonal overlap of grazing zones. This would minimize the possibility of future conflicts.
h) To put an end to the latent civil war in the area, three similar projects should be established in the Kababish tribal land. These proposed projects have to be subjected to pre-studies carried out by the staff of the Rural Development Department together with the local tribal leaders of the area.

3.6.6 Local Involvement

The scheme of Gerih el Sarha worked through local leaders, whose usual reaction. if they are ignored. is to oppose government schemes. A lack of cooperation by leaders can be almost as harmful to a project's success as their open opposition.

When there is an educated local leader who is also reliable, he may be a very significant person for implementing new ideas. The local innovators are most capable of closing the gap between the higher officials and the community and are in a very favourable position to put information into the informal communication network. At Gerih el Sarha, the informal authority of the Nazir is now decreasing. Having been a legitimator to his group, he is now only a communicator, but still retains his symbolic status of prestige and respect.

The Gerih el Sarha scheme could have been considered a success if it had involved the people of the local community. We have already seen that membership was limited to 50 people who were able to pay the requisite 50 pounds. This inevitably meant the exclusion of the majority of the Kawahla population who did not have the necessary financial resources. The scheme worked totally for the benefit of those already most financially advantaged. i.e.. the Nazir's lineage.

Even those Kawahla who did join the scheme were not involved in ways which would have proved most successful. They were never consulted at the initial decision-making stages (only the Nazir himself was consulted). Consequently, many of them did not want to build their houses inside the model village. It seems that they did not understand the implications of the settlement plans.

If they had participated democratically in the decision-making phase, the reasons for the nomads' opposition would have been learned and could have modified the plans. Participation would have helped the local population to realize their problems. and how they could be solved. They would have understood the policy of planned change towards gradual settlement. Participation would also have helped to create the determination necessary to undertake additional improvements in the settlement project which would guarantee its future success. As it is, it is impossible to comment on whether the settlement will prove temporary or permanent.

The settlement scheme was planned and implemented without any collection of socio-economic, political, or scientific data and showed a tack of co-ordination between government departments responsible for carrying out development schemes and research centres. These gaps could be due to a) a lack of knowledge about the importance of vital data as a prerequisite to planning, b) the fact that agencies may be unwilling for the success of their project to depend upon the assistance of other agencies or sections, c) a lack of funds, d) sheer haste, or e) a lack of coordination methods.

Whatever the reasons, the fact is that comprehensive and factual knowledge of the rural environment within which the developmental project is to operate must be carefully obtained in order to provide a sound base for planned change. It is stressed that rural development planning must be based upon facts and not upon opinions.

3.6.7 Wider Issues of Nomads' Settlement

As long as nomadism is both a way of utilizing resources and a way of life, the question of settling nomads has always to take into account solutions for both problem areas. Should the nomads be settled in order to improve upon the way they use their resources ? Khogali feels that this is necessary because the application of modern technology needs a mininum level of education and this is not possible with nomadism. Counter-arguments that the provision of hafirs and bore-holes is more a technical matter and could alone improve the use of grassland are not accepted by this author. He views the problem as being far bigger. For him it is the question of conserving the water resources and making efficient use of every drop of water for the use of man, animals. and useful plants-and this needs a certain level of education. as does the maintenance of the constructed water sources. A further point by Khogali: the conservation and efficient use of water cannot be done under the present communal ownership of land, which is an integral part of nomadism. A sense of personal possession should develop in relation to land so that each family becomes responsible for maintaining its land resources.

Should the nomads be settled to change their way of life ? The answer to this question is much more complex and depends entirely on the goals somebody has. In addition. this question is apparently not answerable in a static way, because the case of the Sudan shows that there have been time periods of increasing and decreasing numbers of nomads, depending on economic or political conditions (for example, the defeat of the Mahdiya in 1&98) which forced nomads to settle on the one hand. or the gradual build-up of great herds that resulted in movement as nomads again on the other. In addition. there have been examples where opportunities to earn additional income through crop production have been used by the nomads in quite different ways to change their life style. The Gezira Scheme, with comparatively high returns from cotton. together with the assured supply of aura, attracted many in the nomadic population. and these people settled in permanent villages, as did most of the nomads of the White Nile region. The Gash Scheme, however, where cotton started in 1924, has not attracted the Halendowa nomads although they owned about 65-70 per cent of all the tenancies of the Gash

Delta. The main reason for this, Khogali feels, were the consistent low annual returns from crop production at that scheme.

Planners of different development programmes in the Sudan have frequently stated that settlement of nomads is desirable to achieve better utilization of natural and human resources, to save the grazing potential from destruction due to overstocking. and to upgrade the nomads to citizens who enjoy the benefits of education, health, and other services. Khogali supports this view and says that many nomads are not against the idea of settlement as such. There are many examples from the semidesert and savanna region that nomads settled willingly when they were sufficiently motivated to do so. What the nomads object to is being turned into settled cultivators without animals. This is because of two reasons: (1 ) the traditional cultivators, as seen by the nomads, are not better off economically than the nomads, and (2) the raising of animals is highly rated all over the Sudan. Livestock act as a safety valve against frequent crop failure due to natural causes and against the fall of prices of sale products. An added factor in the case of the nomads is that livestock are the form of wealth which they know best and from which they draw their power and prestige.


The Gerih el Sarha Scheme started in 1969: by 1972. 18 families had built houses and resided as "semisettlers." By 1975. 38 families were settled and they exhausted the total carrying capacity at that time. Fifty projected families are obviously too many. The project work was hampered by a number of organizational and acceptance problems. The administrative centre of the project was too far away to guarantee an efficient management. Shortage of transport and frequent staff changes occurred. The duties were carried out without the necessary integration and co-ordination between the different governmental departments.

The settlers had difficulties in adjusting to their new status as owners of land and to the new pattern of social relationships. The nomad was, in the past, able to avoid control by the central government because he was isolated and highly mobile. He had received orders from the sheikh; in the project he deals directly with governmental local personnel. In the past, the tribal chiefs served as an informal law court, as social security, and as saving and credit institutions. The new institututional framework that will substitute for the former tribal organization has not been established sufficiently to allow the conclusion that this settlement scheme has successfully integrated the nomads into the mainstream of development of the region.