Since it took office two weeks ago, the new government headed by Moutaz Musa is adopting a practical approach of making field trips to see things on ground instead of depending on reports. Along this approach the government is scheduled to have today its weekly meeting in Madani, the capital of Gezira state. It is a symbolic move sending a message that there is a political will that puts agriculture on the top of the country’s agenda. Gezira, after all, is one of the main pillars of agriculture in Sudan and agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy.
In his first statement after assuming office, Moutaz puts a time frame for his government that extends over 3,000 hours up to 2020, when the country should get into a presidential and parliamentary elections. Despite host of issues that are competing to win the attention of the new government, but it should concentrate first and foremost on one issue: how to make a successful harvest this year.
The country has witnessed a rainy season that have not been seen for more than half a century. As a result farmers all over will able to plant a record area mounting to 54.4 million feddans against a planned area of only 41 million feddans. And because of this expansion the objective of 3-year plan to increase production and exports have been achieved through horizontal expansion, instead of the vertical one intended originally. This 3-year program was prepared by the previous government in collaboration with the private sector and with the aim of raising the country’s agricultural exports to around $10 billion by 2020 and help close the deficit gap that was the main reason behind the national currency’s depreciation.
However, the successful rainy season brings with it several challenges that needs an extraordinary effort so as not to miss the boat and squander this opportunity. String of steps needs to be tackled seriously and quickly: how to overcome the liquidity problem, ensure that there are enough agricultural laborers who can handle the potential bumper harvest, in addition to related issues like ensuring availability of sacks, announcing stabilization prices and relevant policies especially in marketing that allow farmers to get dividend out of their effort and encourage them to plan for the next season.
On his way to Medani the prime minister and members of his government are expected to drop at Wad Ballal village to see first-hand a successful community development initiated and carried out by the people of Wad Ballal. The village was able through income it generated from its cattle fattening and other projects to provide health insurance coverage to all its inhabitants including some IDP as well as financial handouts to the needy.
Wad Ballal should be a starting point to push for community development throughout the country. Though such endeavor depends on people’s initiative, but the government has a role to play with the aim of bringing the issue of community development to the national scene through three specific steps: provide easy finance, ease the procedures to set up such projects, in addition to necessary political and media back up so as to encourage other villages throughout the country to follow suit. If the government is ambitious enough it can assign to any state in Sudan to embark on a handful of community development projects. And that could be part of the 3,000 hours program whose fruits will be felt at grassroots level.
For the first time in decades there is a clear political will to push on the agricultural front as a way to tackle the country’s economic problem and compensate for the missed opportunity of the oil bonanza where the country was plagued by the Dutch Disease and at the expense of developing its huge natural, agricultural resources and animal wealth. The irony is that at the time the barrel of oil is costing around $80, one sheep of the Hamari type can net up to $100 without the strings associated with the oil industry, which is known to be capital, labor and technology intensive.
Agriculture and animal husbandry on the other hand benefit a wider range of inhabitants and as such can have a bigger and better impact on a wider base provided that proper policies are put in place at the proper time and followed up in a serious manner.
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