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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
5.2 Training


To improve project performance in arid lands, a number of major research and training components can be identified from the foregoing analysis. For the sake of clarity. it may be convenient to discuss first the problems of research interest and leave the consequences for training for a following chapter. Both aspects need specific approaches and instruments for implementation. The research requirements are directed mainly towards local research institutions to increase efforts, and towards international research bodies, such as the United Nations University, to support such activities with all means possible. This will assure that internationally available knowledge and problem solving techniques can be transferred as quickly as possible, allowing efficient adjustment to the local circumstances.

In the field of training. advice will be given for the establishment of post-graduate programmes in arid land management. It is felt that major efforts for improving project performance must concentrate at first on those experts who are planning and implementing projects. Such people are mainly graduates in the field of agricultural, social, economic and other basic sciences with a broad background for the total subject matter. The specific problems of arid land management are usually not included and people learn about it by trial and error during their service at the project. To improve this situation. it is recommended that the graduate, after having accumulated some professional experience in arid land projects. pursue a period of post-graduate studies at an African university.

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 ?

5.2 Training

Training needs for the project staff are apparent. They arise directly from the common problems discussed as relevant for all selected projects. Training programmes in arid land management should raise standards on ail levels of project implementation But because most decision-makers in this field are university-trained people. a programme at the post-graduate level is most essential. It must be designed in such a way that it provides advanced courses in specific management fields which will enable project officers to solve problems of permanent agricultural production. optimal organization and social acceptance, as well as economic viability of projects implemented in arid land areas.

A training programme of this type would best be located at a university of a developing country where biological. environmental, technical, and socio-economic disciplines are already established and can contribute jointly to an "integrated" arid land management approach. Looking at the African scene. no faculty seems fully equipped for such a programme, but faculties of agriculture may at least come close because by their nature they combine science and social disciplines more than any other. Such courses would benefit from a thorough mixture of theoretical and practical training, together with the provision that each participant presents his knowledge and thoughts about a particular subject in the form of a written thesis.

All these considerations lead the author to propose this training as an M.Sc. programme of 18 months' duration. A formal degree programme seems absolutely necessary for a number of reasons connected with the academic and administrative structures of a university on the one hand. and with the motivation and career aspects of the participants on the other. Additional points can be added such as the attraction of highly qualified teaching staff, the need for international funding, recognition of examinations for national and multi-national service, etc.

5.2.1 Programme Structure

Going back to the common problems of the analyzed projects, the following points emerge for the programme:
a) The project staff and the majority of the project planners need more understanding of the specific natural and socio-economic forces operating in an arid land project area. They are apparently not always in a position to develop the area's production potential without endangering the long-term viability of the natural resources. Consequence for training: to provide the necessary course work in the natural and social sciences and in the production techniques that are most suitable for arid land areas. The time for course work should not exceed a period of ten months (including a one-month vacation).
b) The project staff needs training to organize a project in such a way that the expected targets can be reached. that flexible responses to changing conditions are possible. and that projects integrate into the overall development stream and do not remain an exclusive "government project." Consequence for training: to provide a practical experience period by doing administrative. advisory, and evaluation tasks at particular projects. The time for this practical experience should not exceed four months.
c) The project staff needs training in writing documentations from observation and data collection on the projects. Such reports, in addition to their training aspect, may interest and should motivate the responsible administrators and politicians, as well as scientists, to look into the particular needs of arid land management. Consequence for training: to present a thesis on a theme connected with the practical experience in a project. The time for this work should not exceed four months.

The selection of themes for the thesis work and the organization of a practical project period for students will depend upon a number of administrative and personal factors. They must be covered in more detail by the relevant academic regulations for an M.Sc. degree to be approved by the university in charge of the programme. But it is hoped that these aspects will be taken care of in close collaboration with the institutions responsible for project implementation.

Course content, on the other hand, can be developed by matching existing syllabuses of relevant degree courses with the experience of projects described in this analysis. The following section tries to present a proposal which should be acceptable for at least the Sudanese situation. but it is hoped that it will also have further application,

5.2.2 Course Work

From all the reports, it is evident that permanence of cultivation must have priority in all teaching activities. Project organization, social acceptance, and economic viability will come next. If ten months are available for course work, this period should be divided into three terms of three months each (plus one-month vacation), allowing half the time for the permanence of cultivation and half for the remaining three fields.

This proposal may differ from conventional approaches to develop training programmes and syllabuses. The understanding is that a post-graduate course for arid land management does not need all thinkable components from relevant science disciplines but should concentrate on the major common problem areas which have been observed over the past decades. In this sense. the proposed programme is a bottleneck approach. assuming that the participants have enough insight from their previous training and experience in all the general fields necessary to concentrate now upon the specific issues of project performance in arid land regions. In reading through the following course descriptions, the reader may ask himself whether or not the traditional lecture and seminar approach would be most appropriate for adult and experienced learners. The author believes that the introduction of participatory techniques through team and project work would improve the motivation of students and the quality of studies, as well as the ability of lecturers to guide and to co-ordinate such an interdisciplinary programme. If the following course outline does not look like an interdisciplinary approach, it must be remembered that university teachers represent disciplines and only exceptional personalities are able to combine all related subjects from other fields into their own teaching. The main point, therefore, must be to make sure that the total programme becomes interdisciplinary in such a way that the recipient student receives all relevant information and gets guidance to put it together in whatever combination needed for an interdisciplinary approach to arid land management.



Course 1. Environment (90 hours) Climatic conditions and influence of changes.
Climatology and hydrology. Soils and soil fertility. Soil surveys and practical assessment of soils for permanent cultivation. Resource development and conservation of suitable land areas. Principles of protection of the environment. Desert encroachment and erosion threats. Reforestation. Wildlife.

Course 2. Water (90 hours) Water sources for arid land use. Rain-fed cultivation; methods of rainwater harvesting. Irrigation from streams and wells. Reducing evaporation and seepage losses. Selecting and managing efficient water use systems. Engineering aspects. Tapping additional water supplies. Problems of salinity.

Course 3. Crops (90 hours) Natural vegetation of arid land. Introduction to subsistence and commercial crops. Optimal land use systems. Shifting cultivation. Mechanized farming practices. Plant breeding. Crop protection. Crop rotation and fertilization. Improved grassland use. Feed crops. Harvesting and post-harvest storage aspects. Fodder crops.

Course 4. Livestock (90 hours) Animals in arid lands. Livestock systems. Carrying capacities of natural and reseeded grassland. Integration of nomadic livestock in other land-use systems. Range development planning. Livestock breeding programmes. Health aspects. Livestock takeoff rates. Marketing aspects. Problems of livestock around large irrigated crop production schemes. Overstocking problems. Improved husbandry methods.


Course 5. Planning and Evaluation (60 hours) Public policy analysis and decision-making process. Development strategies and land-use policies. Integrated rural development. Planning methods. Project targets and instruments. Project institutions. Project finding; feasibility studies; data collection. Accompanying evaluation. Criteria for evaluation. Cost-benefit analysis. Private and social profitability. Employment generation. Settlement schemes.

Course 6. Implementation (60 hours) Management and administrative principles.

Personnel and labour management. Budgeting and financial management. Time and risk factors involved. Central or decentralized management. Participation of the local population. Additional services and infrastructure. Implementation of specific projects, such as irrigation schemes. block grazing, etc. Self-interest of the participants.


Course 7. Social Impact (60 hours) Language, race, ethnic and stratification of social groups in arid areas. Demography. Political and religious geography. Methods of social investigation. Interlinks of economic and social, of urban and rural change. Impact of development projects on the population. Reaction of local people to control development programmes.

Course 8. Local Participation (60 hours) Theory and methods of political inquiry. Public and development administration. Public decision-making process. Conflicts and vested interests. Social actions. Institutions for self-help. Extension and community development. Methods to organize the local population for development programmes. Motivation incentives. Responsibilities and risks involved.


Course 9. Macro Economics (60 hours) International and national demand for products supplied by projects in arid land areas. Prices and price policies. Marketing structure. National and regional development plans. Statistical methods to collect additional data. GNP and balance of payments aspects in designing projects. Selection of appropriate technologies. Employment aspects. Multi- and bilateral aid programmes. Conditions of international funding.

Course 10. Micro Economics (60 hours) Principles of cost-benefit analysis. Costeffectiveness approach. Budgeting and financing. Investment decisions. Accounting and cash flow. Finance control and financial planning. Profit and loss account. Credit and securities. Income and cost distribution among project administration and local participants. Farm data collection.