|Development Projects in the Sudan: An Analysis of their Reports with Implications for Research and Training in Arid Land Management (UNU, 1979, 58 pages)|
The Sub-programme on the Assessment of the Application of Knowledge to Arid Lands Problems, a sub-programme of the United Nations University Programme on the Use and Management of Natural Resources, tries to improve future actions by using past experience. An advisory committee to the Programme recognized the difficulties of such an undertaking by stating that "there are not only problems of methodology and of assembling a capable interdisciplinary team, but also difficulties in the selection of projects to be assessed as well as in the assessment itself.", Despite this restriction it was hoped that a careful socio-economic study of both successful and unsuccessful projects in a particular country could serve as a pilot scheme of research to draw conclusions for the improvement of future arid land management programmes.
To start such an exercise, the Democratic Republic of the Sudan was asked to allow an evaluation of projects where arid land management plays a major role in the use of natural resources. In addition, the selection of the Sudan made it possible to analyze a number of projects large enough to draw at least some general conclusions about the socio-economic success or failure of such projects and about the applicability of the evaluation methods used. The final goal of the study was determined in such a way that it should be helpful in the development of guidelines to train people in the management of arid lands by using case studies for learning problem-solving techniques and attitudes.
The Sudan's agricultural future in its arid and semiarid regions depends in
the long run on a careful mixture of land use through:
-mechanized rain-fed farming,
-irrigated intensive plant production,
-permanent range-management systems, and
-flexible nomadic pasture use.
All previous attempts to develop these techniques have brought both expected and unexpected problems environmental, economic, and social. The past experiences of a country deeply concerned about desert encroachment, equitable economic development, and social justice. as well as about its role as the future bread-basket of the Near East and parts of Africa, may hold the key for understanding and improving the management of arid lands all over the world where similar conditions would allow similar approaches.
The growing awareness of planners and policymakers of the fact that more information about the causes of past successes or failures could improve future decisions on new projects will create a helpful atmosphere for accepting such UN University proposals. To reform the curricula of existing training programmes and to adjust field programmes of research institutions to include subjects more relevant to realistic project situations and more useful for solving actual field problems is, therefore, the major concern of this exercise.
Training and research programmes of the future must indicate more concern with environmental restrictions, -economic viability. and -individual and social acceptability of arid land projects than has been previously demonstrated. If not, the concept of becoming a bread-basket may prove to be a short dream only. The long-term productivity of the natural potential, the medium-range capacity of the national economy, and the short-term capabilities of the people involved need particular strategic efforts at the different levels of governmental and local administration.
The study is also intended to provide at least some material for the decision-making process. Attempts to include a larger variety of projects were restricted by the small number of projects that were available for evaluation. But efforts have been made to describe all major types of crop and animal projects involving arid land management problems. While it is not the aim of this study to develop new strategies for arid land management, it is the goal of this paper to make quite clear which particular topics and aspects have to be dealt with and what materials have to be prepared for an optimal course outline and content for training people who have responsibilities in arid land management.
Investigation of a number of arid land projects in the Sudan has raised the question of how a project's success can be defined. There are many ways of looking at this, and planners see this only from their own point of view. Very often, economists fail to take into account the social side of the system examined. Usually, they have the best intentions but quantitative data do not exist to allow the evaluation of the social impact of a project. This leads to the argument that such data have to be collected before economic project evaluation makes sense at all. If such information is not available, for whatever reason, at least an attempt has to be made to point out the direction in which life-styles and values may change and the consequences this may have for the individual and for the society as a whole.
The study was carried out by the author through visits to the project areas as well as through the use of unpublished material about their performance. The author is indebted to the Department of Rural Economy, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Khartoum, and its head, Dr. A.M. El Hadari, for their valuable help. In addition, the help of Dr. D. Kroker of the Centre for Regional Development Research (University of Giessen) in collecting the information and data about the projects is gratefully acknowledged. For a thorough critical review and for many hints to improve the manuscript, the author would like to thank Dr. D. L. Johnson from the Center for Environment, Technology, and Society (Clark University, Worcester, Mass., USA), and unnamed colleagues from the University of Khartoum and from national and international agencies involved in rural development in the Democratic Republic of the Sudan.