UNEP along FAO, ICRAF and a number of Sudanese NGOs and institutes describe how and why the agricultural sectors in Sudan were gradually degraded and moved rapidly towards more or less total collapse because of environment over-taxation. Since the introduction of mechanization of rain-fed agriculture by the British in 1944 several negative impacts, due to lack of control and planning, were piled up during the last half of the 20th century. This has caused large-scale destruction of environment and triggered severe negative impacts in other sectors as well. The traditional and mechanized agriculture account for 55 and 45 percent respectively of the rain-fed cultivated area. The importance of the irrigated sub-sector is reflected in the fact that while it makes up only 7 percent of the cultivated area, it accounts for more than half of the crop yields. However, irrigated land has own problems. Rapid, uncontrolled privatization, random investment and failure to couple education and research to market and society needs are major causes.
Management of land-water resources in Africa is IMPERATIVE. However, past experiences show not only major failure but the great threats of the blind and random implementation of imported technologies, e.g. Sudan where its cultivable land is about 42 percent with frequent claims that it is the potential ‘breadbasket’ of Africa and Middle East. Agriculture, the largest economic sector in Sudan, became the heart of some of the country’s most serious environmental problems: wide-range of land degradation, riverbank erosion, invasive species, pesticide mismanagement, water pollution and canal sedimentation. Also rangeland’s vulnerability to overgrazing is high and its overlap with cultivation is a major source of potential conflict. The significance of these threats cannot be underestimated: not only are 15 percent of the population partly or wholly dependent on imported food aid, but the population is growing, per hectare crop yields are declining and the enhanced competition over scarce agricultural resources.
The agricultural sector in Sudan is the main source of sustained growth and backbone of Sudan’s economy. Unfortunately, the sector’s economic stake is declining more and more with the emergence of the oil industry. Sudan continues to depend heavily on agriculture, whose share fluctuates around 40 percent of the GDP. The crop and livestock sub-sectors together contribute 80 to 90 percent of non-oil export earnings. With these trends the country will face more unemployment and famine as fifty-eight percent of the active workforce is employed in agriculture and 83 percent of the population depends on farming for its livelihood.
Global warming adds new threats as the agricultural sector in Sudan is highly vulnerable to shortages in rainfall and there has been substantial decline in precipitation and climate change models predict that this trend will continue. Without major action to stop the wave of de-gradation and restore land productivity, the natural resource base will continue to shrink, even as demand grows. Resolving this issue is thus central to achieving lasting peace and food security.