The War against the Mesquite Tree

Why did it fail in Al Gash and Toker and succeeded in New Halfa?

The mesquite is an evergreen thorny, between 5-6 meters tall tree. In Sudan, there are two types of the tree, Prosopis Chilensis and Prosopis Africana which were brought to Sudan in 1917.

The two types were planted in Shambat and then in other parts of Khartoum North  and regions of the country.

The mesquite tree can be useful and also can be harmful, particularly in agricultural areas.

The spread of the plant in Halfa agricultural projects, Toker Delta and Al Gash Delta has deprived farmers from doing their farming job and this is why the government has directed for the removal of mesquite tree from these projects.

Eventually, the job was placed with Switch Agricultural Services Company who won the tender. The company succeeded in removing the tree from New Halfa Project but the tree again began to grow at Al Gash and Toker projects but not at New Halfa Project.

To know more about this tree and the efforts being taken to remove it and eliminate its negative effects, SV met with the general manager of Switch Agricultural Services Company, Engineer Ahmed El Rasheed Saad.

Engineer Saad started by saying that his company had worked in the removing of mesquite tree at locations in Halfa. The mesquite covered an area of 250 thousand out of 400 thousands feddans of the land.

He added the job was completed within two years in June 2006. The removal of mesquite was the first stage of the rehabilitation of the project. Eventually, the removal of mesquite contributed to the revival of the project and it is now free from the tree.

After that, work started at Toker Agricultural Project in 2006, at an area of 21 thousand feddans. The company also contracted to execute 20 thousand and 40 thousand feddans at Al Gash and River Nile.

“Work at these areas which was executed by the company was successful. The company used scientific methods upon a recommendation by agricultural experts on  mesquite combat”, Engineer Saad said.

He added workshops were held jointly with the National Corporation for Forests which recommended that mechanical removal should be used in the first stage, then manual removal with the using of insecticides in the third stage. The combat of the tree succeeded in these projects.

Engineer Saad said work at these projects received acclaim and was great success since the whole process was integrated whereby mesquite was removed from the project, agricultural lands, villages, water canals and the parameter of the city and now no mesquite is there except the seeds.

Animals carrying new seeds were prevented from entering the project.

He added what has been done at Halfa Agricultural Project was not done at Al Gash, Toker and River Nile since removal of mesquite at these areas was partial.

Al Gash project whose area is about 700 thousand feddans, some 400 thousands feddans were infected by mesquite.

The company has removed mesquite at about an area of 40 thousand feddans and another company has removed some trees at an area from 35 thousand feddans.

In another year some mesquite at 75 thousand feddans were removed and so the total area from which mesquite has been removed at Al Gash is about 150 thousand feddans out of 400 thousands feddans.

In Toker project with a total area of 400 thousand feddans and an infected area of more than 200 thousand feddans with very high density, mesquite was removed from an area of 20 thousand feddans, which is about 10% of the total area of the project.

It is known that mesquite leaves it traces in the form of seeds at the surrounding area of Khor Al Baraka and Al Gash where mesquite trees are found upper Khor Al Baraka and Al Gash and therefore the challenge of the return of mesquite remains without waiting for another year.

As regards the process at Halfa Agricultural Project, Engineer Saad said the project management demanded close and continuous follow-up by the project management, through mesquite law, a judge and mesquite follow-up unit.

Engineer Saad said the unit will work independently of the project and the law applies to all. But he added, this process was not applied in Al Gash or Toker since its application would not be fair and for objective reasons. He attributed this to the fact that mesquite could return to lands from which the tree has been removed in case of the absence of follow up in these projects in addition to the non-determination of the ownership of agricultural land which has led to the return of mesquite to Al Gash and Toker.

“Efforts that were made in New Halfa have found appreciation of all parties and the process has been completed according to the law in a manner that reserves rights of the company and others,” he said.

Engineer Saad added mesquite is not all bad bur rather it has its benefits and positive sides but if found on an agricultural land, it becomes harmful undoubtedly.

He added outside agricultural land, the tree is used for protection against desertification since the tree adds nitrogen and fodder to the agricultural land.  And this why agricultural lands from which mesquite has been removed has yielded high productivity but mesquite still remains a big problem for agricultural land unless an integrated campaign is staged.

On the means and ways of removing mesquite tree, Engineer Saad said the first thing to do is to remove the tree and combat its growth.

“In Sudan there is no fixed method but we opted for mechanical and manual removal,” he said.” Manual removal cannot be done without the removal of the roots which go 30 cm deep into the earth”.

About the period of time in which a mesquite tree that is removed by hand grows if such removal did not affect the roots, Engineer Saad said that they – in collaboration with experts,- had adopted a 45-day guarantee but the tree can grow within  seven  days. He added the spread of the tree is dangerous since its produces not less than 100 kilogram per year.

On his part, the director of Switch Agricultural Services Company, engineer Abdel Monem Taj El Deen, said Switch Company was the first company that worked in the field of mesquite removal.

He added the company’s performance has been lauded by all experts in that it has carried out a big job at Halfa, Toker and Al Gash Delta agricultural projects, Jebel Awliya and at the Medical Supplies Facilities at Giad.

He added the company used all the techniques adopted in removing mesquite and  mesquite experts.

Engineer Taj El Deen added his company has signed a contract for the removal of mesquite from agricultural land at Halfa and Toker upon a decision by the President of the Republic.

“About 70% of the New Halfa Project land is now out of agriculture and all methods used for removing the tree but the seeds will remain,” he said.

When I asked him why manual labour was used in this big job, he said they used manual labour at the request of the natives of the area; the contract signed with the company provided that local labour should be used despite the availability of trained labour.

“The clauses of the contract provide that natives of the area should benefit from the fund allocated for the removal of the tree,” he said.

He added there was no time to train manual labour but what is most dangerous was not the existing tree but rather the seeds that grow which should be eliminated.

When we asked him who would be responsible in case of a recurrence of mesquite, Engineer Taj El Deen said there were many parties who would bear the responsibility.

“I will give you example: the canals are the responsibility of irrigation department, the growing land is responsibility of the farmer; the sub-canals are the responsibility of corporation and the villages are the responsibility of the localities”. “The laws that were adopted in Halfa were effective and resulted in that no mesquite were ever to be found at the project,” he said.

Commenting on this matter, engineer Saad said that by the word person it was not meant a natural person. He added the Halfa project plan was a comprehensive one  that took into consideration area of the land and the application of the law.

He added the project management has followed up the growing of mesquite, He said   the plan is still valid and an awareness program has been implemented. He said that until now the Halfa project is free from the mesquite.

Engineer Saad, however, said this was not the case with Al Gash project since the removal was partial because the infected area was 400 thousand feddan of which some 150 thousand feddans have been cleaned.

He added that there are about 250 thousand feddans that are still infected and that mesquite can be found at the upstream.

He said the law is not being applied there and it is also difficult to apply it at Al Gash since acquisition of land has not been regularized and that in the Al Gash area, lands are not registered and ownership not determined.

He added what makes the situation difficult are the absence of direct responsibility, the non-establishment of a follow-up unit and partial removal.

“We have presented our opinion and advices to official departments and in our meetings and talked to them about the danger of partial removal and asked them to start removal from upstream so that the problem could be addressed but they asked that removal should take place at the area of their choice,” he said.

On his part, Engineer Taj El Deen says mesquite does not grow after removal and that in case removal method is not good the plant may grow within one week.

He added the area from which the trees had been removed were handed over in the presence of security, police, farmers federation and public prosecution through an official document which was signed by all concerned.

He said the contract provides that the manual method is the main method of removing the tree and that it represents 90% of the volume of the work required by using local labor at the project area provided that local labour should not be less than 75% of total labour. The work involves removal of the roots and leveling the land after removal.

In another clause he said the land from which mesquite is removed should be handed over after 40 days from the date of removal for ensuring no new trees have grown.

In addition, the land should be completely free from mesquite and other trees, bushes and other waste resulting from removing the mesquite.

He added the contractor is be obliged to remove any trees that have been removed and again grow after the flood.

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  1. Professor A. G. Babiker says:

    Yes, the company had done a good job and i believe they know what they are doing . There are some technicalities which were a little bit missed. herbicides and not insecticides. mesquite is an invasive plant and its management and not control should be stressed following the standard two step procedure for managing alien invasive weeds. The narrative showed clearly that the officials should listen to experts. I am afraid that the efforts should be regional. Erteria and Ethiopia are as well infested by the weed. Downstream and upstream concept which is dam right should be considered seriously. Regards