Many people think of Sudan as a barren desert and, to be sure, large parts of it are. However, two branches of the Nile River twist through the length of Sudan. So, river life is very much a part of Sudan as well and was essential to the powerful Nubian kingdoms that thrived here in ancient history. The river was important then and it is important now.
And, much like the river boats and culture of the Mississippi River during America’s “Wild West” era, a similar scene can be found along the Nile River in today’s Sudan. A whole ecosystem of trade and commerce revolves entirely around the Nile River. River boats and barges move up and down the Nile, transporting basic commodities such as livestock, salt and dates. Ferries are essential in connecting people and vehicles to roads that do not have bridges. When the ferry is full, it leaves and the captains make sure that they are very full before departing. Fishermen rotate through villages along the river. Traders move up and down the banks of the Nile River, trying to make some money off of whatever they are carrying on their backs. Men hunt the crocodiles that glide through the muddy waters of the Nile River. Shady characters lurk near the loading or unloading points for the ferries and river boats, hoping to make some easy money. Smugglers make their way up and down the Nile at night.
And then there are niches along the river that one would not necessarily think of right away…
These men harvest a plant that grows along the Nile River and sell it to those with livestock in the arid deserts nearby as feed for their animals:
You’ll notice that they are working in the water… Having seen them myself, I can assure you, dear readers, that there are very large Nile crocodiles that inhabit those waters. We were advised by several individuals that the men are occasionally picked off by these crocodiles, which sort of puts the complaints of those that work behind a desk in perspective:
After the river plants have been washed and allowed to soak up as much water as possible, they are stacked on the back of these donkey carts and hauled off to street markets in the surrounding villages for sale:
Hmmm…. I know that livestock form an important component of the agricultural sector, with production mainly based on traditional pastoral systems (over 90% of the livestock in the country belong to the traditional pastoral production systems). raised mainly by pastoral and agro-pastoral groups, with the former dependent on livestock and the latter on both livestock and cultivation. The herd size may vary from below fifty head to a few thousands per household. Pastoral herds are mainly semi-nomadic, as is the case in western Sudan and southern Blue Nile where traditional movements occur between wet and dry season grazing areas.
Livestock (cattle, then camel, sheep and goats) provides milk, meat, hides and skins, hair, manure, animal draught and transport, subsistence and income…. close to 25% of the GDP is from livestock production. Interestingly while about another 25% was from agricultural production, a great amount of that was in growing fodder for livestock (like the African pastoral nomads – often since passed into history other than small bands here and there – of the Tokelauans, the Rendille and the Tutsis and Samburu and Maasai primarily, got to love these meat eaters… vegetarians give me the creeps!)
Fodder grown for livestock (aside from natural fodder) include sorghum, maize, alfalfa , and (today, processed cottonseed meal). But grass grown along the river (wild or partially cultivated) for forage, I.e., “River Grass”…. Hmmm, that’s a new one on me.
After some research, I came up with Rhodes grass as to my guesstimate as to the best candidate….
“Chloris gayana is a species of grass known by the common name Rhodes grass. It is native to Africa but it can be found throughout the tropical and subtropical world. It can grow in many types of habitat. It is also cultivated in some areas as a palatable graze for animals and a groundcover to reduce erosion and quickly revegetate denuded soil. It is tolerant of moderately saline and alkaline soils and irrigation.This is a perennial grass which can reach one half to nearly three meters in height and spreads via stolons.
Its seasonal growth is in the spring and summer and its rainfall requirement is 600–750 mm per year. This low rainfall requirement means that this grass can survive in drier places (though flourishes greatly in wetter environments). Rhodes grass can also grow in a variety of soil conditions. means that it may be beneficial to poor farmers in the sub-tropis. Less work is required to maintain this grass which means that the farmers can focus on other priorities. It is also beneficial to farmers who own land with poor soil. Benefits from Chloris gayana can also be found in the plant’s growth. The seed germinates quickly (1-7 days) depending on temperature / moisture. In addition to this, it often achieves full ground cover within three months of sowing.
important feature of Chloris gayana is its drought tolerance. It is widely grown in drought prone regions. The reason why it is drought tolerant can be found in its roots. Production may be somewhat negatively affected with stronger drought period if it is cultivated for forage purpose. Chloris gayana roots are able to extract water at a depth of 4.25 meters. Since this grass has good drought tolerance, it could also be beneficial to farmers for ensuring livestock are fed in times of drought. Another important feature of Chloris gayana can be found in its salt tolerance. In terms of grass species, this type appears to be one of the most salt-tolerant species in terms of grasses. In saline conditions, plant growth is restricted”. Since Chloris gayana shows good salt tolerance, this type of grass can be beneficial to farmers who have salinity problems in their soil.
There are other practical uses that farmers can benefit from when growing Chloris gayana. It can help with weed control because it can outcompete and smother weeds. In addition to this, Chloris gayana is also able to deal with soil erosion on slopped fields by holding topsoil. Chloris gayana can also be mixed with legumes such as cowpea, stylo, and alfalfa which also improves soil nutrient levels. Managing weeds, soil erosion, and improving the soil are all important issues a farmer must deal with. Chloris gayana can be a good option for a farmer when it comes to trying to solve these problems…. ”
(This sounds pretty decent. Why aren’t our southern and southwestern livestock growers utilizing this?)
If something else, what?