Sudan Table of Contents
In the early 1990s, agriculture and livestock raising were the main sources of livelihood in Sudan for about 61 percent of the working population. Agricultural products regularly accounted for about 95 percent of the country's exports. Industry was mostly agriculturally-based, accounting for 15 percent of GDP in 1988. The average annual growth of agricultural production declined in the 1980s to 0.8 percent for the period 1980-87, as compared with 2.9 percent for the period 1965-80. Similarly, the sector's total contribution to GDP declined over the years, as the other sectors of the economy expanded. Total sectoral activities, which contributed an estimated 40 percent of GDP in the early 1970s, had fluctuated during the 1980s and represented about 36 percent in 1988 (see table 6, Appendix). Crop cultivation was divided between a modern, market-oriented sector comprising mechanized, large-scale irrigated and rainfed farming (mainly in central Sudan) and small-scale farming following traditional practices that was carried on in the other parts of the country where rainfall or other water sources were sufficient for cultivation.
Large investments continued to be made in the 1980s in mechanized, irrigated, and rainfed cultivation, with their combined areas accounting for roughly two-thirds of Sudan's cultivated land in the late 1980s. The early emphasis on cotton growing on irrigated land had decreased. Although cotton remained the most important crop, peanuts, wheat, and sugarcane had become major crops, and considerable quantities of sesame also were grown (see table 7, Appendix). Rainfed mechanized farming continued to produce mostly sorghum, and short-fiber cotton was also grown. Production in both subsectors increased domestic supplies and export potentials. The increase appeared, however, to have been achieved mainly by expanding the cultivated area rather than by increasing productivity. To stimulate productivity, in 1981 the government offered various incentives to cultivators of irrigated land who were almost entirely government tenants. Subsistence cultivators produced sorghum as their staple crop, although in the northerly, rainfed, cultivated areas millet was the principal staple. Subsistence farmers also grew peanuts and sesame.
Livestock raising, pursued throughout Sudan except in the extremely dry areas of the north and the tsetse-fly-infested area in the far south, was almost entirely in the traditional sector. Because livestock raising provided employment for so many people, modernization proposals have been based on improving existing practices and marketing for export, rather than moving toward the modern ranching that requires few workers.
Fishing was largely carried out by the traditional sector for subsistence. An unknown number of small operators also used the country's major reservoirs in the more populated central region and the rivers to catch fish for sale locally and in nearby larger urban centers. The few modern fishing ventures, mainly on Lake Nubia and in the Red Sea, were small.
The forestry subsector comprised both traditional gatherers of firewood and producers of charcoal--the main sources of fuel for homes and some industry in urban areas--and a modern timber and sawmilling industry, the latter government owned. Approximately 21 million cubic meters of wood, mainly for fuel, were cut in 1987. Gum arabic production in FY 1986-87 was about 40,000 tons. In the late 1980s, it became in most years the second biggest export after cotton, amounting to about 11 percent of total exports.
Experimental farm in Yambio, western Al Istiwai State
Courtesy Robert O. Collins
Cotton growing in Al Jazirah, where international funding
has helped rehabilitate irrigation systems
Courtesy Embassy of the Republic of Sudan, Washington
Data as of June 1991
Sudan Table of Contents