Top Environmental Problems in Sudan

Tue, 17 Oct 2017

Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed Eltom


In the 1980s, environmental degradation in Sudan received increasing recognition as a key socio-economic development issue by local as well as central and state governments. General trends over the last three decades have been poor management, poor environmental education and over-exploitation of natural resources which have led to serous environmental degradation and threats to sustainable development.

This study was conducted to view the extent and impact of environmental degradation in Sudan, presenting the main types, which are desertification, drought and deforestation. Data for this study was derived from both primary data (documentations) and secondary data or a review of relevant literature.

The objectives of this work are to identify issues and possible sources for knowledge to get ideas about what environmental problems exist in our country. The material presented in this paper is a summary from different sources and findings of many researchers. The maps are reproduced using Arc Map GIS software 10.2. 

Although the general understanding of the importance of environmental problems has recently grown among Sudanese society and within the official dialogues, there is still more conversation needed before responsive behavior can be put into action and adopted as a national strategy.



Sustainable and efficient environmental conservation and management of the available resources is now perceived to be an essential condition for pushing strategic efforts in the degraded areas of Sudan. Applicable research guidance that has contributed to the resource analysis of such degradation involves plans to analyze its costs and benefits all over the productive sectors. 

The natural set up of Sudan is influenced by the climate that is controlled by the relationships between two main air-flows (a dry continental air-flow from the north and moist air-flows from the South). The inter-tropical front between these two air-flows controls the distribution of rainfall all over the country, therefore, rain is extremely variable with regards to incidence and total amount.

   Based on the interaction of soils, climate, and topography and to a great extent, predominant land uses, the country is traversed by a series of different environments and a series of agro-ecological zones, ranging from desert in the north to a savannah in the south. These agro-ecological zones have been highly altered as the consequences of the desertification and drought.

 Sudan is located in an ecologically transitional and marginal zone, which is exposed to specific types of disasters and hazards. Most disasters in Sudan are of an ecological nature such as drought, desertification, pests and deforestation. The magnitude of such environmental degradation is not only a function of their nature and impact, but also a function of the misuse and over-exploitation of the merge resources.

  From a topographical point of view, the lands of Sudan are gently sloping plains. The country is traversed by almost 900 km of the Nile and its tributaries. The Nile water constitutes 96 percent of surface water.

Sudan resembles the entire African continent where more than 80 percent of its population lives in rural areas, depending on the traditional type of agricultural means such as shifting cultivation and grazing. Agriculture is the major economic resource of the Sudanese people, of whom about 80 percent are engaged in crop production and animal husbandry. Human and animal life depends on a delicate balance of the soil, water and flora that support it, and an unbalance of any one of these vital elements creates disruption. In the semi-arid areas of Sudan, agricultural harvests are likely to be irregular, although grazing is satisfactory.

A recent study (FAO and UNEP 2008) shows that out of the country’s total area (1.87 million km2), 1.13 million km2 (50.7 percent) are almost desert, 10 percent is semi desert (rainfall between 100 mm and 299 mm per year), and out of these areas, around 18630 km2 is irrigated land.

The population of Sudan is growing at a very rapid pace, from 7.8 million in 1955/56 to 30.9 million in 2008 resulting in an average annual growth rate of 2.7 percent, reflecting high demands for food, land and natural resources.

More than 150 countries are facing the problems of desertification, this includes most of the Arab countries. About one-third of desert lands in the world are located in the Arab states. Approximately, 90 percent of the total area of the Arab world is categorized as dry land and is characterized by harsh environments and fragile ecosystems, in addition to limited water resources and arable lands (Saad and Shariff, 2011). Desertification threatens the livelihoods of millions of human beings. According to a United Nations report, more than one billion people across the globe are affected by drought and desertification.

   Land degradation associated with reduced land capability and productivity remains a serious problem in the country, where desertification remains the major environmental problem and one of the main land degradation causes. Multi factors such as population growth, increasing demands for traditional activities and other natural related climatic change, are identified to be the major contributing factors for desertification. Desertification in Sudan is categorized as an advanced step of degradation which affects the arid and semi-arid ecosystems resulting from climatic variations and human activities. The occurrence of desertification in Sudan is associated with the nature of the dry lands, which are extremely vulnerable to resource over-exploitation attributed to inappropriate land uses such as deforestation, overgrazing and over cultivation.

There is measured evidence of long-term regional climate change in several parts of the country, mainly in the Kordofan, Darfur and Northern states. These areas have experienced a very irregular, marked decline in rainfall. In Northern Darfur, for example, precipitation has fallen by a third in the past 80 years as reported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and its Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch, 2010.

   Harrison and Jackson distinguished three ecological zones for Sudan from North to South: these are: (i) Desert Zone that receives an annual rainfall of zero to 75 mm; (ii) Semi-Desert Zone where annual rainfall varies from 75-300 mm; and (iii) Woodland Savanna Fig (1).


Problem Statement:

In Sudan, the current trend is one of increasing exploitation of the natural resources, leading to over-exploitation in large areas due to the lack of alternatives for a growing population. Since the 1960s Sudan has been experiencing severe problems of land degradation, especially along the southern margins of the Sahara in Darfur and Kordofan, besides the enormous threats to the main Nile.

The multi factors and generated impacts are shown in Fig (2). From the chart you can detect the relational network that explains the problem and causal related activities.


    Figure (1): Sudan Ecological Zones

According to Ayoub (1998), out of the agricultural land, pasture, forest and woodland (170 million ha in total), nearly 75 million ha (45 percent) have been degraded severely to very severely by human factors in recent history.

  Environmental degradation in Sudan is often linked to a local socio-economic modes of living, rather than to the reality of the potential socio-economic yield of the land. The value of the environmental resource conservation is in the increasing economic cost of the environment. So, the analysis of the total economic value of the forests, soils and water sources must be considered with many more interrelationships. Emelie Dahlberg and Daniel Slunge (2007), noted that most of the remaining semi-arid and low rainfall savannah, representing approximately 25 percent of Sudan’s agricultural land, is at considerable risk of further degradation which is projected to continue to move southwards due to climate change.


Environmental Degradation General Perspective:

Land Degradation:

The higher profile given to land degradation, and especially soil erosion, in current debates about the environment, development and economic aid is in part explained by their continual relation to other signs of environmental deterioration: drought, famine, desertification and deforestation (Winpenny, 1991). Factors such as climatic change, land exhaustion through over-use or misuse, population growth or displacement, disadvantageous changes in land tenure, welfare or export of resources cause lasting damage to the people, the animals and the environment. Climatic characteristics of Sudan’s semi-arid and arid zones include strong winds and low humidity, and are reflected in an increased vapour pressure deficit with implications for water use and supply efficiency, transpiration and evaporation. Dry lands, such as in Sudan, are frequently subjected to drought which is the main limiting factor on biomass production and crop yields. Human induced factors such as over-cultivation, overgrazing and other forms of inappropriate land use, when practiced under the conditions prevailing in the dry lands, may result in significant degradation of vegetation and soil leaching and in many cases, desertification (Keller, et, al; 1998).


The dry-lands of Sudan face a disastrous series of threats including population pressure, social and economical movement; such as the end of the traditional lifestyles, and exploitive agricultural and grazing practices that increase deforestation, soil erosion, salinization and surface water degradation as well as round water depletion.

The spread of resource degradation forces thousands of people to leave the land when it can no longer sustain them. Pressures from human and livestock populations associated with the effects of successive droughts have led to a serious degradation of land cover (LC), wind and water erosion, and the problem of soil fertility (less productivity) on a large scale in many parts of Sudan, mainly in the western states.

  As we discuss degradation, we mean land degradation including both soil and vegetation degradation. Soil degradation shows the negative changes in the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil that affected its productivity. Vegetation degradation, on the other hand, indicates the reduction in the number as well as quality of species with regards to the vegetational composition. Sudan witnesses severe problems in both components of the land. Drought increases soil degradation, while soil degradation magnifies the impact of drought as the natural components of the land become drier and drier.

Land degradation is, usually, the result of complex inter-relationships between biophysical and socio-economic issues which affect many people and their land. Fig (3) shows the land degradation of Sudan based on the assessment that classified the country into five classes from none to very severe degradation. Areas on the fringes of the Sahara Desert will be acutely vulnerable, including conflict- and drought-stricken parts of Darfur, Northern Kordofan, Khartoum State and Kassala State.

The most serious concerns are land degradation, desertification and the spread of deserts southwards by an average of 100km over the past four decades. Maps are created from Sudan’s georeferenced environmental degradation map used by Egemi (2014). Reclassification methods had been applied using ArcGIS 10.2 software.

   Sampled photos had been taken and presented in this review for more illustrations, which reflect spatial features attributes of today’s environmental conditions.

Soil Degradation:

Soil degradation refers to negative changes in the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soils. The soil degradation assessment shows severe and very severe degradations for 58 million ha, which indicates that land degradation in the country is more linked to soil degradation than to vegetation degradation. According to Ayoub (1998), about 64 million ha of soils are degraded in Sudan. 81 percent of the total degraded area is in the susceptible arid and semi-arid areas. 

Soil degradation in Sudan not only results in decreased food production and productivity, but also in successive droughts, ecological imbalance and consequent degradation of the quality of life among all rural communities.





                                                  Photo (1)                                                              Photo (2)

2-3 Population Displacement:

As the magnitude of land degradation increases and resilience to climate change decreases, in the semi-desert areas of North Kordofan, North Darfur and White Nile states, Sudan is currently experiencing a dramatic and remarkable change in population and economic status. This has resulted in changing the population’s social set up due to drought since 1984-1985, as shown in tables (1) and (2).

   Table (1): Population Displaced during 1984-85


No. displaced /person














Table (2): Urban Population Growth 1955 -56/2010


Urban Population










Degradation around Water Bodies:

Degradation (desertification) also expands outwards from center points, usually associated with human or livestock concentrations. In Sudan the land degradation has many forms; such as around watering points (surface water resources or ground base water resources). A study in western Sudan has shown a steady increase of bare soil around boreholes over time, around hafirs. This phenomenon has been increased from 20 percent to 55 percent in the last 30 years (Al Awad, 1985). It also showed that in the east Kordofan district of western Sudan, with an area of about 29,000 square km, there were 150 boreholes, many of which supplied overlapping grazing areas, which have had great impact on the deterioration and degradation of the ecosystem.

The environmental sustainability of some Sudan’s states indicate that the situation in many regions of Northern and Western Darfur are undergoing desertification and land degradation at a significant rate. Other states facing similar problems are North Kordofan, South Kordofan, eastern Kassala, northern Blue Nile, and the Northern State (UNEP, 2007).

Photo (3)


The following disastrous factors have descended on the country within the life-span of one generation:

  1. Micro- and macro-climatic change (the practically continuous Sahel drought since 1967).
  2. Diminishing and erratic rainfall and accelerating desertification (the floods and torrential rains of 1988).
  3. Near doubling of population in less than a quarter of a century (15.4 million in 1970 to 25.4 million in 1990).
  4. Displacement - both internal and external - of some six million people.
  5. Doubling of livestock numbers within 20 years.
  6. Deforestation on a massive scale.
  7. Renewed civil war in the south, which is now encroaching on the west and east.
  8. Aggressive expansion of legal and illegal rain-fed mechanized farming, from 0.42m ha [1 million feddans] in 1967 to 7.5 million ha [18m fed.] in 1989 (Suliman).


Figure (3): Magnitude of Degradation by States





Desertification is the aggregate result of drought in the form of water shortages for plant desiccation and plant recession, soil erosion, etc. It is a process of turning productive land resources to zero production or non-productive land into desert production conditions or marginality of production conditions, whose recovery is either very expensive or impossible to attain (Abu Sin, 1991).

   We can classify the levels of desertification in Sudan into 4 categories: slight desertification process of less deterioration in physical environment, the moderate desertification, where the recourses are affected and can be recovered, the severe desertification where all impacts are active producing substantial reduction of productivity and delay of resource recovery, and very severe desertification level where all agents of desertification are very intensive resulting in a near or desert zero productivity.   

The desert covers the northern parts of Sudan. The southern boundary of the desert starts in the province of Northern Darfur along latitude 160 N., extending eastwards to the western corner of Northern Kordofan towards Atbara in the Northern Region and eastwards to the intersection of latitude 200 N. with longitude 36 E. in the Red Sea Province. The total area of the desert region is 725,800 square kilometers, while the area of the semi-desert region is approximately 491,000 square kilometers (Badi, 1989). Desertification, a phenomenon referring to land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions as a result of climatic variations and human activities, is considered as one of the most severe environmental and socio-economic problems of recent times (Abdi, et al; 2012). Desertification has been defined as land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities (IPCC, 2001). Another definition of desertification is the spread of desert-like conditions of low biological productivity due to human impact under climatic variations (Helldén, 1991). In Sudan, desertification has been occurring for thousands of years, but after the alarming impacts of environmental problems during the 1980s, it has begun to receive greater attention from NGOs, the UNDP and UNEP.

Desertification threatens the dry lands of Sub-Saharan Africa more than any other region in the world. Once the vegetational cover is removed, the fragile soils are exposed to winds and battering rains making erosion inevitable. The frequencies of storms all over the country are often accompanied by strong winds due with wind speeds exceeding the normal records.

    The problem of desertification has become quite grave and covers wide regions of Sudan. The areas affected by desertification extend between latitudes 120 and 180 across the west, including a strip from the Nile River to the Egyptian border between 300 and 320 East. The total area struck by desertification was estimated to be 650.000 square kilometers in the late 1990s and is continuing to increase (Abu-Samra, 1991).

Indicators of Desertification:

The main indicators of desertification in Sudan are likely accounted in the form of: loss of arable land fertility, changes in land productivity as well as its nutrient cycle, hazards of surface compaction, depletion of forest lands, and decrease in range land areas and increase in devegetated areas, which affected forage productivity. The indicators also include the increasing of wind and water erosion that has lead to severe geomorphologic processes such as mantling the top layer of the soils (photos 4 and 5) as well as the decrease in the standard of soil moisture and its efficiency for ground water stability. Other socio-economic indicators are influencing the quality of life of the population and escalating poverty levels.

Impacts of Desertification:

Desertification is considered one of the main factors that cause the migration of rural populations to urban centers, thus, creating so-called “environmental refugees” (UNEP, 1991). Desertification threatens the livelihoods of millions within rural populations in Sudan.

Overall, deserts in some northern regions of Sudan may have advanced by an average of 100 km over the past 40 years.





Between the mid-70s and 80s, Sudan was struck by drought due to the severe lack of rainfall. This caused a marked disturbance in the biomass and seriously affected the socio-economic status of populations in severely affected areas (Abu Sin, 1991).

Drought is assessed with relation to the rainfall average. The values below average do not necessarily lead to drought. Rainfall levels are fluctuating, and therefore good and bad years detected from the metrological records that show deviations from the mean represent the drought seasons clearly. Some regional patterns of rainfall can be expressed in terms of variability, trends (upward or downward) and persistence. Even allowing for the differences between states in individual years, the period 1984-1993 has experienced widely different conditions from season to season. 

Sudan is frequently subjected to drought, which is the main limiting factor on biomass production and crop yields. Frequent drought cycles extending over 2-3 years are common. Episodes of drought are spreading in the country at variable levels of severity. While the 1984 categorization had served as a description of the earlier manifestation of the drought in the 1980s, and still has some bearing on how drought research is being conducted and perceived, the opinion is that the nature of drought has changed. Droughts are successive, not static events, and over the last three decades degradation in Sudan has gradually changed the nature of the land cover and the mode of living from being a stationary to mobile society, with the socio-economic and resource degradation indicative impacts all over the Sudanese states. In Sudan, this meant a new expansion drive to exploit less accessible resources, mainly in western Sudan. A number of traditional alternatives were activated, based on the exploitation of forest resources, mainly wood cutting. When speaking about drought, we should consider unreliable and variable rains as a recurrent problem.

In Northern Darfur, for example, precipitation has fallen by a third in the past 80 years according to the report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP, 2010) and its Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch. The spatial magnitude and severity of drought for the country is graphically represented in Fig (4) and Table (3). The main assessment of drought is the shortfall between rainfall received and rainfall normally expected in a given period.  In Table (3), we can view some basic chronological forms and types of drought and its impacts since 1835 based on Ibrahim (1985).


Table (3): Basic Chronological Forms and Types of Drought

Year of Drought

Name and Damage

Area Extent


“Year of Famine”

Central Sudan


Hundreds of thousands died

Central Northern and Western


No rain for a year, crops failed

Central Northern and Eastern



The Nile regions


Poor rain – relief brought from India

Northern Sudan mainly


“The Year of the Flour” from India

Central Sudan


Slight famine

Central and Eastern


“The Great Famine”

All states of S

  Source: Mohamed Babiker Ibrahim (1985): Adjustment to Drought hazard in the Semi-

                           arid Areas of the Sudan.


Rainfall variability and fluctuations begun with the 1970s drought. More significantly, droughts have become more frequent since that presented in 1972 with the most disastrous drought in 1984, Fig (4). From the figure, we noticed a downward rainfall trend and below average rainfall that indicate the drought seasons with great variations in their impacts all over the country. The worst drought years were 1983 and 1984, but severe droughts were also recorded in 1972, 1973, and 1977.


Figure (4): Rainfall Deviation from the Mean (Indicators of Drought Years)

    Source: El-Mahi


4-2 Impacts of Drought:

  1. An SOS Sahel UK study from North Kordofan (2002) assessed that average Dura grain (sorghum) yield per feddan has declined from 630 kg in early 1970s to 270 kg in 2002.
  2. Gedarif State of eastern Sudan shows that the average of dura yield per feddan has declined from 720 kg in 1960s to 180 kg in 2013.
  3. A drop in crop yields of up to 70 percent is forecast for the most vulnerable areas according to the Sudan Post-Conflict Assessment.
  4. Historical data in Darfur indicates that rainfall declines of between 16 percent and over 30 percent have occurred, turning millions of hectares of marginal semi-desert grazing land into desert.
  5. Climate models for North Kordofan indicate that temperatures are set to rise by 0.5 degrees C to 1.5 degrees C by 2030 and 2060 with an average rainfall decline of 5 percent.
  6. The impacts on agriculture are likely to be disastrous in some areas. For example, sorghum production could decline from yields of close to 500kg/hectare to 150 kg/ hectare; a drop of 70 percent.
  7. The impacts also seemed to be aggravated by degradation of water sources in rural areas known as wadis. Virtually all such areas inspected by UNEP were found to be moderately to severely degraded, principally due to drought, deforestation, overgrazing and erosion.
  8. Environmental degradation is one of the driving forces of displacement. There are five million internally displaced people and refugees in Sudan.
  9. The extent of drought severity scale is assessed depending on the damage occurred to society, resources, economic and production system as well as to population. Table (4) gives an estimate of the population affected by 1984-86 droughts in western Sudan.


Table (4): Estimated Population Affected by 1984-86 Droughts in Western Sudan




Affected Population

Vulnerable Population



August 1984






June - 85



February -86





August 1984






June - 85



February -86



           Source: Abu Sin, 1991


The displacement phenomenon was measured during the drought of the 1984-85 and the people moved towards the towns and cities as documented by World Food Program (1988), Table (5) and Table (6).


 Table (5): The Number of Displaced People in March 1985


New Living Areas

Number Displaced





Darfur Region



Central Region



Kordofan Region



Eastern Region



Shendi – El Debba


     Source: Abu Sin, 1991



 Table (6): Estimated Displaced Population in Sudan 1989/1990



Area Council


South Darfur

Nyala, Jebal Mara




Abyei, El Meiram, El Muglad, Babanosa, Kadogli


Northern Kordofan

El Obeid, El Nuhud


Central Region

Kosti, Damazine, Senar





Northern Region



           Source: Abu Sin, 1991



The poor status of the environment and other causes, such as diseases and insects, affected the livestock sector and great loss was recorded during the drought season in 1986, Table (7).


Table (7): Livestock Mortality and Offtake due to Drought (%) in 1986










































 Sources: Institute of Environmental Studies (1987) baseline survey of Darfur Region

 Sources: Institute of Environmental Studies (1987) baseline survey of Kordofan Region




                                  Photo (6)                                                           Photo (7)

                       Photo (8)



The forests of Sudan are mainly found in the southern parts of Kassala, Blue Nile, South Kordofan and South Darfur provinces. They constitute about 40 percent of the total area of the nation’s forest resources. The annual wood consumption was estimated to be about 45 million cubic meters in 1988 (Gad Alla & Ibrahim, 1989). The problem is that the environmental problems related to fuel wood and timber consumption were under estimated or simply ignored.

Sudan was the home of great coniferous forests that covered the soils of the Nubian and Western Deserts in the remote geological past. The forest vegetation in Sudan follows the variations in rainfall and soil type and, to a lesser extent, the effect of topography which is confined to certain localities. The influence of soil is reflected in its permeability and its water retention capacity and to a lesser extent, its acidity. The soils vary from permeable sands with poor water retention, to impermeable clay soils in the central parts and fertile silt soils along the river banks (Badi, 1989).

Northern Sudan’s forests are constantly changing in a process of retrogression, and are being depleted by the expansion of rain-fed farming (shifting cultivation), the increasing demand for fuel wood (firewood and charcoal) and wood for building houses. At current rates of consumption, when compared to regeneration and afforestation, all forest areas in northern Sudan have been denuded. Historical records reflects the thick image of the forests that existed round the dwellings 30 years ago, which have now gone and are completely eradicated.

Forest resources in the country have also been seriously depleted. The annual removal rate, which was estimated at 2.4 percent, is considered the highest rates of deforestation in developing countries. Two-thirds of the forests in north, central and eastern Sudan disappeared between 1972 and 2001.

It is estimated that the natural forests of the Sudan occupy about 23 percent of the total land area. The average annual increment of growing stock volume is about 1.340 million cubic meter of which 5 percent is removed (67 million cubic meters) per year. The majority of the 57 million cubic meters is used for firewood and charcoal, while 9 percent is used for high quality timber, the rest is lost because of fires, drought, overgrazing, and agricultural practices (Amani Abdel Rahim, 2012).



                                         Photo (10)                                                                     Photo (11)



Sudan is undergoing a rapid loss of forests. Forest cover has declined by 11.6 percent since 1990 or approximately 8.8 million hectares. At the regional level, two-thirds of the forests in north, central and eastern Sudan disappeared between 1972 and 2001. In Darfur, a third of the forest cover was lost between 1973 and 2006.

A further study by ICRAF, the World Agroforestry Center, commissioned by UNEP for the report, indicates that Sudan has lost 30 percent of its forests since independence with the majority of forests in the north already lost.

Many sensitive areas are also experiencing a "deforestation crisis" which has led to a loss of almost 12 percent of Sudan's forest cover in just 15 years. Indeed, some areas may undergo a total loss of forest cover within the next decade (UNEP, 2007).

Many sensitive areas are also experiencing a "deforestation crisis" which has led to a loss of over 30 percent of Sudan's forest cover during the last two decades. Indeed, some areas may undergo a total loss of forest cover within the next decade mainly surrounding the urban centers. The vegetation degradation causing the reduction in the number of species and the vegetational composition are also included under the assessment of deforestation.

Causes of Deforestation:

Of all factors causing or contributing to deforestation, or even tending to disturb the natural conditions in forests, man has been the most powerful and persistent (Badi, 1989). In Sudan, many diverse needs for various products of forests have been activated by the local societies in rural areas leading to the factors behind severe deforestation. One factor is over cutting as the trees are used as building materials and daily as fuel wood. Another being the industry of brick-making, as one large tree is needed to provide the fire to make around 3,000 bricks. In addition, the clay needed for brick-making can damage trees by exposing roots and also creating pits. UNEP estimates that fuel wood requirements for 2006 were around 27 to 30 million cubic meters. Deforestation led to a loss of about 11 percent of Sudan’s forest cover between 1990 and 2005. Other factors are; over-cultivation (shifting cultivation and modern agriculture), over-grazing and the effects of fires.

Impacts of Deforestation:

  1. The environmental impacts of deforestation on many rural areas are high, especially in respect to deforestation for fuel wood. The UNEP study found that in Darfur, extensive deforestation can be found as far as 10km from a village mid-point.
  2. The most associative impact is devastating floods occurring on the Blue Nile, as a result of deforestation and overgrazing in the river's upper catchment. River bank erosive geomorphological processes due to watershed degradation and associated flooding are particularly destructive and severe along the fertile Nile riverine strip.
  3. Scientific research at the state level also showed evidence of forest clearance for different purposes, mostly new urban extensions. For example, the study about El Obeid Town Urban Deforestation showed the complete eradication of the forests surrounding the town attributed to the new urban extensions.


  1. Land degradation, in part linked with deforestation, is dramatically reducing the capacity of Sudan's existing dams, due to sedimentation. The Sennar Dam, on the Blue Nile, has lost 60 percent of its capacity with the Khashm el Girba Dam, on the Atbara River, down by over 50 percent.
  2.  The degradation of vegetation on overstocked pastures takes place both quantitatively and qualitatively, useful species disappear and are replaced by unpalatable species, for example, the poisonous scrub Calotropis procera (iushar) has spread widely on exhausted soils. Unpalatable plants, such as cassia acutifolia (senna senna), Acanthospermum hispidum (horab hausa) and Guiera senegalensis (Gubeish) occupy vast areas and replace former, palatable pasture grasses, such as Cenchrus biflorus (haskanit), and the Eragrostris and Aristida species.

Rates of Deforestation:

  1. Change in Forest Cover: Between 1990 and 2010, Sudan lost an average of 321,600 ha or 0.42 percent per year. In total, between 1990 and 2010, Sudan lost 8.4 percent of its forest cover or around 6,432,000 ha.
  2. The 1995 Forest Resources Assessment showed a 0.8 percent deforestation rate for 1990-95. A review of old maps of Sudan at the 1:250,000 scale revealed a significant decrease in tree area since 1900.
  3. At Timbisquo and Um Chelluta, two sites in Southern Darfur, the annual deforestation rates are 1.3 percent and 1.2 percent respectively. Overall, Sudan's deforestation rate of natural forests may be close to 2 percent per year.
  4. In Darfur, a third of the forest cover was lost between 1973 and 2006.
  5. Two-thirds of the forests in north, central and eastern Sudan disappeared between 1972 and 2001.
  6. In Gedaref State, the area described as grazing lands has declined from 28,250 km2 (78.5 percent of the state’s total area) in 1941 to 6,700 km2 (18.6 percent of the state’s total area) in 2002.    

7- In Jebal Mara, in Darfur, the proportion of land covered with closed forest fell from 50.7 percent in early 1973 to 35.8 percent in late 2001.




                                                    Photo (12)                                                                        Photo (13)

Photo (14)


Summation of Degradation Impacts:

The following are social, economical, cultural and environmental impacts:

  1. Loss of human stability.
  2. Loss of animals (mass death).
  3. Population displacement (mass kind of mobility).
  4. New mode of living (adaptation mechanism).
  5. Social and cultural life change.
  6. Crisis of economic resources (lower living standard).
  7. Environment related problems.
  8. Accelerating human poverty cycle.


Future Perspectives:

  1. The wealth of Sudan depends on the Sudanese ability to conserve and manage their land resources effectively as well as potentially, which required restructuring for the existing system.
  2. UNEP predicts that within five to ten years, the northern states of Sudan will only be able to obtain sufficient supplies of charcoal from southern Sudan and Darfur as all other major reserves will have been exhausted.
  3. "It is clear however that a big part of that future and central to keeping the peace will be the way in which Sudan's environment is rehabilitated and managed. Sudan's tragedy is not just the tragedy of one country in Africa? It is a window to a wider world underlining how issues such as uncontrolled depletion of natural resources like soils and forests allied to impacts like climate change can destabilize communities, even entire nations," (Mr Steiner).
  4. The relationship between natural resources and human activities in Sudan needs a new reform knowing that land-based renewable natural resources are also the backbone of the other sectors of the economy, especially manufacturing, trade and transport.
  5. Using satellite images for assessing drought and land cover greenness for more monitoring and updating on resource degradation assessment.
  6. To motivate more sustainable natural resources management projects like the selected three sites (Madani, Kassala and Rabak) to be generalised in all the states (Fig (5).


      Figure (5): The Sustainable Natural Resources Management Projects in Sudan


  1. Land/water management approaches and technologies are the main requirements for the era.

More sustainable ways of farming are a limiting factor for the existing environmental situations.

  1. "Disorganized and poorly managed mechanized rain-fed agriculture, which covers an estimated area of 6.5 million hectares, has been particularly destructive, leading to large-scale forest clearance, loss of wildlife and severe land degradation," (UNEP, 2007). The new reform for managing mechanized rain-fed agriculture is required.
  2.  As far as the wood energy crisis is concerned, the UNDP in its World Bank Energy Assessment Report for Sudan gave special attention to the urgent need to address the wood energy crisis that is emerging as a result of overcutting of the woodlands in Sudan.
  3.  In the area of forest resource and land management, high priority is given to control forest activities to strengthen the institutional set up. Promotion of agro-pastoral forestry through integration of tree planting and afforestation into agriculture, animal husbandry range management and soil conservation and management.



What are the leading factors for environmental problems? The answer for this question can be summarized in Fig (6), which shows the illustrative chart analysing the problem:

Figure (6): The Leading Factors for Environmental Problems



  1. Abu Sin, Mohamed EL Hadi (1991): Forms and Types of Disaster and Hazards in the Sudan. Proceedings of the National Seminar on Disaster Prevention and Management in Sudan 17-19 March 1990, U of K and UNESCO Regional Office in Arab States (UNEDBAS) – Sudan.
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  1. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director


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