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Deterioration of a sustainable agro-silvo-pastoral system in the Sudan: The gum gardens of Kordofan

Deterioration of a sustainable agro-silvo-pastoral system in the Sudan: The gum gardens of Kordofan

Agroforestry Systems 23(1): 23-38

The development and establishment of agroforestry systems is often suggested as a way to stabilize rural economies in developing countries (King, 1979). At the same time, some traditional systems are being lost, due to an inability to protect the perennial or tree crop components of the system. These traditional systems and the forces that reinforce or destroy them should be carefully studied by those in the process of encouraging adoption of agroforestry systems in the developing world. The gum gardens of Western Sudan are a case in point. Acacia senegal (hashab*) and Acacia seyal (talh) are the two major marketable gum-producing trees found in the western region of Sudan. The Acacia are grown as part of an agro-silvo-pastoral system that has persisted for more than a hundred years in Kordofan Province, where 70% of Sudan's gum Arabic was once produced, as well as most of its grain and livestock products. After a lengthy drought lasting from 1979 to 1985 gum production in Sudan drastically decreased. It was reported that pest attacks and drought were major causal agents in the decline of gum production (Awouda, 1989; Sungar, 1986). A survey executed in Northern Kordofan Province, starting in August of 1986, did uncover a great number of dead Acacias due to drought and pest attack, but from interviews with gum farmers we conclude that the decline in gum production is largely due to unfavorable socioeconomic relationships exacerbated by the drought, leading to the deterioration of the agroforestry system of production. An inability to get a fair price for gum at the local level and increasing emphasis on a cash economy led to the neglect of the tree components of the system. The gum gardens have long flourished with the intensive husbandry of small-scale farmers. Once these farmers were no longer able to care for them, the gum trees disappeared from the system, indicating that a lack of community stability can be fatal to even a well-developed agroforestry system.

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Accession: 008442632

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DOI: 10.1007/bf00704849

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