Whether farming aid distribution is given according to ethnic or political affiliation; treatment of those who oppose government policy regarding farmers [SDN34433.E]

The following information was provided in a 29 may 2000 correspondence sent to the research Directorate by a professor at the Department of Economics of Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California. The professor, a former consultant to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Sudan, who currently writes on gender issues in Africa, has authored two survey papers on women, land tenure and agriculture, papers on agriculture in Sudan and has edited a book on the social transformation in Islamic Africa.

On farm subsidies awarded by the Sudan government, the professor wrote that:

The government of Sudan has traditionally pursued contradictory policies of subsidizing and taxing agriculture depending on the crop and conditions. Cotton, for instance, grown mostly in the irrigated Gezira scheme, has for a long time been subsidized in terms of fertilizer and pesticide use. Yet the price received for output by farmers has been very low due to overvalued official exchange rates. Gum Arabic is heavily taxed, with producers receiving only a fraction of the world price. Crops like sorghum and millet are less controlled, though the government has occasionally mandated floor and ceiling prices, and prohibited exports and encouraged exports, actions which may amount to subsidies (by artifically raising the price). So the short answer is: it depends. But certainly there are large sectors of the population that benefit, directly or indirectly, from subsidies.

On whether there is any ethnic or political discrimination associated with the allocation of these subsidies, the professor stated that:

There is no doubt in my mind that the pattern of subsidies has gone disproportionately towards farmers of the same ethnic background as the various regimes in control of the government (i.e. the northern and central regions). Neither Southern Sudan nor western Sudan has certainly never received a fair share of the resources allocated towards the agricultural sector. I can distinctly recall doing some research in the main Gezira Province and seeing the huge difference in infrastructure provided to villages of 'Arab' residents compared with the very poor infrastructure provided to West African immigrants 'fellata'. Certainly subsidies are heavily politicised also. It is well-known that for decades funds for 'mechanized farming schemes' were used as political favors. That pattern has most likely continued under the present military regime, though there has been little research on the subject.

Finally, on the treatment of those who have expressed dissent with regards to the distribution of farm subsidies in Sudan, the professor wrote:

My direct knowledge on this subject would be limited to the numerous efforts by tenants of the Gezira Scheme (who grow cotton and wheat nowadays) to obtain better deals from the governments. The collective bargaining can be very contentious, and there have been cases of violence and repression used by the government to control the tenants.
In that respect, the professor did not refer to any specific event.

No corroborative and further information on the treatment of those who criticize the distribution of agricultural subsidies in Sudan could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Santa Clara University, Department of Economics, Santa Clara, California. 29 May 2000. Correspondence with Professor.

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases



Internet Sources including:

Amnesty International

Country Reports 1999

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Relief Web. United Nations. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)

United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

World News Connection (WNC).