Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Development without Intervention: A Successful Self-Reliance Initiative of Rural Development and Urban Growth in the Sudan

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Development without Intervention: A Successful Self-Reliance Initiative of Rural Development and Urban Growth in the Sudan

Article excerpt

Most food production in Africa derives from small-scale farmers who practice subsistence agriculture. Today, these small-scale farmers face a number of challenges: environmental, socioeconomic, political, limited capital inputs, food insecurity, and climate change (Stringer and others 2008). Different viewpoints have emerged among agricultural planners about the future of small farms and their role in development, especially in developing countries. At one end of the spectrum, skeptics see no significant potential for the small farm, because young people have abandoned small-scale agriculture to the point of "deagrarianization" or "depeasantisation" (Bryceson 1996, 1999). In addition, commercialization of agriculture means small farmers cannot compete effectively with the changing nature of a global supply chain dominated by the supermarket (Reardon and others 2003; Collier 2009). At the other end, proponents have argued that small-scale agriculture may play a central role in development. They believe that the small farm is efficient, allows the farmers to retain equity, and so reduces poverty and generates development (Hazell and others 2007; Diao and others 2010). With access to appropriate resources and infrastructure, the initiative and self-reliance of small-scale farmers can fuel improvements in social and economic well-being.

Most small-scale farmers in Africa are very poor and lack access to resources, including credit and aid, needed to invest in and improve agricultural technology and productivity. In Sudan, small-scale agriculture remains critical for rural communities to provide food and support livelihoods and for the national economy as contribution to gross national income--23 percent in 2008 (Bank of Sudan 2008). Yet, declining small-scale agriculture and escalating poverty since the late 1980s due to a combination of factors, have increasingly forced rural communities to turn to self-reliance strategies for survival. First, the smallholder agricultural sector had historically been neglected since Sudan's independence (Alredaisy and Davies 2001). Second, structural-adjustment programs undermined early gains from neoliberal market policies and reforms introduced in 1992, which had liberalized agricultural markets and minimized government control of produce prices, and distribution of seed and fertilizers. The ensuing crisis weakened government support for agriculture, which had employed more than 80 percent of the labor force, and reduced its share of the national budget to 2 percent (Bank of Sudan 2004; Ibrahim 2008). This nearly destroyed irrigated agriculture and exacerbated rural poverty (Abbadi and Ahmed 2006; Ezarig 2009). Third, declining and, later, cessation of international aid worsened the dire economic situation (World Bank 2003; Wiggins and others 2010). Fourth, drought, civil wars, and political instability worsened agricultural productivity and swelled the ranks of the poor. Finally, poor access to capital and formal credit is well understood to be a major obstacle to agricultural advancement for small-holder farmers--and to rural development in general--as it prevents the investment of necessary agricultural inputs, including labor, technology, fertilizers, and improved seed (Barham and others 1996; Basu 1997). Further, there was limited access to group-based microcredit (Coleman 1999; Menkhoff and Rungruxsirivorn 2011). These factors made self-reliance one of the rarely realistic development options available to the poor (Binns and Nel 1999; Nel and others 2000). Such development from below can promote more efficient utilization of local resources--land, water, labor, and capital-and effectively advance popular participation and development (Fonchingong and Fonjong 2002).

The contention of this study is that remittances sent back from Africa's rapidly growing cities by migrant family members can be the fuel for a self-reliance approach to agricultural and rural development by enhancing agricultural productivity and enabling farmers to take advantage of other opportunities, including better access to markets, advanced infrastructure and other advantages of broader rural development, offering a trully viable alternative approach to "orthodox development. …

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