Social forestry in the Sudan - its current status and future potential

Talaat D. A. Magid and ElNour A. ElSiddig 1


The paper discusses the concepts and definition of social forestry from local and international perspectives. It summarizes the activities of social forestry in the Sudan, focusing on the experience and lessons learned from many bilateral and multilateral development projects involved in social forestry in the Sudan. The programmes of most of these projects involve complex institutional development activities, technological improvement, development of infrastructure and other services to attract and retain skilled workers. Joint forest resource management and forest management planning in the Sudan has been reviewed, in spite of the protection measures and patrolling system within natural forest reserves, dependent communities continued to extract their ever-increasing needs from the available natural resources. The paper reviews the Sudan Forest Policies and Legislation with special reference to social forestry application. The role of different organizations involved in social forestry in the Sudan is highlighted, their involvement ranges from raising local awareness to the encouragement of participation in forest establishment, protection and management.


1. Concepts and Definitions of Social Forestry:

Social forestry is a term applied to tree planting or natural forest management designed to meet the forestry - related basic needs of rural people. Social forestry had been defined as encompassing "any situation which intimately involves local people in a forestry activity for the direct benefit of those people". Sudanese Social Forestry Society defined social forestry as "the involvement of the different sectors of the society in planning, management and protection of forests".

Social Forestry Activities in Sudan:-

Policies and Laws:

Forestry legislation started in 1901 which was amended in 1908 and 1917. The object of the amendments was to overcome the conflicting powers between the central and regional authorities. To resolve the conflict a statement of Forest Policy, the central Forest Ordinance and the Provincial Forest Ordinance were enacted in 1932. The provincial authorities who were expected to reserve a lot more forests than the central, managed to reserve only 13818 ha compared to 572040 ha of central reserves a quarter of a century after the policy was in place. According to Badi et al (1986) the current capacity of the Central Forest Administration to exercise effective protection and management of the Sudan's forest resources, let a lone carry out any significant development, is severely hampered by the lack of attention given to the Central Forest Administration by the Central Government, in addition to the outdated and ineffective legislation also inhibits the proper functioning of the administration and is contributing to the rapid degradation of the forest resources. In 1985 the Forest Administration was de-centralized in 1986, 1932 Forest Policy was revised and approved.

The Sudan Forest Policy of 1986 emphasized the following facts concerning community forestry:

Examples of some donor projects involved in social forestry. A summary of Sudan experience:

- Fuel-wood Development for Energy in Sudan

The project was actively involved in: community woodlots, extension programmes in Khartoum, Central and Eastern States, in which strong extension units have been established to organize, implement and monitor the extension activities for the farmers and other target groups (schools planting, women and dissemination of improved energy stoves including their local production etc.). The project initiated a pioneer extension programme in which many other projects replicated its approach.

- Sudan Finland Afforestation Project

This project started in 1979 and continued through a number of phases, which were terminated in 1991. The project included many activities such as extension programmes at White Nile; agroforestry models have been established in the form of Acacia senegal plantations, farm nurseries and village woodlots.

- Restocking of the Gum Belt Projects

Two projects have been operating in Kordofan and Darfur States, supported by UNSO during the period 1981-1994. Their activities included: training courses to farmers, established decentralized nurseries; farmers were trained on improved techniques for planting and maintenance of Acacia senegal (The gum producing trees) plantations; training also included tapping, cleaning and grading of gum; development of communication and establishment of forestry extension service.

- USAID assisted Sudan Renewable Energy Project (SREP)

Started in 1982, and was implemented by the Energy Research Council. SREP has an extensive forestry programme for farmers and agricultural schemes, focusing mainly on integrating forestry into agriculture (i.e. establishment of farm nurseries and farm windbreaks. it continued for the period 1982-1990.

- CARE assisted Eastern Refugee Reforestation Project

Started in 1983 to deal with the problem of the influx of Ethiopians refugees, covering much of south Kassala. The project adopted a diverse programme of agroforestry and extension for small farmers.

- UNSO Afforestation and Reforestation Project in Northern Region of the Sudan

The activities covered by the project included: control of the sand encroachment through establishment of shelterbelts, windbreaks and land management activities with a very high degree of participation from the local communities. The project started in 1986 and is now working in 22 villages and with 100 individual farmers in the Letti Basin, the project terminated in 1995. Cowi Consult a Danish company involved in agriculture and rural development has provided the technical work.

Institutional Set-up and Project Policy:

The project has a policy of participation and "community development', which means that the villagers must provide inputs in terms of labour and land, as well as being a part of the planning and decision-making.

Joint Forest Resource Management:

A survey was conducted in eastern, central and Kordofan regions between the period 1988-1989 to obtain information from those who use and dependent on the forest which would be the basis for encouraging their greater participation in forestry protection and management. 75% of the sample preferred the management and protection of the forest reserves by a joint committee. The nomads have a roughly equal knowledge of tree and of the forests and more negative attitudes towards the forestry administration.

During the period since early 1980s international assistance introduced management practices inside the natural forest reserves based on projects concepts and local people participation with the objective of forest rehabilitation and sustainable management considering people needs.

The experiences are presently known in connection with the names of the forest resources such as:

Natural forest reserves rehabilitation

The attitudes of communities living in or around forest towards the Forestry Administration was negative in views of its conservational policies that are applied in isolation from local community, and under estimation of their role in the resource use. The local people consider the forest as a source of food (fruits), land possession, woody biomass, income generation, fodder, employment and extraction of fencing materials ...etc. The Forests National Corporation (FNC) in collaboration with other institutions conducted several socio-economic studies to investigate this problem. The FNC concluded an agreement of cooperation with the local communities. Here the local indigenous knowledge in water harvesting was adopted by the FNC.

One approach to explaining increasing state interest in joint resource management focuses on proximate factors explaining agency behaviour. Thus, Thompson (1995) identifies four reasons:

Consequently the forest service often considered rural people as a threat to forest protection.

Forest management planning in Sudan started in 1929 in some river-rain forest reserves. Booth (1948) prepared the first proper management plan. The natural forest reserves and the natural forests outside the reserves are sustainable put under mismanagement. Except for this area all management activities executed within the natural forest reserves are contained in the forest legislation and concerned mainly, with protection through patrolling system and deterrence of' local communities. In spite of the protection measures and the patrolling system within natural forest reserves, dependent communities continued to extract their ever-increasing needs from the available natural resources.

Stakeholders concerned with social forestry in Sudan:

Government Institutions:

1- Forests National Corporation (FNC):

The law establishing the Forests National Corporation in 1989 as a semi- autonomous institution entrusts it with the following objectives and functions:

2- Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources (HCENR):

Its functions include;

3- Local Government Institutions:

In 1995 Sudan has adopted the federal system in order to devolve power and to bring the administration close to people and resources so as to provide for effective participation. Accordingly Sudan has been sub-divided into 26 States each State consists of a number of provinces and each province is divided into localities, and the localities consist of a number of popular committees (village councils where to each council belong six to eight villages).

In states where local leadership is prevailing, the Act provides for the establishment of native administration system within the general framework set out in the Act (Magzoub, 1999).

Other governmental institutions concerned with social forestry policymaking and implementation include

The Rise of the Civil Society:

Beshir 2002 argues that in the face of very harsh economic policies and very oppressive political measures the Sudan civil society gathered momentum to face the political and economic challenges. The range of functions is very wide and ranges from the environment to human rights, gender equality, reduction of poverty, conflict resolution, primary health care and assistance to the war displaced.

Community Institutions:

Traditional Administrations (Leadership)

Different governments also tried to develop similar systems (native administrations) closely related to the authoritative government organs at the local levels. Each level represents a different level of responsibility in terms of power and authorities and area of jurisdiction, and each level oversee all other levels below it in the hierarchy. Traditional administration is greatly a tribal system.

Other Traditional Institutions:

According to Hamid (1990), Damlij is concern with the collection of "Dia" or the blood money from tribal sections in case of murder or injury, while Ageed is the one responsible for organizing people for village defence purposes and for village labour for all communal works.

Non-Governmental Institutions:

Voluntary and collective work is deeply rooted in the Sudanese society. A number of teamwork models (nafir, fazaa... etc) are old practices during harvests time or when someone is building a house or during emergency situation (fire outbreak at village or in fields). Also there are some networks for coordination between NGOs e.g. the NGOs National Coordination Committee on Desertification (NCCD. The most relevant and active NGOs in social forestry are the Sudanese Environmental Conservation Society (SECS) and the Sudanese Social Forestry Society (SSFS).

Sudanese Environmental Conservation Society (SECS):

SECS is considered the most active NGO group in promotion of environmental awareness and lobbying for better environmental policies and actions. It does so by initiating and supporting small projects with grassroots involvement designed to improve living conditions and well-being (Mohamed, 1999). Examples of these projects include tree planting, waste management and awareness raising. SECS have more than 80 branches distributed all over Sudan, with more than 6000 members.

Sudanese Social Forestry Society:

Which promotes the concepts and practices of social forestry in Sudan through a networking and linkages with institutions concerned with social forestry?

Conclusions and Recommendations

In presenting the experience of these projects we give the following conclusions:-

Government Policies and Strategies:



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1 Social Forestry Expert, Sudanese Social Forestry Society, P.O. Box 11079, Khartoum, Sudan. talaat1957@yahoo.com