The Sudanese proverb raises the question: Does the fool drown in his search for water or is he saved by it? And who is, in fact, this fool? Given the wasteful and unfair dealings of mankind with this dwindling resource – aren’t we all? While doing research on water, The Niles correspondents in South Sudan and Sudan met fishermen who deal carefully with the water that nourishes them and business people who exploit the resource without restraint. They report on conflicts around water but also on exemplary projects where water is shared peacefully. In short, the fool is still swimming, but for how long?
18 The Niles Eastern Sudan develops appetite for seafood A new culinary trend that could make them less dependent on volatile food imports. Abdalhady Al-Hag | Port Sudan E ven though the Red Sea State has a 750- kilometre coastline, people living in the region’s cities have long shunned fish and other seafood, viewing them as a reminder of colonialism. “In the minds of the Beja people, one of eastern Sudan’s most famous tribes, the sea was linked with invaders, occupation and slave traders,” says Jaafar Bamkar, a researcher specialising in the Beja culture. “They preferred living far from the coast and became less attached to sea professions, like fishing and other sea industries.” But attitudes have shifted in recent years and there has been a growing demand for fish and other seafood despite high prices. The average price of a kilogram of fish in Port Sudan is up to SDG 30 (around US$ 5). Professor Ahmad Abdelaziz, an expert in food, agriculture and natural resources, believes that the food culture of eastern Sudan used to avoid seafood. “This view has completely changed now. Consuming fish and other seafood has become usual, especially in coastal areas.” Abdelaziz says that fishing was not a desirable profession in eastern Sudan. “Now, however, a lot of eastern Sudanese people work in fishing. It has become a sought-after profession and people’s opinion of all sea occupations has changed.” “The demand for fish has dramatically increased over the last four years,” says Yousef Mohamed, a fish dealer at the Segala market, the main spot for unloading fish in Port Sudan. “There is a high demand for sea fish at Khartoum market in addition to increased fish exports to neighbouring countries. People want different fish types, this is a new trend in local consumers’ food behaviour.” “Every day, the main fish market in Port Sudan receives two to five tonnes of fish, while the market of Suakin receives 400 kilograms,” says Saeed Guma, Director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Wealth Fishery Directorate in the Red Sea State. “There is also production in other coastal areas.” Fishing, says Guma, is done using both traditional tools like boats, nets and hooks, and industrial methods like fish dredges. “The industrial ones however have been banned since 2009 because they endanger some fish species which should not be fished due to their growth phases or scarcity.” Boats mostly catch finned fish and, to a lesser degree, shrimps, crayfish and shellfish. The new demand for fish, however, has coincided with a number of problems for fishermen. Guma says over 3,000 fishermen work on the Sudanese coasts and they use 800 vessels. They suffer from skyrocketing prices of fuel and spare parts for engines and fishing tools, which are all imported. Seafood consumption in eastern Sudan remains comparatively low, but experts say it is set to rise further, putting the region on the road to food selfsufficiency. The per capita seafood consumption is only 1.5 kilogram per year in eastern Sudan: “It is a small percentage compared to international and regional consumption rates,” says Abdelaziz. “Seafood however is helping to establish food security for eastern Sudanese populations.” “The average price of a kilogram of fish in Port Sudan is up to SDG 30 (around US $5).” 4. Nile carp (Labeo niloticus) 5. Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) 6. Nile catfish (Synodontis batensoda) 7. Sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus) theniles6_20151123.indd 18 2015/11/23 2:13 PM
The Niles 19 Brisk Business on Nile Street Sudanese people flock to the Nile River in the evening. The Nile Street, which runs alongside the river, is a popular stretch and traders go to the area to tout their goods. Here are some of the Nile Street success stories. Text & photos: Mahir Abu Goukh | Khartoum Tea seller Hawa sells hot beverages like tea and coffee and was one of the first women to work on the Nile Street. She stands near Al-Manshiya Bridge, which links east of Khartoum with western Bahri. She works here six hours a day and has been selling tea on Nile Street for 10 years. Shoe shiner Eight-year-old Mohamed carries his backpack of shoe shinning tools along Nile Street every day. He charges SDG 3 (around US$ 0.50) for cleaning shoes. Thursdays are his most profitable days. Tobacco seller For the past three years, Ali has been selling different brands of cigarettes and tobacco on a small table near the Nile River. He also sells mobile charging cards or airtime, tissues and liquid soap. Ali speaks English and some French as well as Arabic, which allows him to communicate with the many foreign customers. Car washer Every evening after his studies, Abdelaziz carries a plastic basin, soap and car-cleaning cloths down to Nile Street. On Thursdays and Fridays he typically has a good number of customers but his income is always uncertain as he never knows how many customers he will find. Taxi driver Mohamed drives a minibus taxi, known in Sudan as ‘Al-Amjad’, and works from nine in the evening until midnight on Nile Street. He is especially busy on weekends and his prices vary according to distance. Sweet seller Every morning Musa sells cotton wool and toys in front of schools and every evening he takes his wares down to the Nile Street. He spends 10 to 15 days working and then heads to his hometown in Gezira State to spend time with his family. Thursdays and Fridays are the best days as children join their parents to the Nile Street. Boat captain For almost a year, Tareg has been the captain of ‘Shumoukh Nile Tourism’, one of 100 boats floating up and down the Nile. Growing numbers of people take Nile cruises and the boats are also used for public events and private parties. theniles6_20151123.indd 19 2015/11/23 2:13 PM