Nairobi — The conflict in Darfur since 2003 has severely affected the production and trade of groundnuts, gum arabic and sesame, by displacing farmers and creating insecurity, according to a new report on cash crops trade in Darfur.
The Feinstein International Center and United Nations Environmental Programme's 'Taking Root' report from December analysed the impact of a long-term conflict on the trade in Darfur's five major cash crops. They are important for both Sudan's economy as well as livelihoods in Darfur. For example, the region's groundnuts and gum arabic make up for a third of Sudan's groundnut and gum arabic harvest respectively.
The researchers found that with the outbreak of conflict in 2003 between government troops, militia and rebel groups, the large groundnut production in Darfur fell by 40 to 50 per cent as large numbers of farmers became displaced. Farmers who stayed, reduced their cultivated area because of insecurity. Also gum arabic is badly affected as the 'acacia seyal' trees are often in remote, more insecure areas.
Darfur's sesame production fell sharply in the years after 2003. Farmers did not harvest their sesame due to the insecure situation. Insecurity also caused transport costs to rise "sometimes by 400 per cent" on Darfur's main trading routes.
The production of tombac (chewing tobacco) fell by about 50 per cent in the early years of the conflict, but the crop did better than the sesame as farmers do not need to cultivate it at a specific time. Finally, the orange trade out of Jebel Marra has survived the conflict so far. The researchers attribute this to agreements between otherwise hostile groups to keep the trade flowing in that area.
South Sudan's secession:
South Sudan's independence in July 2011 and the following trade embargo with Sudan has had a negative impact on Darfur's tombac production, the researchers believe. After 2012, the groundnut production costs rose as labourers from South Sudan were no longer present in Darfur. But because of the loss of oil revenues to South Sudan, Sudan has paid more attention to its agricultural sector.
The researchers recommended Sudan to make more credit available for the producers. "Despite the conflict, there is a large potential for Darfur's cash crop production and trade, which can be realised by greater security on roads. Also, the priority should now be revitalizing the groundnut sector."