...Redifining Journalism for Development

BREAKTHROUGH with Professor MK Othman: Agricultural Innovations: Sudanese National Agricultural Summit and Lessons for Nigeria


The Republic of Sudan or North Sudan is a country located in Northern Africa. A large country surrounded by seven other countries. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest. It is the third largest country in Africa with geographical area of 1,886,068 square kilometres. The White Nile flows through the country, emptying into Lake Nubia in the north, the largest man made lake in the world. The River Nile divides the country into eastern and western halves. South Sudan was part of Sudan until 2011 when they formally separated as two individual independent nations.
Sudan has many similarities with Nigeria especially the northern part of Nigeria. Largest river in the World, River Nile crisscrossed the country, which housed the confluence of White and Blue Niles at Khartoum, the Capital city of Sudan. Thus, the Blue and White Nile rivers meet in Khartoum to form the River Nile that flows northwards through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea. The Blue Nile’s course through Sudan is nearly 800 km long and is joined by the Dinder and Rahad Rivers between Sennar and Khartoum. The White Nile within Sudan has no significant tributaries. Similar to Nigeria, River Niger and Benue meet in Lokoja, the capital of Kogi state, one of the 36 states in Nigeria. Arabic and English are the official languages in Sudan but the population of Kanuri, Hausa and Fulani constitutes a significant percentage of the Sudan Population. The population of these three tribes makes about 10 million people out of the 39 million Sudan population. They are found in the country’s civil service, armed forces, business, and politics and provide the bulk of foods in Sudan, as they constitute the majority of Sudan farming sector. Nigeria is believed to be the origin of these tribes; Kanuri, Hausa and Fulani. The dry regions of Sudan are plagued by sandstorms, which sometimes can completely block out the sun. In the northern and western semi-desert areas, people rely on the scant rainfall for basic agriculture and many are nomadic, travelling with their herds of sheep and camels. Nearer the River Nile, there are well-irrigated farms growing cash crops. The sunshine duration is very high all over the country but especially in deserts where it could soar to over 4,000 h per year
Like Nigeria, period of rainy season in Sudan increases towards the south from the north. The central and the northern part have extremely dry desert areas such as the Nubian Desert to the northeast and the Bayuda Desert to the east; in the south there are swamps and rain-forest. Sudan’s rainy season lasts for about three months (July to September) in the north, and up to six months (June to November) in the south.
Similarly, Sudan and Nigeria are both former British colonies, while Sudan has the largest geographical area in Africa; Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. In terms of ethnic diversity, Nigeria has more than 500 different ethnic groups; Sudan is the second on the heterogeneity chart with about 400 ethno linguistic groups. Above all, in no two countries do the three political matrices of region, religion and ethnicity so totally underpin national politics like Nigeria and Sudan.
Similarities aside, Sudan undergone most turbulent political and socio-economic antecedents as a nation compared to Nigeria. From independence to date, there were civil wars, United Nation economic sanction and final disintegration or separation with South Sudan in 2011. The South Sudan acquired about 80% of the Sudan Petroleum, which severely effects the economic development of Sudan.In the years before South Sudan separation, there was rising oil revenue, the Sudanese economy was booming, with a growth rate of about nine percent in 2007 (Wikipedia). However, the separation of oil-rich South Sudan placed most major oilfields out of the Sudanese government’s direct control and oil production in Sudan fell from around 450,000 barrels per day to under 60,000 barrels per day. However, oil production was raised to around 250,000 barrels per day between 2014 and 2015 but with low price. In the face of oil low price at the International market and massive reduction of the oil quantity, Sudan has no option but to turn to agriculture for survival and economic development.
Today, agriculture is the mainstay of Sudan economy employing 80 percent of the workforce and contributing 39 percent of its GDP, despite adverse weather and other challenges associated with agriculture in developing countries. With the lifted economic sanction and Sudan’s enthusiasm to develop agriculture, the Sudan government organized a week National Agricultural Summit from 23rd to 29th March 2018. Nigeria was ably represented by a delegation led by the Honorable M. T. Monguno, Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture. The delegation comprises members of the private sector, Chief Executives of National Research Institutes (Crops, Livestock and Extension) and members of House Committee on agriculture.The Sudan agricultural realities and potentials were obtrusively displayed to the admiration of the participants of the Agricultural week.
The realities include the prominent roles of private sector in support and facilitation of agricultural development through mechanization and extension advisory services. In this regard, CTC group and Zedna International are on the lead. CTC Group is a leading multi-faceted conglomerate operating in Sudan across eight different sectors. CTC group, driven by ambitious entrepreneurial spirit domesticated some of the agricultural machinery produced by renowned manufacturers such as John Deere, Case Tractors, Suzuki, Tata, Syngenta and others. The machinery are being supplied to farmers with intensive capacity building for operation and maintenance. CTC is the leading agricultural inputs provider in Sudan as well as partakes in the production for technology demonstration and capacity building. They produce high quality fresh produce and crops for the local and export markets. CTC synchronizes with five-year government plan to transform Sudan traditional and labor-intensive agriculture to modern and mechanized agriculture with multiple outputs. It provides solutions to the Sudan diverse agriculture. The results were significantly encouraging. Evidence-based yield increase of various commodities between traditional methods of production and CTC promoted/improved methods were shown. There were yield increases for Sorghum by 5 folds, sesame, sunflower and cotton by 4 folds each. Mutwakil Haroun, a smallholder farmer won a national prize for a zenith target of obtaining ten-folds yield increase for sorghum using CTC technology. This translates to about yield of 5 tons per hectare against less than yield of one ton per hectare using traditional method. CTC has established a number of technology transfer centers in the major agricultural areas and production sites to facilitate the transfer of best practices to the farming communities of Sudan. The major motivation for CTC is the government’s patronage and their millions of clients (farmers). While farmers gain high profit margin through adoption of new technologies, government gain through increase of agricultural productivity for the nation and the CTC gains high profit margin and national influence. This is a case of “win-win situation”.
Zadna International Investment Co. Ltd is another private sector, which plays a significant role in promotion and facilitation of horticultural crops in Sudan. It has multi-millions US Dollar tissue-culture laboratory for the massive production of exotic, disease and virus – free seedlings for various horticultural crops. Zadna has the capacity to produce 4 million seedlings per year, which is much more than the national demands of seedling per period. To encourage farmers go into horticultural production, government provides a subsidy of 60% of the cost of each seedling purchased by farmers from Zadna. Attested by Dr Badreldin Elshiek Mohamed of Zadna “We receive much government support for agricultural and horticultural projects in Sudan. This allows us to invest in the cultivation and quality of our techniques. One hundred million US Dollar has been budgeted (by government) for the next five years.” (http://zadna-int.com/2017/08/22/sudan-government-invests-100-million-dollar-in-fresh-produce-cultivation/).
The strategy of Sudan Government to provide subsidy to the inputs supplier as in the case of Zadna is producing the desired results. This is because the seedlings production has tremendously increased over the years. CTC and Zadna are examples of government support to private sector for the development of Agriculture in Sudan. How are public owned research Institutes performing? What are the lessons to Nigeria from the Sudan National Agricultural Summit?
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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