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close this bookProceedings of the Khartoum Workshop on Arid Lands Management (UNU, 1979, 96 pages)
close this folderThe university of Khartoum and the United Nations University
View the documentThe Khartoum workshop in relation to the programmes of the United Nations University
View the documentUnited Nations University evaluation mission to the Sudan, 1-9 october 1977
View the documentPOST-graduate studies in the university of Khartoum
View the documentEstablishment of an institute of environmental studies at the university of Khartoum
View the documentProposed M.Sc. programmes in environmental studies at the university of Khartoum
View the documentProposed joint research project between university college, Swansea, and the university of Khartoum under the United Nations University arid lands sub-programme

United Nations University evaluation mission to the Sudan, 1-9 october 1977

Anders Rapp
University of Lund, Sweden

Horst Mensching University of Hamburg, Federal Republic of Germany

The United Nations University's Sub-programme on the Assessment of the Application of Knowledge to Arid Lands Problems was discussed and recommended by an expert panel in Tokyo in May 1977. The panel also recommended that a mission should visit the Sudan and evaluate the possibilities of establishing links between the UN University, the University of Khartoum, and other institutions in the Sudan, such as the planned College for Arid Zone Studies at el-Fasher.

The UNU evaluation team visited Khartoum on 2-4 and 8-9 October 1977 and had discussions and field studies in elFasher on 5-7 October. The team members were Dr. H. Mensching, University of Hamburg, Federal Republic of Germany; Mr. Lee MacDonald, United Nations University, Tokyo; Dr. Anders Rapp, University of Lund, Sweden; and Dr. R. Herzog, University of Freiburg, Federal Republic of Germany.

Dr. F. Ibrahim, University of Hamburg, took part in the meetings in el-Fasher and in Khartoum on 8 October. The hosts in the Sudan were the Higher Education Grants Committee and its director, Dr. Ali Taha.

The team members wish to express their gratitude to the Sudanese authorities and representatives for their kind help in facilitating the work of the mission and for their hospitality.

The UNU team spent five days of meetings and discussions in Khartoum and three days of meetings and field studies in elFasher. In Khartoum the team had discussions with representatives from the University of Khartoum, the National Council for Research, and the Khartoum Polytechnics and with officials from several Government agencies, including the departments of Soil Conservation, Range and Pasture, and Forestry. In el-Fasher the team had discussions with the Commissioner of Northern Darfur Province and the provincial Agricultural Council. The mission had the advantage of being able to utilize the experiences and materials from the UN Conference on Desertification, held in Nairobi in September 1977 (UNCOD, 1977) and the Desert Encroachment Control and Rehabilitation Programme (DECARP) of the Government of the Republic of the Sudan (Sudan, Ministry of Agriculture, etc., 1976).

Recommendations by the Mission

Based on the discussions with Sudanese authorities and experts, the UNU evaluation mission made a number of recommendations, including:
(a) that the University of Khartoum be made an Associated Institution for the UNU Subprogramme on Assessment of the Application of Knowledge to Arid Lands Problems;
(b) that the planned Institute of Environmental Studies (IES), proposed by the Faculty of Science, and the existing Development Studies and Research Centre (SRC) in the Faculty of Economic and Social Studies be considered the bases for UNU activities within the University of Khartoum; (c) that research and other activities sponsored by the UN University be located mainly in the field under an arid lands research unit based in el-Fasher, Northern Darfur Province, Sudan. This unit should be created as an intermediate step towards the establishment of a research unit attached to the Darfur College for Arid Zone Studies as proposed by the Government of the Republic of Sudan.

The mission also made recommendations for the workshop as reported in this volume.

Some additional comments are called for concerning the recommendation to locate the UNU-sponsored research and other activities as much as possible in the field under the proposed arid lands research unit in el-Fasher. The recommendation is based on the mission's view that actions to counter desertification and the improved management of arid lands have to be studied and applied in close contact with the areas and peoples affected by these problems. Public participation was a central topic in the recommendations discussed at the Conference on Desertification.

At our meetings in el-Fasher the representatives of Northern Darfur showed a deep understanding of, and expressed much concern about, the problems of desertification in their province. We were impressed by their strong will and determination to make long term improvement to help the people, who have been seriously hit by years of drought and declining yields. It is also mainly these areas which are feeling the direct impact of immigrants from the Sahelian countries of West Africa escaping starvation at times of desertification. So there seems to be a particularly strong need in Darfur for the application of knowledge to help combat desertification (Mensching and Ibrahim, 1977).

Further Comments

I would like to add some personal views on the UNU Subprogramme concerning arid lands management. I agree with the opinion of Drs. Manshard and Mabbutt expressed at the Tokyo meeting in 1977 and later, that a survey of drylands to establish physical and human environmental regions would be a valuable first step. The record of that meeting states: "Such a survey of environments and the establishment of regional divisions and types should aim to define the spheres of applicability of particular problems of landuse and development as determined by the physical and human environment, and to identify areas of future threat

The first objective of such a survey would be the mapping of physical and human dryland environmental types, to be followed by an evaluation of methods for surveying and monitoring the processes and recovery in selected areas. Among important questions which arise are: How is desertification or ecological degradation actually occurring in a given area, how can it be mapped and monitored, and what can be done to counteract it? Are over-grazing, overcultivation, and excessive cutting of firewood all contributing to desertification? Which is the most important agent of desertification, and how can it be countered? How do local people perceive the problems of desertification?

Several studies prepared for the UNU Arid Lands Subprogramme deal with the topic of perception of desertification, and these reports, written by consultants, will be important in highlighting the particular approach of perception studies, even if they deal with arid lands outside Africa.

Research Approaches through Particular Topics

In discussing the role of science in integrated research and surveys of dryland environmental degradation and recovery, we realize the need for truly integrated action through approaches from many sides. The problems of arid land management are affecting the whole eco-systems, including man and society as well as the environment. However, even if one aims at an understanding of the whole manenvironment system under different types of land-use, it is often necessary and helpful to make a research approach from a particular angle or topic. Such topics might include: Appropriate technology in dryland agriculture. According to many authors and reports, e.g. the DECARP plan, the major land-use problem causing desertification in northern Darfur is considered to be the dryland cultivation of millet. This ought to be an area of high priority for research in western Sudan, and it should preferably be widened to include a wide spectrum of cultivation practices, from traditional small-scale cultivation to mechanized farming schemes, and their respective environmental impact. Wood supply and desertification. Water management and desertification.

The reason for making the use of wood or water resources in the drylands research topics is to make an approach from a particular angle and from there proceed to an integrated view of the dryland eco-system.

The Role of Remote Sensing in Dryland Environmental Monitoring

Every research project on arid land management in the future has to be combined with preparations for environmental monitoring. We are dealing with a dynamic and changing system of man and environment and we must prepare for continued observations on changes in social and environmental conditions (cf. Heliden, 1978). One particularly important avenue for environmental monitoring in drylands is the use of remote sensing techniques, including both photographs and satellite imagery. As an example I will refer to the fact that the satellite Landsat 3, which is now in operation, has a resolution of 40 m, which is a considerable improvement over Landsat 1 and 2. Every research project on dryland management, regardless of its emphasis on social or environmental conditions, should consider the need to find and evaluate the most reliable indicators for combined monitoring at three levels: ground checks, air photos, and satellite imagery.


Heliden, U. 1978. Evaluation of Landsat-2 Imagery for Desertification Studios in Northern Kordahn, Sudan. Rapporter & Notiser No. 38. Geography Dept., University of Lund, Sweden.

Ibrahim, F. 1978. "Anthropogenic Causes of Desertification in Western Sudan." Geo Journal, 2-3, pp. 243-54.

Mensching, H., and F. Ibrahim, 1977. "The Problem of Desertification in and around Arid Lands." Applied Sciences and Development, 10, pp. 743. Sudan, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, and Agricultural Research Council, 1976. Sudan's Desert Encroachment Control and Rehabilitation Programme.

United Nations Conference on Desertification (UNCOD). 1977. "Desertification: An Overview." In Desertification: Its Causes and Consequences, pp. 1-61. Oxford: Pergamon.