North Kordufan state is bordered by Darfur from the west, South Kordofan from the south, White Nile state from the east and Khartoum and Northern states to the north. The majority of the population of the state are subsistence farmers and nomads. Until the 1960s Kordofan was not only self-sufficient in staple food crops, oil seeds, meat and milk, but also produced surpluses for more densely-populated areas such as Khartoum. Export products from the region such as gum arabic, cotton, groundnuts, sesame and livestock contributed significantly to the foreign exchange earnings of Sudan as a whole. However, in recent years the region has faced a dramatic decline in overall agricultural productivity. Over the past thirty to forty years, productivity has fallen by as much as 50%. This decline is a combination of a number of factors including increased human and animal populations, expansion of mechanized agriculture on the poorer soils, environmental degradation and a sequence of droughts.
According to a population census conducted in 2008, North Kordofan state population is 2,990,992 persons. In addition to the indigenous North Kordofan population, tens of thousands of people from Darfur and South Kordofan have migrated into the area to escape civil war and drought. The precise scale of this immigration is difficult to establish. Currently, the area is witnessing growing tension because of the war in South Kordofan, the security situation in Darfur and the rain shortage which has led to crop production failure; all these have forced those who herd animals, whether pastoral or sedentary, to alter traditional transhumance routes. Conflicts have already broken out and there is a potential for more conflict in the region during 2012 over natural resources. Apart from the existing conflicts in areas surrounding North Kordofan, two resource-related factors stand out.
1) Competition over grazing land
The grazing land and water sources such as water catchment areas (hafirs and other natural ground depressions) which are usually used by the settled communities and nomads in the state have already dried out because of rain shortage. Consequently, the migration of the settled population with their animals from the northern areas towards the southern areas in the Um Ruwaba and el Rehad localities has already begun. This migration is putting pressure on the available resources there and might lead to violent conflict. In addition, traditional nomadic routes from North Kordofan to South Kordofan are blocked because of war in South Kordofan state and tension with South Sudan. The nomadic groups who use these routes, the Fallata, Hawazma, Misseria and Habaniya, stay in North Kordufan during the rainy season from July to November then head back with their herds to South Kordofan and South Sudan in search of water and grazing land. Their herds’ survival relies entirely on mobility and accessibility. As conflict is continuing in South Kordofan, this year the majority of nomad groups are being forced to stay in an area located between Um Ruwaba and Rahad localities in North Kordofan and Alabsia and Rashad localities in South Kordofan, this area is estimated to be about 120 Km length – 84 km width. The total domestic animal population in North Kordofan and South Kordofan states is estimated to be 38,625,000 heads of cattle, sheep, goats and camels (Greater Kordofan 2010 Animals Survey Census – Sudan Ministry of Agriculture – West Sudan Resources Management Program).
In Um Ruwaba and el Rahad localities, a number of nomadic groups who should be in South Kordofan at this season are staying in the Khor Abu Habil area with an estimated herd size of 717,000. The size of the herd that belongs to the settled communities in the area is about 1,500,000 heads. Normally after the rainy season the settled communities use the harvested fields as grazing land for their own animals in the dry season. The presence of the nomadic groups with their herds has created a situation of competition over already exhausted available resources. The Range Department of North Kordofan State received 35 reports of individuals in clashes between the nomads and the agro-pastoralists in November . On December 11 fighting erupted between the Kinana and Hawazma nomadic groups and to prevent escalation the authorities agreed to relocate the Kinana nomad group to Wad al Hadig, a village bordering South Kordofan. Also tension is rising within the Shekan village community with the accusation that the Gawama are occupying the Makhraf (a designated grazing area) and transforming it to cultivation land. The tension will be high during the months of March, April, June and July, the months of high demand for water when the hafirs dry out and the water yields of the water yards and hand-dug wells get lower.
2) Food insecurity
Rain shortage in the 2011 cultivation season has led to a grain crop production failure (millet and sorghum). According to the findings of the Second Cultivation Survey (Harvest Survey) conducted by State Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources during December 2011, the expected food gap, the difference between what is needed to feed the population and what has been grown, will be as much as 85%. This has been caused, among other factors, by rain shortage, and limited land cultivation due in part to a lack of agricultural laborers. The 85% shortfall in basic food crops, sorghum and millet, is partially made up by other resources, including cash crops, forest products and animal resources; however, the food gap is still large and the population of North Kordofan is facing serious food deficiencies over the coming year.
Little or no contingency plans are being made by North Kordofan state bodies to deal with the growing tension.
SUDO UK calls for:
The North Kordofan state should make the harvest survey, conducted by the state ministry of Agriculture, public.
The North Kordofan government should without prejudice ask for local and international community intervention to assist the population in North Kordofan to overcome the food shortage.
Mitigate resources based-conflict
Improvement of available water sources.
Ensure nomad groups’ right of mobility and accessibility to grazing land while ensuring that farmers’ rights to farm and graze remain secure.