Local traders and agricultural development in Dongola area: a study in rural capitalism from Northern Sudan
Omer, El Haj Abdalla Bilal
Thesis or dissertation
- © 1979 El Haj Abdalla Bilal Omer. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
After an anthropological study of a Danagla village, Mushu, in 1974/5, many questions arose as to the process of agricultural development in the area which was beyond the scope of the first research. I developed an interest in the causes which contributed to the transformation of the Danagla peasant economy as it was in the period just before and after the Re-Conquest of the country in 1898, to the type of economy which is more and more becoming capitalist in the sense of the increasing role of capital in changing what was once a totally subsistence type of economy. I had a faint idea about the determinant factors on the development of the present socio-economic structures; basically these were premised on the prevailing production relations and their gradual change from those totally instituted in the kinship relations to those seemingly individualistic, secularized and commercial relations of production of today as seen in the different forms of sharecropping practised in the area. A possible determinant cause was sought in the activities of local entrepreneurs especially traders whose activities have had an important role in the agricultural developments and the economy of the area. The results of the fieldwork (extending from September 1976 to June 1977) are documented in this thesis.
To study a region whose population is scattered in a vast number of villages and settlements along the river banks, in oases which are difficult to reach with conventional means of transport, and in the basins which have contributed a lot to the heterogeneity of the region, it was difficult to select a representative unit. Instead, I adopted a different approach which allowed for wider coverage of the region as a whole.
Since I was concerned with the agricultural development I found it plausible to focus on one important dynamic factor in bringing about changes affecting that development - that is capital. In an arid zone the necessity for irrigation presupposes relatively large investment resources, and hence the focus on the process of capital accumulation within the peasant economy and also trading profits and their reinvestment in agriculture and trade.
The study of the class of traders, the small shopkeepers scattered all over the villages, and wholesalers who are concentrated in the towns, allowed me a better chance of covering the whole region as a geographical entity and seeing the local differences in the forms of economic and social organization. The methods used were mainly documentary sources, interview schedules, life-histories and case studies. Sampling for the interviews (one for the study of pump schemes and one for the traders) posed a difficulty as the records were at variance with the real number of traders in the area, for example. The mode of selection of the sample from the traders for study is described in Chapter Six. The objective of interviewing the traders was to collect basic demographic data and to elucidate their activities past and present in agricultural investment (see Appendix 2). This necessitated the conducting of these interviews mostly by myself as the life histories of some of those interviewed were documented as well. From these most of the information on the history of trade, credit relations and development and organization of co-operatives was collected. Documents and case studies are mostly utilized in Chapter Two and Four regarding the history of the area and its population and the developments in the material means of production.
However, non-traders and government officials provided me with indispensable information or helped to introduce me to potential informants on the history of the region, and its social organization especially the elderly informants without whose help it would be very difficult to document the recent history of otherwise neglected aspects of these people's life.
- Department of Sociology, The University of Hull
- Asad, Talal; Cunnison, Ian George, 1923-
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