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Prospects for agricultural water management
The country has an agricultural potential of 105 million ha, of which only 16.7 million ha are cultivated and only about 1.9 million ha out of an irrigation potential of around 2.5 million ha are equipped for irrigation now. Although there are still large areas of suitable land for irrigation development, the available water resources have reduced considerably since the secession of South Sudan, corresponding to the states with higher rainfall. In addition, availability of water resources is also curtained by the current uncertainty regarding the future of the Nile agreement and therefore Sudan's share of the Nile water resources. However, the low efficiency of irrigation schemes allows further improvement in irrigated agriculture.
Apart from the Gezira scheme established in 1925, most of the irrigation schemes were developed in the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, there have been no significant irrigation developments, for two reasons: any possible remaining sites would be complex and expensive to develop, and the low levels of productivity of the irrigated crops in the country make it difficult to justify further investment. As a result, priority has been given to increasing productivity from the existing irrigation schemes. But the recent division of the country, the recurrent conflicts in the last decade–through disorganisation and displacement of skilled staff–as well as weak institutions and legislations, constrain irrigation management and improvement in Sudan.
Hopefully, the recent irrigation transfer management of the large irrigation schemes to water users might contribute to improve results of the irrigation sub-sector. In addition, the prospects for sugarcane production in Sudan are encouraging and there are plans for the expansion of areas controlled by the Kenana Sugar Company and the Sudanese Sugar Corporation, as well as for the construction of new estates on both the Blue and White Niles. This could enable Sudan to grow in importance as a sugar exporter and will have major benefits for populations around the sugar estates (FAO, 2011), if water resources are made available both in the country and in the Nile basin.