Sudan, once the largest and one of the most diverse countries in Africa, split into two countries in July 2011 after Southern Sudan voted for independence, after six years of autonomous regime. The new Republic of Sudan (Northern part) represents a predominantly Arab population of 38 million inhabitants. The new country, South Sudan, has a population of about 8 million people of mainly African ethnic origin (Dinka, Nuer, Karo and other Nilotic tribes).
Critical issues such as the sharing of oil revenues and the exact location of the border demarcation continue to create tensions between the two countries, impeding development. It is estimated than over 1.5 million people died during two rounds of civil war and 2 million people were displaced after the Western Darfur conflict.
Sudan has plenty of resources, from oil reserves ripe for exploitation to fertile agricultural lands of which only a small share (20%) is being cultivated. Land grabbing has been a concern in recent years as Sudan signed deals with foreign countries (eg, Saudia Arabia), at the expense of pastoralists and smallholder agriculture [ref von Braun, IFPRI 2009 and recent figures for South Sudan].
Oil revenues mean the per capita average income is higher than many sub- Saharan African countries but a large share of the population, especially in rural areas, do not benefit from such income. Agriculture remains the backbone of Sudan's economy, providing a livelihood for over three quarters of the population.
Sudan is largely an arid and semi-arid country with rainfall ranging from none in the arid North to 800 mm at the border with South Sudan. The main staple crops in the semi-arid and savannah zones are sorghum (75% of grain production), millets (dukhun) and groundnut, cultivated in the confined 350-800mm isohytes. There are large irrigation schemes sourced from the Nile river and managed by the public sector. Grain legumes such as cowpea, faba bean and chickpea are cultivated as winter crops in irrigated lands and flooded areas. Livestock, mostly raised under a pastoralist system, is very important for the food security of many families, contributing over 60% of agricultural GDP in recent years (ref, InterGouvernmental Authority on Development).
There is great potential for improving the traditional farming systems in Sudan.