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1.1 Introduction

Sudan is in northeast Africa and shares borders with seven countries – Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya and South Sudan (Figure 1.1). It covers 1.88 million km2, making it the third largest country in Africa after Algeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Before the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which reduced Sudan’s size by 24.7 per cent, the country was the largest in Africa.

Sudan lies between latitudes 10-22o North and longitudes 22-38o East. Its landscape consists of gentle plains dotted with hills and mountains, including the Jebel Marra volcanic massif, the Nuba hills in South Kordofan, the Ingessana hills in Blue Nile state and the Red Sea Hills near the border with Egypt (World Atlas 2017). The country borders the Red Sea with a continental coastline of about 853 km, including embayments and inlets (FAO 2019) – the coastline contains sheltered bays (marsas), which provide natural harbours and places to land fish, and lagoons fringed by mangrove forests (Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Physical Development 2013).

Figure 1.1: Sudan in Africa

The country is divided into five ecological zones defined by the amount and pattern of rainfall and by the dominant vegetation type, as shown in Table 1.1. Average annual rainfall varies considerably across the country, from nil in the desert and semi-desert of the north to more than 800 mm in the south (Mohamed et al. 2014). Within these ecological zones there are five different soil types: desert soils (sands and gravel), Goz soils (sands), alkaline catena soils, alluvial soils and lacustrine soils. These soil types are further detailed in chapter 4.

Table 1.1: Ecologial zones of Sudan

Annual Rainfall (mm) % (Area of Sudan) Area ( Ecological zone Aridity Zone
< 20 41.2 776,000 Desert Hyper-arid
20-100 33.5 630,000 Semi-desert Arid
100-300 18.1 340,000 Grassland Savanna Semi-arid
300-500 3.4 65,000 Low Rainfall Woodland Savanna Dry sub-arid
500-800 3.7 70,000 High Rainfall Woodland Savanna Sub-tropic
100 1,881,000 Total

Source: Mohamed et al. 2014

Sudan’s economy has contracted in recent years due in part to falling oil revenues after the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which resulted in the country losing 75 per cent of its oil resources (IFAD 2013). Sudan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell from 96.742 billion USD in 2015 to 30.873 Billion USD in 2019 (World Bank 2019). Inflation rose from 11.2 per cent in 2009 to 35.6 per cent in 2012 , almost doubling to 63.3 per cent in 2018 before soaring to 81.3 per cent in 2020 (Statista 2020). Over the long-term, economic sanctions imposed on Sudan by the United States of America from 1997 until 2017 have impaired social development and devalued the local currency (FAO 2018).

Many of Sudan’s ecological assets such as forests and rangelands are threatened by environmental degeneration. As much as 50.7 per cent of the landscape is bare soil or seriously degraded (FAO 2012, Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Physical Development 2013). The country is seriously affected by deforestation, biodiversity loss, reduced rangeland carrying capacity, pollution and increased incidence of environment related diseases. The problems are exacerbated by inadequate environmental policies and laws, poor enforcement, a lack of coordination among institutions and government departments, a low level of environmental public awareness, inadequate technology and weak resource management.

This chapter describes the environmental situation in Sudan and considers the pressures that are impacting its natural resources.


1.2 Environmental Governance

Sudan is a federal nation divided into 18 states (Ministry of Information 2018): Al Bahr al Ahmar (Red Sea), Al Jazirah (Gezira), Al Khurtum (Khartoum), Al Gadarif (Gedaref), An Nil al-Abyad (White Nile), An Nil al-Azraq (Blue Nile), Sennar (Sennar), Ash Shamaliyah (Northern), Kassala (Kassala), Nahr an Nil (River Nile), Sharq Darfur (East Darfur), Shimal Darfur (North Darfur), Gharb Darfur (West Darfur), Janub Darfur (South Darfur), Wasat Darfur (Central Darfur), Gharb Kurdufan (West Kordofan), Janub Kurdufan (South Kordofan) and Shimal Kurdufan (North Kordofan) (Figure 1.2).

Sudan’s system of governance was established by the Interim National Constitution of 2005. The Constitution reflects the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the central government in Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which was signed in January that year. Among its many provisions, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement devolved certain decision-making powers from the national level to the states. It defined several levels of authority. At state level the highest office is the governor (Wali), who is supported by ministers. The second tier is the locality, which is headed by the commissioner (Mo’tamad) and supported by the executive director and related committees. The third tier is the administrative units, each headed by an administrative officer and assisted by various committees. Beneath this are the neighbourhood councils in the urban areas and the village councils in the rural areas.

Most environmental laws are based on the Environment Protection Act 2001, which provides controls and guidelines and gives the states the right to establish environmental councils and to set policies and laws (Ministry of Environment and Physical Development 2001).


Figure 1.2: Sudan states (GRID Arendal 2019)

Other acts provide protection for natural resources. Sudan has also signed and ratified most multilateral environmental agreements and abides by the requirements of investors such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, and major donors such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Physical Development was established in 2001 and derived its mandate from the Environment Protection Act 2001. At the time, the Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources (HCENR) was the ministry’s technical arm and was responsible for coordinating policy for all sectors that have a role in the protection of the environment or the use of natural resources. HCENR also managed all the multilateral environmental agreements.

In September 2018, a presidential decree abolished the environment ministry and replaced it with the National Council for the Environment while still retaining the HCENR. On 30 April 2020 the Transitional Supreme Council endorsed amendments to the Environment Protection Act 2001 that established a new Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources (Republic of Sudan 2020).

1.3 Secession of South Sudan

Since Sudan gained independence from British colonial rule in 1956, the country has had few extended periods of peace. In 2005, in an attempt to end more than 20 years of civil war, the government entered peace talks with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The talks culminated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the establishment of an Interim National Constitution and a unity government later that year. In January 2011, the people of the south voted in a referendum to secede from Sudan, resulting in the birth of South Sudan on 9 July that year. This was a turning point in the history of Sudan.

The secession of South Sudan had a significant impact on Sudan’s economic growth, inflation and employment opportunities. Oil revenues, which accounted for about 80 per cent of exports and 30 per cent of total government revenues, declined sharply. Official sources estimated that the secession cost Sudan 75 per cent of its oil production, 50 per cent of budget revenues, more than 65 per cent of foreign exchange revenues and 80 per cent of total exports. As a result, the real GDP growth which has been on the decline since the onset of the global financial and economic crisis in 2007, declined from 5 per cent in 2010 to 2.5 per cent and 1.4 per cent in 2011 and 2012, respectively (Tahir 2013).

These economic shocks were accompanied by a deterioration in the value of the Sudanese pound and rising inflation and unemployment rates.

As a result of South Sudan’s secession, Sudan lost 25 per cent (619,745 km²) of its total land area, including 68 per cent of its forest and woodland areas and 47 per cent of its wildlife reserves and protected areas. The proportion of land classified as arid increased from 65 per cent to 90 per cent. More critically, while the livestock population fell by only 28 per cent to 104 million head, the natural rangeland resources, on which livestock depends, fell by 40 per cent (Abdel Magid and Warrag 2011). The decrease in the availability of rangeland is a potential cause of conflict between tribes along the border separating the two countries.

All this had a damaging effect on the living standards of the Sudanese people. To mitigate this, in 2011 the government initiated a three-year economic recovery programme called the Three-Year Economic Salvation Programme (2012-2014). The programme was aimed at restructuring the general budget and rectifying the overall deficit of the budget and its expected effect on the socio-economic situation that evolved due to the secession of South Sudan. The objectives of the programme were to: (i) increase tax collection and rationalize spending; (ii) mobilize and tap productive sectors capacities to bridge the gap in major basic commodities; (iii) activate human resources and reduce unemployment rate; and (iv) increase foreign private sector investments (FAO 2015).

In December 2013, war broke out in South Sudan and spread throughout the country. This seriously affected Sudan’s oil distribution infrastructure and the flow of goods between the two countries. Thousands of South Sudanese fled to Sudan for food and shelter, and in some areas in the states of White Nile, West Kordofan and South Kordofan they outnumbered the local inhabitants. The number of South Sudanese in Sudan reached 65,055 in 2015 and exceeded 852,000 in 2016, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR 2018).

1.4 Demographic characteristics

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) the population of Sudan in 2011 was estimated at 44.4 million, but this declined by 23.5 per cent to 33.98 million following the cesassion of South Sudan (Central Bureau of Statistics 2018). In 2018 the country’s population had expanded to 42 million, and is estimated to grow to 57.3 million by 2030 (Central Bureau of Statistics 2018). The annual population growth rate is 2.4 per cent, and the 2008 census found that there are 5.2 births per woman (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning 2016). The Central Bureau of Statistics and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Sudan estimated the level of infant mortality at about 52 infant deaths per 1000 live births, though there are extreme variations among the states of Sudan (Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF 2016). For example, infant mortality is 116 per 1,000 live births in Red Sea, while it is 43 per 1,000 live births in Gezira. Maternal mortality for Sudan is estimated at 215.6 deaths per 100,000 births (Central Bureau of Statistics 2018).

The average household size in Sudan is 5.7 people persons. The country is considered a sparsely populated country with an average population density of 24 persons per square kilometre (Central Bureau of Statistics 2018). However, in the wetter and agriculturally rich regions, especially along the River Nile, population densities tend to be much higher. Table 1.2 shows selected demographic and socioeconomic indicators for the country.

Table 1.2: Selected Demographic and Social Indicators (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning 2016)

Demographic Indicators Value
Population growth rate (2008) 2.4
Urban population (% of total pop.) (2016) 36.0
Population aged 5-24 (% of total pop.) (2008) 47.38
Population under 15 years of age (% of total pop.) (2008) 42.6
Population under 5 years of age (% of total pop.) (2008) 14.9
Population aged 60 or more (% of total pop.) (2008) 5.20
Life expectancy at birth (2008) 61.8
Dependency ratio (household survey) (2011) 80.3
Prevalence of children below age 5 who are underweight (2014) 33.5
Infant mortality rate (per 1000 live births) (2014) 52.0
Mortality rate in children under age 5 (per 1000 live births) (2014) Northern states i.e. post secession 68.0
Maternal mortality rate (per 100,000 births) (2010) 215.6
Total fertility rate (2008) 5.2
Women aged 15-49 who have ever heard of HIV/AIDS (%) (2010) 74.8
Women-headed households (% of total households) (2008) 28.6
Average household size (persons) (2008) 5.70
Population below the national poverty line (%) (2009) 46.50

The population of Sudan is young. Children under the age of 15 years comprise 42.60 per cent of the total population, whereas youth aged between 5 and 24 years old comprise 47.38 per cent of the total population. This reflects a high dependency ratio. Those aged 60 and above represent 5.2 per cent of the total population. At 61.8 years, life expectancy is relatively short in Sudan (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning 2016).

As a result of the influx of internal migrants from rural areas fleeing an episode of drought and famine in 1983 and the war in the south of the country and in Darfur at the turn of the century, Sudan’s urban population has grown rapidly since the 1980s. In 2016, Sudan’s urban population represented almost 36 per cent of its total population (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning 2016).

Figure 1.3 shows population expansion between 2011 and 2018. Figure 1.4 shows the projected population between 2020 and 2030 by gender (Central Bureau of Statistics 2018). Figure 1.5 shows population distribution by state.

Figure 1.3: Population of Sudan between 2011 and 2018 (Central Bureau of Statistics 2018)

Figure 1.4: Projected population of Sudan by gender between 2020 and 2030 (Central Bureau of Statistics 2018)

Figure 1.5: Projected population of Sudan by state between 2016 and 2020 (Central Bureau of Statistics 2018)

Agriculture is the mainstay of the national economy with about 80 per cent of the work force engaged in crop and animal production (Mahgoub 2014).

Sudan’s most densely populated states are Khartoum, Gezira and Southern Darfur, while the least densely populated states are North, Central and West Darfur, and River Nile (Figure 1.5). The states with large agricultural lands – covering about 17 million hectares out of the total agricultural area of 24 million hectares – are North Kordofan, Gedaref, Sennar, South Darfur, Gezira and White Nile (FAO 2012).

The rapid population growth in Sudan is affecting the development of the country, and may be considered a serious threat to the environment. Rapid population growth increases social and economic problems such as unemployment, poverty and poor health. Moreover, in conditions of environmental degradation such as desertification, rapid population growth makes the alleviation of poverty more difficult and the reduction of unemployment among young people almost impossible. At current rates, the population of Sudan will double every 20 to 23 years (Central Bureau of Statistics 2008). Fertility rates are high in Sudan, estimated at 5.2 births per woman (Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF 2016), although this is said to be declining.

There is much disparity in population growth between states. Khartoum is growing fastest, while Northern and River Nile states, which tend to be labour exporters, have the lowest rates of population growth (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning 2016). As well as the internal movement of people from rural areas to Khartoum and the central regions, Sudan receives a lot of migrants from outside. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sudan houses over one million refugees and asylum seekers from many countries such as South Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritriea, Syria and Yemen (UNHCR 2019).

1.5 Ethnic and Cultural Diversity

Sudan is a country with a multitude of geographical and environmental features. This gave rise to a population of diverse ethnic groups (UNEP 2007). Some reports suggest that Sudan has about 300 tribes and 100 dialects (Ateem 2007). There are eight main tribal groups: 39 per cent claim an Arab descent, 30 per cent are of African origin, 12 per cent are Bejja, 15 per cent are Nubian and 4 per cent are from other origins. Some populous tribal groups include:

  • Nubian tribes in the far North
  • Arab tribes in Central Sudan, Kordofan and Darfur
  • Beja tribes in Eastern Sudan
  • Mapan and Angassana tribes in Southern Blue Nile
  • Nubian tribes in South Kordofan

Just over half of the population speaks Arabic and 49 per cent speak other languages and dialects (Ahmed 2016). As regards faith, 70 per cent of the Sudanese people embrace Islam, 10 per cent are Christians and 20 per cent adhere to African creeds (Ahmed 2007).

Historically, ethnic groups that lived close to each other were in constant competition for resources, which resulted in occasional conflicts over cattle and grazing land, particularly between pastoral communities such as the Baggara and Abbala (camel owners) and sedentary farmers. However, these conflicts were limited, since traditional mechanisms existed to resolve them, and neighbouring tribal groups usually inter-married, ensuring a relatively peaceful and harmonious co-existence.

The decision-making processes at village level were controlled by the traditional leadership. Village heads and elders solved problems and ran the affairs of the village. The decisions taken by the village head and elders were respected by all. Currently, conflicts are solved by both the traditional leaders and Village Popular Committees (Tubiana et al. 2012). Although the role of tribal chiefs is fading, they represent part of the Native Administration and are significant players in rural areas such as in Darfur, mainly in conflict resolution (Tubiana et al. 2012).

The dominant form of administration introduced by the colonial regime in 1928 was the tribal leaders and the chiefs’ courts (Local Government Acts 1928). The members of the chiefs’ courts were tribal representatives and followed the general organizational structure of each tribe. The chiefs’ courts were responsible for justice and other obligations of government such as the collection of taxes. They were also in charge of resolving inter-tribal conflicts. Today, traditional leaders play important roles in environmental conservation, enforcing local customs that protect the environment, implementing statutory laws to safeguard natural resources such as forests and rangelands, and planning areas for farming, animal corridors and fire guards (UNEP 2012).

1.6 Population Mobility

Big agricultural development projects such as the Gezira irrigation scheme have resulted in large population movements in Sudan. Agricultural development policies have been geared towards attracting more people to the large-scale agricultural operations in the irrigated and fertile areas and encouraging them to settle (Craig 1991).

The transformation from nomadic to sedentary life and improvements in income and standards of living have led the pastoralists to a more settled type of life. At the same time, the increase in formal employment has led to urban growth and to the expansion of health and education services (Humanitarian Policy Group 2011). While only 29.8 per cent of the population was considered urban in 2008, about 36 per cent of Sudan’s population now lives in urban areas (Central Bureau of Statistics 2018). Overall, Sudan is experiencing a major demographic shift. Its population is increasingly a young and urbanized one.

1.7 Health and Environment

Malaria is the most significant public health concern in Sudan. While the prevalence of the disease declined from 7.5 million reported cases in 1990 to 2.3 million in 2009, the numbers are still high (Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF 2016).


The public expenditure on health is 8.4 per cent of total GDP (Index Mundi 2017). There is a worrying urban-rural divide in healthcare provision. Sudan has one doctor per 11,000 people, and 95 per cent of the doctors are in urban areas (Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF 2016). Seventy per cent of the total population has access to health services, yet in rural areas the figure is only 20 per cent (Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF 2016). Seventy per cent of the urban population and 63.5 per cent of the rural population have access to safe drinking water (Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF 2016). Access to improved sanitation is available to 57 per cent of those in urban areas and just 22.1 per cent in rural areas. As a result, rural people are more exposed to water-related diseases such as diarrhea.

Disability rates in Sudan, according to the 2008 population census, are 26.3 per cent, 66.7 per cent and 7.0 per cent in urban, rural and nomad populations, respectively (Abbaker, 2017).

The incidence and prevalence of HIV/AIDS are low in Sudan. A study by the government and UNAIDS in 2014 estimated that 0.2 per cent of adults aged 15 to 49 were carrying the virus (Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF 2016). The total number of people of all ages living with HIV is around 53,000, of whom 49,000 are between 15 and 49. Some 23,000 women aged 15 and above are living with HIV. 2,900 people died from HIV/AIDS in 2014 (Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF 2016). Meanwhile, the number of people dying each year from tuberculosis declined by more than half from 53 per 100,000 population in 1990 to 25 in 2014 (CBS and UNICEF 2016). Tuberculosis is concentrated in eastern Sudan (Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF 2016).

1.8 Education and Environment

While the provision of education services generally falls short of demand, particularly in rural areas, Sudan has made significant progress in this sector. New schools have been built across the country, especially for girls, and as a result there is now gender equality in basic education (see Section 1.9). Girls have also surpassed boys in secondary and tertiary education (UNICEF 2017).

Unfortunately this success has not been emulated in the area of environmental education. The importance of environmental education came into sharp focus after the drought and famine in Kordofan and Darfur in western Sudan between 1983 and 1985. The link between desertification and environmental degradation became obvious, and it was clear that the success of any rehabilitation measures or conservation programmes would depend on raising environmental awareness among citizens and decision-makers.

Recognizing the need to improve environmental education in Sudan, the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Khartoum held a two-week workshop in 1983 titled “Planning for Environmental Education in the Sudan”. Among other things, the workshop emphasised that the first step in implementing any programme on environmental education was to train teachers (Institute of Environmental Studies 1983).

The following year, the Institute of Environmental Studies launched a teacher-training programme in environmental education. It emphasised that a successful programme of environmental education in Sudan would require the necessary institutional arrangements, the development of instructional materials and proper facilities, and the training of teachers at elementary and secondary levels.

After a series of workshops, a collaborative project was begun in 1987 called Hope in the Desert. Its objective was to bring environmental education into the existing school curriculum. Despite these efforts, environmental education is still not part of the formal system except at the basic education level.

1.9 Gender and Environment

Article 32 of Sudan’s Interim National Constitution of 2005 declares that “women and men have equal entitlements to all civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights”.
It also states that “the state shall emancipate women from injustice, promote gender equality and encourage the role in family and public life” (Government of Sudan 2005).

The bill of rights that is included in the Interim National Constitution pays attention to the specific needs of women and calls for positive discrimination in favour of women to remove constraints impeding their development and advancement. The participation of women in decision-making at the national, state and local levels was considered a national priority by civil society organizations and women’s groups.

In 2010, the government adopted a 25 per cent quota system to guarantee the participation of women in national and state parliaments. The quota was increased to 30 per cent in 2015. In 2017, the quota decreased to 28 per cent after the formation of the National Consensus Government, an outcome of President Omar al-Bashir’s National Dialogue initiative (Baldo 2017). The political parties that participated in the National Dialogue were provided with a specific number of seats in the national and state parliaments and most of the parties nominated male members to represent them. Although the quota is due to increase again, women are still obstructed from holding positions of political power, and the number of women in leadership positions in other sectors is low.

Sudanese civil society has always played a critical role in advocating and supporting women’s rights and gender justice. One example was the successful collaboration between the Sudanese Women’s General Union and women’s groups in the joint campaign to repeal the Khartoum state governor’s decree that prohibited women from joining certain professions. The case went to the constitutional court, which ruled that the decree represented a breach of the 1998 constitution (Government of Canada 2002). The decree was duly cancelled. This was a step forward in ensuring equal opportunities for women and men in the workplace. However, gender equality will be hard to achieve until women are better represented in senior levels of government and policy-making institutions.

1.9.1 Situation of women in Sudan

One of the success stories of the campaign for women’s empowerment is the adoption of the National Policy of the Empowerment of Women by the government in 2007 (Abdelghafar 2017). The policy calls for the promotion of gender equality and encourages employers and policy-makers to recognize the following:

  • Women have a major role to play in building and sustaining peace in areas of conflict.
  • Macroeconomic policies should be based on fairness and equality and should account for the fact that it can be hard for women to obtain assets and credit.
  • With unemployment and poverty on the increase, it is important to increase opportunities for women to obtain technology and learn new skills.

Since then, government ministries, women’s groups and NGOs have developed other plans to empower women and promote gender justice in different fields. These include National Action Plan for the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, Gender Based Violence (GBV) National Strategy, Document of Women Economic Empowerment, and Women Rights Document, which integrates women’s rights into the national constitution and international conventions. All these policies are waiting to be endorsed by the Council of Ministers (Baldo 2012).

Like other countries in the Afro-Arab region, Sudan is characterized by deeply entrenched cultural norms and a misinterpretation of religion. This has led not only to gender inequalities but also to discrimination against women. Unjust socio-economic conditions and unequal power relations means Sudanese women have limited access to economic resources and assets and are prevented from participating in politics and decision-making. While Sudan’s constitution gives women equal rights with men, this has not yet had a significant impact on the status and situation of women because it has not been reflected in the country’s laws and policies.

One area of public life where women have been deeply engaged, albeit with little official recognition, is in promoting peace and security at national and community levels. For example, women were involved in the talks before and during the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 to end the longest war in Africa, though they were not formally included in the negotiation and mediation delegations (Baldo 2012). Women in decision-making

Sudanese women bear an unequal share of the hardships caused by poverty, conflict and the socio-cultural traditions that promote strict male hierarchy and authority. This is exacerbated by religious and cultural limitations on the role and status of women in society. As a result, gender inequality is deeply rooted. Sudanese women are either excluded from formal decision-making and asset ownership or they are forced to act through a patriarchal filter. Despite this, Sudanese women have demonstrated great resilience in their fight to achieve gender justice and equal opportunities through advocacy, law reform and public awareness, as well as providing for their families during the conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. They are active as effective peace-making mediators at local levels and within civil society organizations (CSOs) (Baldo 2012).

The lobbying efforts of Sudanese women have ensured that they occupy 28 per cent of the Sudan National Parliament, though this is below the 30 per cent target. 134 of the 450 members of the National Assembly are women; out of these, 130 were elected and 4 were appointed as a result of the national dialogue. Women are also represented at the state level (Baldo 2012). Women’s economic rights

Women’s political participation and economic empowerment have emerged as two key areas for advancing gender equality and female empowerment in Sudan. More needs to be done to improve women’s participation in the economy and allow them to engage in profitable income-generating activities.

The conflict in Sudan has had an especially negative impact on women. Since the majority of Sudanese women have limited education or marketable skills, they are unable to obtain good jobs in the formal economy and are obliged to take lowly paid, menial jobs or to work in the informal sector. Women do not earn enough in these jobs to allow them to be economically independent and therefore find themselves dependent on men and their families. Women who have had to flee their homes face additional challenges, having lost their assets and livelihoods. Women’s education and employment

Although by law women have equal access to education and employment, in many parts of Sudan the reality is very different. Social norms discourage families from sending their daughters to school, while child marriage is still common in many states. Furthermore, most villages only have primary schools for girls, and families do not approve of sending girls away to finish their education. Consequently, because of their lack of formal education, women are excluded from taking roles in traditional decision-making systems. Efforts have been made to ensure that women can participate in institutions such as local councils and unions.

Despite these obstacles, women occupy positions in all sectors of society, including the legal, medical and governmental fields, while the majority are engaged in teaching and nursing. A considerable number work in the banking system and occupy positions in the army and police that were traditionally dominated by men. There are also women judges and lawyers. Many women are engaged in humanitarian and community support organizations that provide assistance to war-affected populations. Women and environment

Sudan faces numerous challenges in the management of its natural resources. These include the impact of climate change, the increased frequency and severity of droughts and floods, a growing population, changing livelihoods and expectations, and rapid urbanization. The pressure on natural resources is one of the main causes of conflict in the Darfur region (Mohammed et al. 2017). Climate change and prolonged conflict exert almost the same impacts on the environment. Both affect natural resources, either degrading or depleting them, and this in turn affects people’s livelihoods and their ability to survive (UNEP 2007).

In conflict areas, many women have become heads of their households, and so their roles have expanded. In Darfur, for example, women constitute 80-90 per cent of the agricultural labour force and recently have joined the workforce building towns such as Nyala and El Fasher. In fact, the number of economic activities of women in Darfur are out-numbering those of women in the whole of Sudan (Baldo 2012).

Sudanese women have a major role to play in preventing environmental degradation, developing early warning systems and ensuring food security for their communities. It is essential that they receive support in these endeavours. In rural areas, women are farmers, livestock herders and collectors of water and firewood, in addition to performing their domestic household activities. In the internally displaced persons’ camps in Darfur, women have become house-builders and have been learning new jobs suitable to urban settings (Baldo 2012). They are also involved in petty trading, particularly in food items such as vegetables, and have been able to sustain their families through this.

The future of Sudan depends on enabling women to engage more effectively in peace processes around natural resources and the environment. Gender equality and sustainability are directly linked: countries that ratify international environmental treaties usually have more women in their parliaments, and air pollution and other environmental degradation are generally worse when gender inequality is high (Baldo 2012). Strategies and policies for female empowerment

Regarding policies and strategies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, there has been both progress and regression in Sudan. For example, the government is trying to promote the National Women Empowerment Policy, officially endorsed by the President in 2007 (Baldo 2012). According to employment laws, women and men have equal opportunities for employment, with equal pay for equal work. Women have the right to pass their nationality to their children, and are offered special protection under the law during armed conflict (Baldo 2012).

1.10 International Migration

Civil strife, drought, flooding and other natural hazards have caused mass internal migration in Sudan on several occasions. Recently, the country has become a temporary home to many international migrants hoping to find their way to Europe and other destinations in the west. Most of them stay in big cities such as Khartoum, scraping together a living through meagre jobs. The number of international migrants and their impact on Sudan’s natural and social environments are unknown.

1.11 Poverty and Environment Nexus

In Sudan, poverty and the environment are inextricably linked. Poverty is driven not only by ill-conceived economic policies, but also by natural disasters, the misuse of environmental resources and conflict. Human deprivation and environmental degradation are mutually reinforcing, since poor people are forced to generate income by exploiting natural resources.

During the last two decades, Sudan has experienced several episodes of drought, which has resulted in many people losing their livelihoods. Millions of people in rural areas have been forced to move elsewhere, to places that are hardly equipped to absorb large numbers of migrants. Estimates by the United Nations and other international organizations showed that at the end of 2018 there were 1,864,200 internally displaced persons in Sudan, 88 per cent of them in Darfur (UNHCR 2018). Some rural people move to cities without the skills or training to compete in the urban labour market, and live in hastily constructed shanty towns that bring their own environmental and social problems.

46.5 per cent of the Sudanese population live below the poverty line, though this varies from state to state – the rate is lowest in Khartoum (26.0 per cent) and highest in North Darfur (69.4 per cent), and is higher in rural areas (57.6 per cent) than in urban areas (26.5 per cent) (United Nations 2014). The government of Sudan is implementing a number of social policies for poverty reduction. These include cash transfers to poor families, social protection networks, microfinancing for small-scale enterprises, and the provision of low-cost housing and health security. In its 2015-2019 programme for economic reform, the government aimed to reduce poverty to below 35 per cent by 2019, but this has not been achieved.

1.12 Human Settlements and Environment

The two dominant demographic trends in Sudan are rapid population growth (estimated at 2.4 per cent per year) and urbanization (MFEP 2016). Urbanization is itself fuelled by population growth and a range of compounding factors, including:

  • Drought and desertification reducing the quality of rural livelihoods.
  • Mechanized agricultural schemes disrupting traditional farming communities.
  • Conflict-related insecurity forcing people to leave rural areas.
  • Rural poverty driving people to search for better livelihoods in cities.

Decent quality data for population urban growth is only available for Khartoum city, which grew by over 5 per cent per year from 1973 to 1993 (UNEP 2007). Studies published from 1993 to 2006 indicate that this growth rate has not declined (UNEP 2007). It is likely to continue, given the city’s economic boom and the flow of internal migrants fleeing the Darfur crisis and the environmental problems of the north.

Khartoum’s rapid expansion has not been adequately managed or controlled by regional or local authorities, resulting in chaotic urban sprawls and slums, with all their associated health, environmental and social problems. This issue is not confined to the capital: informal settlements or slums are found on the outskirts of virtually every town in Sudan.

1.13 Urbanization and Environment

The population of Greater Khartoum – which is made up of three towns, Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum North – grew from 240,000 people in 1955-1956 to about 7 million in 2018, and is still increasing. 43 per cent of the country’s urban population is in Khartoum state (Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Urban Development 2014). Most of the rest of Sudan’s urban population is in the central regions of Gezira, Sennar and Blue Nile. Many people are driven to cities from rural areas by drought, famine and conflict, or drawn by the better infrastructure and services. Camps for internally displaced persons that are close to urban centres, such as those outside El Fasher and Nyala in Darfur, have grown so much that they have become part of the towns.

Urbanization and industrialization bring diverse environmental problems. These are mainly caused by two factors: inadequate urban planning, and the lack of safety regulations for businesses and industries, which leads to pollution and environmental degradation. Urban evils such as over-population, congestion, unemployment, shortage of services, crime and juvenile delinquency are turning some urban areas into centres of squalor. Many urban areas are as deprived of services such as proper roads, electricity and safe drinking water as the poorest rural areas.

1.14 Fuelwood and Charcoal for Domestic Use

The cutting of trees for fuelwood and for charcoal production happens throughout Sudan, but the impact is more damaging in the north where resources are limited. Most forested areas around urban centres are under intense pressure. As with many natural resource issues in Sudan, the data on wood consumption is incomplete and often out of date. But what is available gives a clear picture of substantial and growing demand for fuelwood. Biomass supplies 56 per cent of energy demand in Susan; a third of it is from fuelwood (Rabah et al, 2016). Projections for fuelwood consumption in 2020 range from 15.5 million cubic metres (Gafaar 2011) to 25.7 million cubic metres, rising to almost 30 million cubic metres in 2030 (FAO 2010).

1.15 Agriculture and Environment

Agriculture is the main driver of the national economy, employing 49 per cent of the labour force (FAO 2018) and accounts for 32 per cent of the country’s economic output (African Development Bank 2020). About 80 per cent of the working population is engaged in crop and animal production, including the informal economy. As a result, the majority of people in the country are directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihood and employment. Sudan has around 68.2 million hectares of arable land (approximately 183.3 million feddans), which makes up about 36.2 per cent of the country (FAO 2019). However, only around 29 per cent of this land (20.0 million ha) is cultivated comprising 1.6 per cent of Sudan’s total area (FAO 2019).

Rain-fed agriculture accounted for 29.5 million feddans (12.4 million hectares), representing 96.1 per cent of the total area under cereals (Ministry of Agriculture and Forests 2018). The land under irrigation, where various crops are grown, covers approximately 3.5 million feddans (1.47 million hectares). The main crops include sorghum, millet, wheat, cotton, ground nuts, sesame, sugar cane and vegetables such as potato, onion, okra and tomato.

Sudan’s agricultural sector policies cover poverty alleviation, food security, land tenure, improving nutritional status, raising productivity and supporting other sector policies (FAO 2012). Technology use is limited. In mechanized farming, the use of tractors for tillage, harvesting and the spraying of pesticides is widespread. The mechanization of farming in Sudan has had a significant impact on the environment, leading to forest clearance, soil erosion and land degradation.

1.16 Livestock and Environment

Much of Sudan’s land area is more suited to livestock grazing than to the cultivation of crops. The country’s livestock population was estimated at over 130 million head prior to 2011. This includes cattle, sheep, goats and camels, which are kept under both nomadic and sedentary traditional pastoral systems (UNEP 2012, UNEP 2013). Estimates for 2018 showed that Sudan’s livestock population is made up of 4.872 million camels, 31.837 million goats, 40.846 million sheep and 31.223 million cattle (FAO 2018). Livestock accounts for half of agricultural GDP and 25 per cent of total GDP (IGAD Center for Pastoral Areas & Livestock Development 2013).

1.17 Fisheries and Environment

Sudan has a wide range of fresh water and marine fish, particularly in the River Nile system and the Red Sea. 450 bony fish species have been identified in the Red Sea; 250 of these species are found on the Sudanese coast, and about 93 fish species have been identified from commercial fish catch in Sudan. Of these, approximately 65 are considered of economic importance (UNIDO 2017 ).

Both the Red Sea and the River Nile provide good fishing sites for local fishers, mostly men, though commercial fishing is limited to the Red Sea. The total potential catch from Sudan’s fisheries has been estimated at 74,550 tonnes per year. The potential output from capture fisheries (industrial and small-scale) is estimated at 34,000 tonnes per year: 29,000 tonnes from inland water catches and 5,600 tonnes from marine. The aquaculture sector is still developing and annual production is estimated at 2,000 tonnes (UNIDO 2017).

1.18 Industry and Environment

Sudan’s industry is responsible for only a small proportion of the country’s GDP, less than 3 per cent in 2018 (Central Intelligence Agency 2020). It consists of four sectors: manufacturing, which contributes 56 per cent of industry’s share of GDP; construction (30 per cent); electricity and petroleum (15 per cent); and mining and extraction (1 per cent) (Ministry of Information 2011).

Sudan’s industry is inefficient, highly dependent on imported materials and dominated by the production of consumer goods. Carbon dioxide is responsible for about 60 per cent of Sudan’s greenhouse gas emissions. Sudan’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 were 400.4 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which represents 0.85 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. 63.1 per cent of these emissions came from land-use changes and the burning of biomass (USAID 2017).

Sudan started exporting oil in 1999. As of mid-2006, Sudan produced approximately 400,000 barrels per day and the country’s production was expected to rise. However, as a result of the secession of South Sudan, which resulted in Sudan losing 75 per cent of its oil reserves (African Development Bank 2017), and the depletion of reserves in the old wells of the Heglig basin, oil production decreased. Sudan has significant gas reserves, but is currently only producing a small amount as a by-product of oil production in central Sudan (Siddig 2012).

Apart from petroleum products, the country does not produce any chemicals, though it imports chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Pollution caused by the disposal of industrial waste receives little official and public attention. Most of the industrial facilities dispose of their wastes without any treatment.

1.19 Mining and Environment

Following the loss of most of its oil reserves with the secession of South Sudan, gold production is now Sudan’s main source of hard currency. The Central Bank of Sudan placed restrictions on hard currency, which now impede the development of the mining industry and also encourage traditional miners to smuggle their gold to neighbouring countries (Sudan Tribune 2019). Gold mining, both artisanal and industrial, is having serious negative impacts on the environment and human health in Sudan (Ibrahim 2015).

1.20 Tourism and Environment

Thanks to Sudan’s diverse ecosystems, the country is home to several world-class natural attractions. These could help the growth of the tourism industry and appeal to tourists in search of culture, adventure, wildlife and scuba diving opportunities. The county’s touristic attractions are based on its unique cultural and natural resources. In terms of culture, the country is well endowed with temples, monuments and tombs dating back to the time of ancient Egypt. In fact, Sudan hosts a collection of pyramids that greatly outnumbers those found in Egypt (World Bank 2014).

Tourism in Sudan dates back to pre-independence days. Foreign visitors started coming to Sudan as early as the 19th century, mainly to hunt big game and to explore. The first tourism office opened in 1939 and later developed into the Tourism and Hotels Corporation in the 1970s. The first tourism legislation was the Tourism and Hotels Corporation Act of 1977 (Government of Sudan 1981).

Sudan has the opportunity to become an important global tourism destination. It has the foundation for a productive and dynamic tourism sector that can make significant contributions to economic growth, employment generation, cultural and environmental preservation and social inclusion (World Bank 2014).

1.21 Environmental Policies and Development

After independence, Sudan made the great mistake of adopting the western model of “development”. The country chose capital-intensive, large-scale agricultural schemes, with the primary objective of exporting raw materials. The aim was to “catch up” economically with the rest of the world, when what the country really needed was an alternative, more traditional mode of development.

The western-style, centrally planned approach to development had many negative impacts. For example, traditional agricultural techniques were sidelined, and there was no consideration for the environment or the preservation of natural resources. Large projects such as the anti-thirst campaign of the 1960s, the expansion of rain-red and irrigated agriculture, building dams on the Nile and other rivers, and so on, resulted in much environmental degradation.

Concern about natural resources was not a feature of government policy until the 1977-83 Six Years Plan, which called for soil conservation, reforestation and the protection of resources (Bayoumi 1996). Over the next two decades, there were several attempts to make environmental protection a central part of government strategy. Many delegates to the National Economic Conference in 1986 expressed deep concerns with ecology and the environment. Sound environmental management and poverty alleviation ranked high in the Salvation Recovery and Development Programme of 1988-1992 (Bayoumi 1996). The National Comprehensive Strategy of 1992-2002 focused on poverty alleviation and sustainable development and encouraged the participation of local communities and indigenous knowledge.

However, the National Comprehensive Strategy ended up being of limited effectiveness because of institutional, financial and structural problems, conflicts between federal and state governments, and the low level of public awareness over the environment (Mohamed 2001). The previous regime devised a number of strategies to reduce poverty and protect water resources and other natural assets, but few of them were carried out. Like so many plans in Sudan’s post-independence history, they were scuppered by civil strife, top-down planning, a lack of local participation and a dearth of political will.

More recently, Sudan and other less developed nations have received some help in their development strategies from the international community. In 1996, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund launched an initiative aimed at reducing the amount of debt owed by the Least Developed Countries (Nwonwu 2008). At that time, Sudan was classified as one of the 10 to 15 least developed countries. The initiative led to what was known as the “Environmental Debt Swap”, which allowed countries to write off a portion of their debts in exchange for a commitment to protect the environment (Nwonwu 2008).

In 1999, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund introduced another initiative, this time linking debt reduction with the alleviation of poverty. It required countries to complete Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers detailing their plans to reduce poverty. Once approved, a country would qualify for debt relief and aid. This initiative was widely welcomed as the first serious attempt by the international community to put poverty reduction at the centre of development planning and finance, and for encouraging countries to take responsibility for their own development strategies. Civil society organisations have been involved in drawing up and implementing the plans, another welcome innovation. Sudan produced its Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper in 2012, a step towards completing its full Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning 2011).

1.22 Mainstreaming Environment into Development

Sustainable economic growth is not feasible without sound environmental management. Accurate studies are needed to assess the extent of environmental degradation in Sudan and the loss of its natural resources. Investing in environmental management will boost the country’s economic development, which depends greatly on its natural resources. Proper management is needed, for example, to stem the loss of nutrients from soil, regulate the disposal of hazardous waste by industry, and ensure the conservation of precious ecological resources.

1.23 Challenges

Environmental degradation not only has a negative impact on livelihoods, it can also threaten stability and development. The peaceful co-existence of tribes or other social groups depends on the sustainable use of shared natural resources. However, rural communities consider access to land and its resources as a right and privilege, and so land issues in Sudan are never properly addressed. As the United Nations Development Programme’s 2013 paper “Land Issues and Peace in Sudan” points out, the “elimination of conflicts and sustainability of social peace in Sudan requires land tenure reform, sustainability of natural resources, elimination of poverty, good governance and respects of human rights”.

1.24 Conclusion

Society and the environment in which people live are shaped by national and international driving forces that include population growth, economic development and technology, as well as natural phenomena such as changing climate. Such forces impact the provision of basic human needs, quality of life, equal opportunities between social groups and the judicious use of natural resources. These forces are behind the current state of the environment in Sudan.

Sudan has undergone several major developments in recent times, including rapid population growth, a big increase in the number of young people of working age, and dramatic urbanization. The most profound change has been the secession of South Sudan, which resulted in a significant reduction in land resources and the loss of oil revenues. Sudan has struggled to maintain peace and security internally, especially in the Darfur region. Furthermore, its policies for economic growth have been constrained by high poverty levels and misplaced resources.

Despite these challenges, the country has made economic progress, particularly in telecommunications, transport, power generation and in constructing dams for irrigation. However, its future prosperity will depend very much on how it manages its natural resources and controls environmental degradation. The role of the environment in shaping people’s livelihoods is often overlooked. Sudan, which is acutely dependent on its natural resources, cannot afford to do that.


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