By: Al-Hidai Ahmed
Development experts attempts are focusing on re-emerge Sudan in the economic scene, as a lifeline in the quest of Arab countries to achieve food security, despite its political challenges at time the world fights for hegemony over water and food resources.
Sudan arable land estimated of 170 million acre was viewed by development experts as one true hidden gem that holds the potential becoming breadbasket for Africa and Middle East. Its fertile land enjoy sufficient access to blue and white Nile which an ideal form of irrigation besides the adequate rainfall. This characteristic of fertile land and the sufficient waters convinced the United Nations Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2009 to consider Sudan among others (Australia and Canada) as future breadbasket of the global. Experts in addition to (FAO) believe that it is high time for Sudan to rise again as one of practical solutions to address food security problem, in the world and Middle East. FAO stresses that the war in Ukraine has exacerbated an already difficult situation, resulting in an increase in the population suffering from chronic food shortages by about 13 million this year (2023).
Achieving food security in a country depends on maintaining sufficiency food and then exports the surplus to others. The achievement of sustainable food in Sudan needs using modern technologies in cultivation and harvesting processes, commented development experts. But the question is how and when? Director General of FAO Mr. Qu Denyu, told media that the international community needs to implement a package of measures that include investing in countries most in need and affected by high food prices.
Back to the question of how and when, African Trade Alliance over its Blog in August 12, 2020, noted that Sudan signed a four-year partnership with FAO, worth US$ 72 million, aimed at providing enabling policy, institutional environment for Food security and nutrition, sustaining agriculture, natural resource management and managing disaster risk to bring Sudan a step closer to ideal investment hub. Sudan has begun exploring the know-how of advanced agricultural technologies and grass root solutions aimed at boosting its crop production and livestock farming, emphasized the Blog. Its rich land accounts for 45% of the total cultivatable land in the Arab world coupled with its massive land, Sudan is the home to over 110 million heads of livestock (Cattle, goats, sheep and camels), which made it a center for 10 digit investments by Gulf countries and a major contributor in the regional livestock market. Its diverse climate and surrounding tributaries are contributing factors to its vast array of crop varieties including cereal grains, groundnuts, sugarcane, millet, sorghum, vegetables, and fruits (mangoes, lemons, oranges and grapefruits). The Nile River and Red Sea also provide Sudan with an under-utilized foothold in the fishing industry with an estimated fish reserve of 110,000 tons. Sudan’s agricultural and livestock account for approximately 90% of its overall exports, backed with its dominating position as one of the top 5 producers of groundnuts and sesame globally, along with its famous Gedarif sesame taking the lead of brand and worldwide quality.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr. Jibril Ibrahim confirmed in a meeting with the Higher Committee of the Sudan Initiative for Arab Food Security, October 2022, that Sudan is keen to provide the necessary support for the implementation of the Sudan Food Security Initiative. In a statement he made in October last year, Jibril stressed the need to confirm the Sudanese initiative through the recent Arab summit, hosted in Algeria, by applying it on the ground, and setting appropriate mechanisms for this initiative. He explained that the Sudanese initiative had been approved since 2013 at the Arab Summit hosted by Doha, calling for strengthening efforts for the revival of the initiative and its implementation on the ground. Former Director of Al-Rahad Agricultural Project (one of the largest Agricultural project in central Sudan) , Mohamed Al-Sebaei, believes that food security is an initiative which could be led by grass root in the first place and not the government. This idea of grass root leadership was reaffirmed by of the Head of Department for International Development (DFID) Sudan office Dr. Louise Walker. Dr. Walker told local press that there is a need for helping communities improve their prospects as an important element. She said better agriculture practices can mean a small plot of land which can produce enough food for surpluses to be sold and delivered to the market for income. To this point Al-Sebaei suggested that the big number of the Sudanese Agriculturists could take the lead in collaboration with Media and spread the awareness among the people particularly families and encourage them take advantage of the vacant areas in houses and grow vegetables, fruits to achieve self-sufficiency, stressing that the Initiative could be expanded further to include the involvement of the whole society and the government and maximizes agriculture. If his suggestion becomes true, Al-Sebaei said Sudan would no longer need an oil or gold except for very limited purpose of assisting the national economy.
Most of the 18 states of Sudan are considered potential agricultural areas according to a report featured out by Sudan News Agency among which are: the White Nile state which hosts a number of projects that need rehabilitation and review, in addition to the presence of more than 700,000 acres north and south of the state suitable for agriculture and animal production: Al Gash project near the Red Sea as one of an important promising projects to achieve food security covers an area of 400,000 acres and is characterized by the highest productivity in the world and it depends on spate irrigation: Abu Habel project in western Sudan engaged an area of more than 200,000 acres also depends on spate irrigation: The Gezira in central Sudan, represents the first line of defense in securing food, it produces wheat and corn on an area of 2.2 million acres . The Governor of the Gezira scheme Dr. Omar Marzouq, says that the scheme contributes 30 percent of Sudan’s total need: Wadi Al-Hawad, one of the largest valleys that cross through the Butana plain from east to west in central-eastern Sudan, and its ends at the main Nile stream.
Agriculturalists noted that despite the huge potential of the agricultural sector in Sudan, the actual utilization of agricultural lands remains small. It is only about 31% of the total agricultural area, and traditional farming methods are still used in Sudan. This leads to a decrease in the productivity of an acre in most commodities argued the agriculturists. The Director General of the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Dakhiri, confirmed that the Nouakchott Declaration for Arab Food Security, which was recently launched by the Arab Ministers of Agriculture, aims to address the repercussions resulting from the effects of the Ukrainian-Russian war, the Coronavirus pandemic and climate changes, noting that Sudan is one of the largest countries benefiting from Arab food security projects. He added and that the Arab strategy is determined on the presence of natural resources and water sources that are available in Sudan.
During a workshop held in Khartoum in September 2022, on Arab agricultural integration and its role in achieving sustainable food security the worship called on Arab countries to work to exploit the available opportunities and increase their agricultural investments in Sudan in a way that contributes to achieving sustainable Arab food security.