Friday, July 11, 2008
Western Sudanese region of Darfur was once an important contributor to
the global economy. Cattle, gum arabic, tobacco and manufactured goods
made their way into the markets of Khartoum, the Gulf States, and even
Europe and North America.
Since the Darfur conflict erupted
2003, many of these links have been broken. Nyala, in South Darfur, is
no longer the second-most important manufacturing centre of Sudan. Few
Darfuri cattle make the trip to Omdurman market, near Khartoum. And the
Darfuri gum arabic trade, which once made Sudan the world’s leading
exporter of the valuable commodity, is now defunct.
in the high-risk conditions of the region, where insecurity and
banditry have largely destroyed the economy, there are remarkable signs
“Trade is the lifeblood of Darfur,” says Margie Buchanan-Smith, co-author with Abduljabbar Abdulla Fadul of a new report Adaptation and Devastation: The Impact of the Conflict on Trade and Markets in Darfur.
have always had to be very adaptable, whether it’s to changing climate
or changing rainfall; whether it’s to changing policy regimes before
the conflict,” she told IRIN by telephone. “That adaptability has
really been put to the test in the last few years.”
were forced out of business early in the conflict as a result of
insecurity and displacement, and those who remained solvent were taxed
additionally by the state to make up for a loss of revenue, according
to the study. A "shadow economy" - outside the control of the
government - developed in IDP camps. In the case of Zamzam camp, near
El Fasher in North Darfur, rebels have even imposed their own taxes.
Traders have also had to pay protection payments to ensure safe
delivery of goods in and around Darfur.
The increase in prices
and this “crippling policy environment” led Darfur’s once-important
trade in chewing tobacco, groundnuts, livestock, and gum arabic to
either shrink or collapse, Buchanan-Smith said.
But some trades
have persisted, according to the study. A trade in oranges continues,
albeit reduced, as dealers negotiate through frontlines, moving from
rebel-controlled areas of production to government-controlled urban
Grain traders have been kept afloat by a new trade in World Food Programme (WFP) relief grain.
traders in Nyala estimated that relief grain in the market is three
times the amount of locally produced cereals....Much of it is traded
outside the official market...hidden in houses. It is sold by IDPs...
as an income transfer as well as meeting consumption needs,” the report
New sectors, such as a timber trade and property market,
have opened up in response to urbanisation and the influx of
international humanitarian actors.
Buchanan-Smith said more
attention needed to be paid to the study of Darfur’s markets to better
focus livelihoods programmes as well as to minimise the environmental
impact of the humanitarian intervention.
“There are a number
of things that the humanitarian community can do," she said. "The first
is to be much more awake to the impact of what they do on the market.
you allow the market infrastructure to collapse, then it is going to
make recovery much more difficult, when the time comes, when there is a
peaceful solution,” she continued.
Alex de Waal, a Darfur
analyst, summed up the salience of the study: "Darfur’s markets will
undoubtedly be a more important factor than relief programmes in the
survival and livelihoods of the Darfurian people,” he wrote in a 2 July blog entry, “and it is crucial that they are studied, understood and supported."
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinnews.org