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The Influence ofthe Gezira Scheme on Later Development Plans in the Sudan: The Breadbasket Strategy Anthony Cheeseboro Murray State University This essay will expand its horizons beyond the Sudan's Gezira Scheme, the world's largest irrigated agribusiness, and examine programs that were influenced by it. Specifically, under President Jafar Nimieri (1969-1983), the Sudan set out on an ambitious series of plans designed to tap the Sudan's agricultural potential and make the entire country a competitive exporter of agriculture products. In fact, the stated goal of Nimieri's plans was to make Sudan the "Breadbasket of the Arab World." Twenty years after these plans were first announced in 1969, they generally are regarded as failures. The objective of this essay is to place these projects within a historical context, and assess their basic feasibility. Throughout the 20th century, agricultural development in the Sudan has been dependent on irrigation. Northern Sudan is overwhelmingly desert, and it cannot be successfully farmed without irrigation, and large-scale irrigation requires extensive capital investment. The southern Sudan, although considerably more moist, presents a series of formidable problems also. Large portions of the south are swamp land, and some of its regions are subject to annual, periodic flooding. In addition to the capital needed for the preparation of the land, the Sudan requires major investments in transportation in order to move produce. For most of the 19th century, the Sudan was largely unconnected to the world economy. When the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium was first established in 1899, the Governor-General found himself in control of a territory that did not even come close to supporting itself.1 It was this©Northeast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 2, No. 1 (New Series) 1995, pp. 107-117 107 108 Anthony Cheeseboro kind of environment that led to active government participation in the development of the Gezira Scheme. From 1930 to 1960, the success of the Gezira Scheme in establishing cotton as the major cash crop in the Sudan essentially set the blueprint for agricultural development in Sudan. The basic concept was that the government may or may not participate in a given scheme, but it would play a major role in facilitating development through irrigation and infrastructural development. Also the government of Sudan has consistently worked to alienate land from the small-scale producers to make it available to large commercial farmers. Viewing the historical role of the government in 20-century Sudan, Nimieri's programs of expansion can be seen as the culmination of the plans of expansion first laid down in 1946, and defined as a FiveYear Plan.2 This plan clearly emphasized increasing the country's capacity for commercial agriculture through the development of the northwest extension of the Gezira and the building of a number of separate schemes. The plan also aimed to improve rail lines, in order to better move produce from farmland to port. During the 1950s, the trend toward expansion continued with the commencement of the Managil southwest extension and the reaching of the Nile Waters agreement in 1959, which paved the way toward the construction of the Roseires dam. Although attempts at agricultural expansion under Nimieri had historical antecedents dating to the beginning of the Condominium era, there were substantial differences between the projects of the 1970s and those first envisioned during the 1940s and 1950s. The earlier expansion was designed to fit Sudan into the economic system of the British empire as an exporter of tropical goods useful to métropole industries. The "Breadbasket" projects of the 1970s, however, sought to attach Sudan not to developed western economies, but to those of neighboring, Arab petroleum-exporting nations. Furthermore, instead of producing uniquely tropical crops, the new projects sought to place Sudan in direct competition with such established agricultural giants as the United States, Canada, and Australia by making the country a viable source of grains, cattle, and sheep. When the "Breadbasket" strategy was first conceived, there were good reasons to believe that it had a good chance of success. First of all, The Influence ofthe Gezira Scheme on Later Development Plans 109 the Yom Kippur war and resulting oil boycott had resulted in strained relations between...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-6574
Print ISSN
0740-9133
Pages
pp. 107-117
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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