The Darfur Region was incorporated into modern Sudan only in 1916. It has borders with Libya, Chad and the Central Africa Republic, where the colonial boundaries cut across the human frontiers of ethnic and linguistic groups. Ecology is dominated by desert in the north, the Jebel Marra Mountain in the centre and rich savannah in the south. Range productivity varies from 0.8 tons/feddan1 in the North to 25 tons/feddan in the South.
Mirroring the national demographic trend, the population of Darfur has increased substantially during the last 50 years (see Table 1) and in the last three decades the region has witnessed a major population movement, both within the region and with other regions or even to the neighbouring countries. Simultaneously, it has received an influx of migrants from neighbouring countries, and in particular Chad. The spatial distribution of the population is largely determined by the natural resource endowment, combined with cultural and historical factors. However, recent political upheavals have enormously affected the population distribution. These various demographic pressures create an increasing demand on the already-depleted natural resources.
Figure 2: map of Darfur ecological classification2
The average annual population increase in Darfur is estimated at 4%, with great variation in density in certain areas, while the National population increase is around 3%. Generally, the population is concentrated in a belt between 11ْ and 14ْ north. North of this belt, towards 16ْ north the decreasing annual rainfall reduces the importance of agricultural activities, and nomadism based on camels, goats and sheep is the dominant subsistence activity, whereas to the south cattle husbandry dominates. Among the pastoral groups not everybody is actually involved in animal-rearing, and many households combine animal-rearing with cultivation, whilst others have taken up urban based occupations, without cutting their links to their home areas. The same is true for cultivators, some of whom (for instance in eastern Darfur) have gone into sheep farming for export, using hired herders.
Table 1: Greater Darfur population and population density3
Density: Person/ km2
The increase in population is accompanied by an increase in the need for natural resources and a concomitant increase in resource misuse and overuse. On the other hand the deterioration of the environment is also partly due to the consequences of drought, which results in increasing pressures on scarce natural resources.
Land use systems in Darfur are divided into four major systems:
The Qoz4 /Wadi5 farming of North and South Darfur, both being similar in household based millet cultivation and animal keeping, but with the more reliable rains in the south permitting larger and more stable yields, and more variable crops;
In Jebel Marra area mixed farming is the main economic occupation where terracing and concentration of runoff water allow simple irrigation systems to work. People cultivate millet (Pennisetum typhoidium) and sorghum (Sorghum spp), combined with irrigated citrus, vegetables and small quantities of wheat (Triticum oesstivum) and groundnut (Archis hypogaea).
The pastoralists in the north are mainly camel owners. Three major groups of camel nomads to the north are Zagahwa, Meidob and Al Rizeigat Alshmaliya
Cattle pastoralism dominates in the south. The dominant cattle nomads in the south are the Baggara such as Rizeigat, Habbaniya ,Beni Halba and Taaysha
Table 2: Types of land use and area in Greater Darfur Area (1,000 ha)6
Millet grown on Qoz-soil and sorghum grown on the alluvial soils are the staple crops, but there is a persistent risk of crop failure due to drought, locust and other pests. Due to population increase, people are forced to stay longer on the land thereby contributing to the process of degradation. In the areas where irrigation is possible labour input is divided between crops and other activities. Livestock rearing was originally a nomadic exercise in Darfur but lately sedentary farmers have started raising livestock to make use of their crop residues and also to make use of communal lands to reduce agricultural risks.