(United Nations Environment) - Introduction: The country of Sudan is a part of the Sahelian belt, which stretches from the Red Sea
on the east to the Atlantic Ocean on the west. Due to its vicinity to the Sahara, Sudan experiences irregular rainfall and occasional periods of severe drought. While Sudan has been subject to these environmental conditions from time immemorial, the socio-economic conditions of the country have greatly changed over the last 50 years.
Sudan has experienced a dramatic increase in human population, with six- to eightfold growth since the 1950s in some regions. Urbanisation has significantly impacted––both positively and negatively––the people, the economy and the environment of Sudan. One of the negative changes, observed in the 1980s, was deforestation and land degradation, particularly in the vicinity of urban areas. In response, a major project––the FAO/Rawashda Fuelwood Project, whose aim was to develop productive and sustainable forest management strategies and practices––was implemented in the 1980s in Rawashda forest reserve, located in Gedarif State. At that time, fuelwood production was seen as the key issue in sustainable environmental management throughout Africa.
The Rawashda project involved a great deal of technical research to develop a forest management plan, and it strongly influenced forest reserve management approaches in Sudan at the time. Yet, by the end of the project in 1987, many observers found the plan far too complex for local communities to take on and maintain.
A key lesson learned from the Rawashda project is the importance of involving local communities throughout the design, implementation and duration of such projects. Local communities affected by the project felt they were only involved at the last moment, in an attempt to secure their participation, so that hey would not obstruct forest management efforts. The project offered limited rights to local people at the end of the project, and it became clear that this was not very successful. One reason the project was not locally accepted is that the communities felt that the reserved forest was theirs and that it was taken from them when the forest reserve was gazetted.
The Rawashda project was a source of inspiration for the Natural Forest Management Project (NFMP) in El Ain, North Kordofan. The Forest National Corporation (FNC) and SOS Sahel UK implemented NFMP in 1989, by the time the Rawashda project was phased out. NFMP learned from weaknesses identified in the Rawashda approach. NFMP took into account, from the project’s outset, the people and natural resources
In the 'buffer zone' around the El Ain gazetted forest. Although productive and sustainable management of the gazetted forest was the essential objective in the first phase, management of ‘village forests’ (also known as ‘community forests’, CFs) in the buffer zone was another early objective.
Three years later, in 1992, the NFMP concentrated on the community forests in the buffer zone. The results were the gazettement of community forests and sustainable management by the communities, as defined in the 1986 Forests Act. By the time the project ended in 2001, the NFMP registered 14 community forests in El Ain; it had also diversified its approach and supported other aspects of natural resource management, such as livestock corridors, water points and conflict management between farmers and pastoralists.
Since 2001, many researchers have visited the communities supported by NFMP, and numerous reports have been written, although none have been widely published. Ministers and many other officials also have visited the El Ain communities. Awards offered to villages show that the project impact has been appreciated. The annual FNC national conferences repeatedly mention the need to draw on the experiences gained in El Ain for wide application in Sudan.
A different forest management project was implemented in the 1980s and 1990s in Darfur. The Jebel Marra Rural Development Project (JMRDP) supported government forest reserve management and community forest management. Project support to gazetted forests was eventually phased out for several reasons, such as recurrent fires, and community forest management transformed into farm forestry because farmers were interested in individual rather than communal forestry activities.
Although the El Ain experience is based upon community resource management and the Jebel Marra experience is based upon farmers managing their own forests, both cases involve local people asserting ownership rights over land and related natural resources, and managing those resources sustainably. In both cases, sustainable natural resource management has lasted more than 10 to 15 years after the projects were completed.
In 2014, the FNC, SOS Sahel and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) decided to publish a comprehensive document on lessons learned from the El Ain and Jebel Marra experiences. The starting point was project evaluation reports and other project documents. Six master’s and doctoral theses were written based upon research performed in the El Ain area after the NFMP was terminated. While some theses focused on specific themes, such as micro-catchments or the role of pastoralists, others were broadly oriented around natural resource management. In 2013, two consultants documented the SOS Sahel experience since 1989.
With respect to the El Ain experience, the present publication is largely based on 2014 field research conducted in six villages by a team of two researchers (one of who is female). Based on the results of this research, a second research team focused on outstanding research issues in three of those villages. The members of the second team had been involved in project implementation in the 1990s, so they could draw on memory. Photos taken in 1997 were still available, and photos were retaken in 2014 to draw comparisons.
In the case of the Jebel Marra experience, the UNEP scanning project recovered a large number of JMRDP reports from the 1980s and 1990s. The documents were scanned and made available to interested Sudanese institutions. Some Jebel Marra research documents, including theses, were also available. Due to the Darfur conflict, data post 2003 is limited.
FNC/SOS Sahel/UNEP sent two researchers to Zalingei and Nyrtete for data collection in accessible areas. In all, 34 farmers (including 7 women) with woodlots were interviewed, out of the 92 men and 45 women farm foresters traced during the research. One of the researchers was a woman; she was specifically responsible for interacting with female farm foresters.
Five field research documents are available for the present publication:
1. Dr. Elamin Sanjak. Lessons Learned Project NFMP. 2014.
2. Dr. Sawsan Khair Elsied Abdel Rahim. Gender dimension: NFMP lessons learned. 2014.
3. Dr. Adam Khamis. Sustainable forest management by local communities and farmers in Sudan: A review of experiences gained through JMRDP intervention since the 1980s. April 2014.
4. In a separate note: Women and private forests in Central Darfur. May 2014.
5. Dr. Faiza Siddig Mohamed Ahmed. Community based Natural Forests Management in Sudan: Lessons learnt from the El Ain Natural Forests Management Project (NFMP); Second Stage of the Field Research. May 2014.
The research has been constrained by deadlines, administrative bottlenecks and security regulations. It is evident that more resources and research are welcome to better understand the complex socio-economic and environmental issues, particularly in a conflict situation. In spite of the limitations, the team feels that a profound understanding has been acquired through literature review and research. Two workshops have been held to scrutinize the conclusions and recommendations, both from the perspective of practitioners (in Kordofan and Darfur) and of researchers and decision makers (in Khartoum). This document is the outcome of the process and is available in Arabic and English.
This report provides important lessons learned from community natural resource management and farm
forestry in Sudan, and includes resources such as water and rangeland. It does not cover the experiences of gum Arabic production, community environmental action plans and management of buffer zones of national parks, such as Dindir National Park. The report is not a compendium of all Sudanese community forestry experiences, but it does provide an important contribution. The conclusions and recommendations can be read as the report summary.
North Kordofan State has an arid to semi-arid climate with high temperatures and rains less than 50 millimetres (mm)/year in the north to 400 mm/year in the south. Rainfall is highly variable, with occasional droughts, most recently occurring between 1983 and 1991, and again from 1995 to 1997. Since 2006, the rainfall average has been high. Graph 1 shows the variability of annual rainfall for El Obeid, capital of North Kordofan State and the study area.
The total population of North Kordofan State was 1.94 million in 1993 (according to that year’s census) and 2.42 million by 2007. The population of El Obeid has grown by 280 per cent, from 90,000 in 1973 to 345,000 in 2008. This growth impacts natural resources; in particular, a large amount of woodfuel is needed to satisfy demand in El Obeid. The El Ain forest reserve, east of the town, was gazetted in the 1950s with the aim to supply woodfuel to El Obeid. Population growth in El Ain rural areas has been variable, but in some villages the number of households has grown by 400 to 500 per cent since the 1960s.
More recently, the conflict in South Kordofan State has increased population pressure to the north. Alrahad (southeast of the study area, see map 1) had a population of 28,000 in the 1990s, which has grown to almost 100,000 people by 2014, a number that includes internally displaced persons (IDPs). Most of the IDPs are herders of Arabic origin, who are in conflict with Nuba tribes.
Much of North Kordofan State falls in the semi-desert zone, where A. tortillis (Seyal), A. mellifera (Kitr) and Maerua crassifolia (Sarah) dominate. Southward, vegetation gives way to Leptadinia pyrotechnica (Marikh), Acacia senegal (Hashab) and others. Nomadic pastoralism in North Kordofan State is characterized by the Abbala camel and sheep herders and the Baggara cattle herders. Local culture and customary land rights determine land tenure; however, foreign investors have appropriated a significant amount of land.
Support of the El Ain forest reserve
The El Ain forest reserve covers about 19,000 hectares. The soils are mostly heavy Gardud and light Goz. In 1989, when NFMP began, the buffer zone around the forest reserve was thought to include approximately 24 villages, with a combined population of 7,000. Much of the land is in Sheikan Province, which is considered Bederia tribal land, but the settled population is from many different ethnic origins. Furthermore, pastoralists move through the forest reserve and the buffer zone during their annual north south migration.
NF MP started with a great deal of research into the forest ecology of the study area and with options for reforestation. The survival rates and growth of the existing natural forest was one of the project’s areas of focus. Initial research showed that there was significant dieback in the Kitr vegetation, which is widespread in the forest reserve and buffer zones. Kitr had 20 to 25 per cent mortality rates in some plots, affecting both young and mature trees. The dieback was thought to be the consequence of the very low rainfall between 1989 and 1991. NFMP staff was not particularly concerned this would affect the future of the project: successive periods of poor rainfall followed by good rainfall had always occurred in the area. Kitr productivity had been little studied in Sudan or abroad; therefore, the research was considered useful.
The heavy Gardud soils typically have a high water runoff, up to 98 per cent of the rainfall, particularly on denuded slopes. Much work was therefore needed to improve the efficiency of different micro-catchment
systems. Micro-catchments of various sizes were analysed, identifying the impact of catchment size on tree survival and growth, hay production and cost. The results favoured the larger catchments (ten by ten metres). Unsurprisingly, there were uncertainties, and more research was considered necessary.
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