INTRODUCTION: Construction work at the massive new Rahad irrigation project on the Blue Nile River in southern Sudan is well advanced.
INTRODUCTION: Construction work at the massive new Rahad irrigation project on the Blue Nile River in southern Sudan is well advanced. It is the third major irrigation scheme undertaken in the country in the last 12 years.
SYNOPSIS: Water is the key to economic progress in Sudan, the largest country in Africa and one of the world's great areas of desert and semi-desert. With more than 15 million inhabitants the country relies heavily on agriculture, which employs almost 90 per cent of the working population.
Irrigated land in Sudan has been increasing at the rate of five per cent per year, allowing for agricultural production increases of the same amount.
The new scheme is located about 85 miles (135 kilometres) south of Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. Backed by massive loans from the World Bank and other foreign sources, the Rahad irrigation project has been under construction for the last four years. At present, over one thousand men are working on the construction of the giant pumping station alone, the largest in Africa, and another four hundred are at work on the dam wall, miles away across the sandy expanse.
A wide canal, more than eleven feet (3.5 metres) deep, will carry water pumped from the river to the wall in Rahad, 50 miles (80 kilometres) away. Four of the eleven pumps will go into operation in September this year.
They will water about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of so far wasted land, and also put an end to the drinking water shortage in the area. Sixty new villages and roads are being carved out of the desert around Rahad.
The newly formed Rahad Corporation, which will lease surrounding smallholdings to farmers, is buying large quantities of farm machinery to speed up the work of ploughing and harvesting. More than 13,000 tenant families are expected to settle in the area, each with about 25 acres (10 hectares) to work on. Two-thirds of their crops will be cotton and groundnuts.