Dr Alice Franck’s presentation on urban agriculture at the Sudanese Institute of Architects (SIA)’s 4th Scientific and Professional conference

On Monday 23rd May, Dr Alice Franck, Geographer and Coordinator of CEDEJ Khartoum, presented her paper “Urban Agriculture Facing Land Pressure in Greater Khartoum – The Case of New Real Estate Projects in Tuti and Abū Seʿīd” at the Sudanese Institute of Architects (SIA)’s 4th Scientific and Professional conference.



The starting point for a deep transformation that has taken place within the capital of Sudan between 2000 and 2010 was the oil export terminal commissioned in Port Sudan in 1999. The peace agreements between north and south Sudan were signed in January 2005, reinforcing the role of the land and real estate sector in Khartoum, which had become the major focus of the petrodollar market driving the recent strong growth until the secession of South Sudan on 9 July 2011.[i] The lucrative oil market has not only reinforced the hegemonic role of the capital – as the unique economic pole of the country – but has equally underwritten the conurbation’s attractiveness without redressing deep regional discrepancies (Denis 2006). The creation of South Sudan as an independent state clearly affects the situation. Conflicts for resources have been recurrent since Sudanese independence and continue to grow in the border region between the two separated countries. The Republic of the Sudan has lost part of its control over oil resources in the region, but it is still too early to measure the impact of that on urban investments.

blobThe real estate sector is booming and the whole city is being revamped. The morphology of Khartoum has radically changed. Skyscrapers have recently appeared in the city and are designed in the style of modern architectural buildings. These initially model designs in the city centre have now been built in adjacent districts stretching towards the outskirts of the city. Thus, this residential architectural model is proliferating throughout the city, and increasingly the construction of skyscrapers is no longer exclusively reserved for hotels and office buildings. Noteworthy urban projects have been quickly implemented, and Khartoum has been rapidly transformed into a huge construction site, wherein businessmen hailing from a diverse array of countries (Sudanese, Arabs, Asians and Europeans) take an active part. The frenzied increase in transport infrastructure construction bears witness to the urban dynamism that has characterized Khartoum in the last few years. Three new bridges have been built between 2005 and 2009, on the confluence of the Blue and the White Niles, with a fourth moving towards completion. Hundreds of kilometres of roads have been asphalted and now connect the different parts of the city centre to the extremities in the outskirts. In the space of less than five years the airport road, formerly full of pot holes, became a brand-new road with four lanes in both directions. The current redesign of Greater Khartoum reveals the sudden openness of the country to the market economy and globalization. This contrasts with the situation since independence and especially during the 1980s, when public works activities were extremely limited. The propagation of prestige urban projects has become the new trend that marks the current era (Choplin and Franck 2010).

My initial research into this location of intense speculation examined the future of the central areas that remained under agricultural activity and how they were gradually being transformed into urban areas (Franck 2007). The approach adopted analysed the resistance of agriculture and farmers to the spread of real estate and the pressure of competition over land ownership. Five years later, the action in favour of urban plan renewal has been drastically intensified and the capacity for resistance severely diminished; three of the five market gardening areas (Tuti, Shambat, Abū Seʿīd, Abu Rof and Mogran) observed during fieldwork in 2001–5 are subject to huge real estate projects (Mogran, Abū Seʿīd and Tuti). In this chapter, I focus my analysis on how landowners and the entire agricultural sector can both adapt to and confront the transformation.

The first objective of this paper is to examine how landowners react differently to the new active interest in their land, the implementation of prestigious real estate projects and the end of agricultural activity. Two case studies are used, at Tuti and Abū Seʿīd. Based on data from fieldwork in 2001–5 and an enquiry carried out in a shorter but more recent period of fieldwork in January 2009 related to the pressing land issue,[ii] I will trace the genesis of these new real estate projects. My analysis is based on the premise that land that is allocated agricultural status is of special interest for speculative transactions. Various projects are presented and their key actors are identified.

In the second part of this chapter, I examine how Tuti, a genuine rural island in the heart of the city centre, is being transformed. Tuti was chosen because, on the one hand, it has been the site of a symbolic resistance to urbanization for years; on the other hand, currently the majority of the inhabitants have been inclined to initiate or participate in the real estate projects on the island. I extend the analysis to a current land dispute to highlight the ferocity of the ongoing transformations, using Abū Seʿīd as an example.

Finally, using a comparative approach, I stress the importance of land issues in Khartoum: between Khartoum State, the Sudanese state, foreign and local investors, builders and traditional property owners. The land affected by the new real estate orientations has been appropriated by occupiers over a long period of time. Their identities and social biographies are thus firmly etched on this land. Although they are equally the object of a new urban agenda driven by other actors, two different strategies emerge.

[i]. Most of the data exposed in this chapter were gathered before the separation of north and south Sudan, that is to say, at the peak of the country’s economic growth and real estate investments.

[ii]. During the course of my Ph.D. project, I conducted fieldwork in Khartoum in the period 2001–5. The data from this period is used in this chapter to underline the evolution concerning the use of land and the attachment of landowners to agricultural land. However, another period of fieldwork in January 2009 focused on land conflict issues related to the agricultural status of land. This latter enquiry provides information about the conflict in Abū Seʿīd and launches another investigation on land administration and land registration. Since 2010, I have carried out regular fieldwork in Khartoum that allowed me to complete some data, in particular in the case of Tuti. Qualitative methods are used leading to a first sociological analysis of the new real estate projects.

The programme of the  conference: Conference program_14.5.2016 (1) (1)

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