WHERE WE WORK
Start Year: 1986
End Year: 1992
Country Program Director/Coordinator: Dr Ignacio Narvaez (1986-88); Dr Jose Antonio Valencia (1989-92)
History and Primary Activities:
Sudan was one of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that suffered from the severe famine during 1984. Across the continent, some 20 million people were threatened with starvation. In Sudan alone, thousands died, and many more left their homes in search of food, water and shelter, crossing international borders and crowding into refugee camps. Out of this disaster was born the Sasakawa-Global 2000 agricultural initiative to alleviate hunger and poverty.
The SG 2000 Sudan Program was launched in May 1986 with an initial emphasis on the improvement of sorghum and millet production during the summer season in both irrigated and rainfed zones. It did this primarily by training and supporting front-line extension professionals in the use of on-farm Production Test Plots (PTPs) as an effective tool for demonstrating new technologies. Once the extension officers had something tangible to offer, as well as the means of delivering it, they were able to perform their function well and, as a result, acquire greater credibility among client farmers.
The original plan had been to concentrate on improving rainfed production of sorghum and millet in the semi-arid areas. However, the lack of new technology that was significantly better than the traditional methods of production – and the resumption of civil war following the imposition of Islamic law throughout the nation, including the Christian south – had frustrated efforts to work in these drier areas. While there had been an intention to do some extension work on irrigated wheat production in the areas adjacent to the White and Blue Nile rivers, this was not considered the primary focus of the project.
However, the technology and security problems associated with mounting a field demonstration program in rainfed areas in western and southern Sudan were such that a change in plans was needed. In addition, the Mexican team of scientists Dr Borlaug had sent to the Sudan had all worked in the irrigated valleys of northwest Mexico, which was ecologically similar to the irrigated areas in Sudan. Moreover, the Mexican scientists were world experts in irrigated wheat production, and Sudan was seriously deficient in wheat production. Finally, the first irrigated wheat plots established in the 1986/87 season had shown that the proposed package of recommended practices could lead to a quantum jump in wheat yields. From 1986 to 1992, nearly 3,000 Sudanese farmers in the Khartoum region participated in the program.
The largest of the Sudanese irrigation schemes was the Gezira, developed originally by the British in the early 1900s to produce cotton. It had grown considerably, to more than 1 million hectares under irrigation. The land was owned by the government and the Gezira Board exercised considerable control over what was produced and how. The typical Gezira farmer had 20 hectares of land, and relied on tractors and combine harvesters for crop production. Cotton was the primary crop in the rotation, but wheat and other crops were also permitted. While certainly not rich by Industrial country standards, the Gezira farmers were quite wealthy by African standards. This was not seen as the prototype farmer client for SG 2000. Nevertheless, a decision was made to shift the emphasis to the irrigated areas until such time that it was safe to work in the rainfed areas of the south and west.
The SG 2000-Sudan wheat PTPs grown during 1987/88 provided solid evidence that average wheat yields in irrigated areas could be increased two- to three-fold through the application of improved production packages. The cost of the inputs needed to produce these higher yields required farmers to invest more in their operations (but less than 50% more), yet the added productivity resulted in farmers’ net income rising from about US$ 87/ha to over US$ 290/ha. With the 1989 harvest, enough seed of two high-yielding wheat varieties was available to plant 64,800 hectares in 1990, and the area sown to wheat continued to increase. One early discovery of the Global 2000 team was that the addition of phosphorus fertilizer (only nitrogen was being used) could result in the production of an additional 35 kg of wheat grain for each kg of phosphorus fertilizer that was applied.
Quality Protein Maize (QPM) was also introduced in Sudan. By the end of the program, QPM was being grown on 25,000 hectares.
The SAA Board decision in 1988 to close the SG 2000 Sudan Program was re-examined in 1989. While the program had faced various political and administrative frustrations with government offices in Khartoum, the wheat field demonstration program in the irrigated Gezira and adjacent irrigation schemes was expanding rapidly and achieving spectacular results. By the 1988/89, there were several hundred large demonstration areas, with yields two to three times greater than those normally attained by farmers. Large crowds were being attracted to the farmer field days. Based largely on the responsiveness to SG 2000-Sudan demonstrations, the Ministry of Agriculture decided not to discontinue wheat production by tenant farmers living in the irrigated districts.
Wheat production in Sudan increased from 157,000 tons in 1987 to 838,000 tons in 1992, more than a five-fold increase. This expansion was driven by the productivity improvements introduced by SG 2000-Sudan and its MOA extension colleagues. Average national yields over this period grew from 1.3 t/ha to 2.2 t/ha, a remarkable achievement. Government leaders at the time directly credited SG 2000-Sudan for the reversal in national wheat policy. The Program also demonstrated the potential of extension officers for serving as agents of change in food production.
While SG 2000-Sudan made significant progress, other variables came into play that limited longer-term success – not least the political and social unrest experienced by the country. The Program was closed in 1992.