Front Cover
 Title Page
 Executive summary
 Table of Contents
 List of Tables
 Scope and aims
 An overview of farming systems...
 How pervasive is the market?
 Rural marketplaces
 Rural retailers and middlemen
 Farmers' access to crop marketing...
 Conclusions and recommendation...

Group Title: Report no. 3
Title: An indigenous rural marketing system in North Kordofan, Sudan
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00053859/00001
 Material Information
Title: An indigenous rural marketing system in North Kordofan, Sudan
Physical Description: iii, 106 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Reeves, Edward B
Publisher: Dept. of Sociology, Dept. of Anthropology, Agricultural Experiment Station, College of Agriculture, University of Kentucky
Place of Publication: Lexington
Publication Date: 1984
Subject: Farm produce -- Marketing -- Sudan   ( lcsh )
Markets -- Social aspects -- Sudan   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: Edward B. Reeves ; with the assistance of Muhammed Majzoub Fideil.
General Note: Report no. 3 on INTSORMIL contract no. AID/DSAN-G-0149.
Funding: Electronic resources created as part of a prototype UF Institutional Repository and Faculty Papers project by the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00053859
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001032331
oclc - 11889403
notis - AFB4523

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
    Executive summary
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
    Table of Contents
        Page iv
    List of Tables
        Page v
    Scope and aims
        Page 1
        Objectivies of this study
            Page 1
        List of Figures
            Page 6
        Reseach activities
            Page 2
            Page 3
        Plan of the report
            Page 4
        The need for studies of indigenous rural marketing systems
            Page 5
            Page 6
            Page 7
            Page 8
    An overview of farming systems in the El-Obeid area
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    How pervasive is the market?
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Dominance of the urban market center
            Page 21
            Page 22
            Page 23
    Rural marketplaces
        Page 24
        Four rural marketplace
            Page 24
        Physical layout
            Page 25
            Page 26
            Page 27
            Page 28
            Page 29
            Page 30
            Page 31
            Page 32
            Page 33
            Page 34
            Page 35
            Page 36
            Page 37
        Village institutions and enterprises
            Page 38
            Page 39
            Page 40
            Page 41
            Page 42
            Page 43
            Page 44
            Page 45
            Page 46
            Page 47
            Page 48
        A hierarchy of villages
            Page 49
            Page 50
    Rural retailers and middlemen
        Page 51
        A profile of village shopkeepers
            Page 51
            Page 52
        Personal characteristics
            Page 53
            Page 54
            Page 55
        Career histories
            Page 56
            Page 57
            Page 58
            Page 59
            Page 60
            Page 61
            Page 62
            Page 63
            Page 64
            Page 65
            Page 66
            Page 67
            Page 68
        Involvement in agriculture
            Page 69
            Page 70
            Page 71
            Page 72
            Page 73
            Page 74
            Page 75
            Page 76
            Page 77
            Page 78
        Combinations of enterprises
            Page 79
            Page 80
            Page 81
        Agricultural inputs
            Page 82
            Page 83
        Why shopkeepers fail
            Page 84
        Village shopkeepers and farming families
            Page 84
            Page 85
            Page 86
            Page 87
            Page 88
            Page 89
    Farmers' access to crop marketing channels
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
    Conclusions and recommendations
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
Full Text

/; Dt,~9


An Indigenous Rural Marketing System in
North Kordofan, Sudan

Report No. 3

Edward B. Reeves
Field Director

Department of Sociology Department of Anthropology
Agricultural Experiment Station College of Agriculture
University of Kentucky Lexington, Kentucky 40546



Collaborative Research
Support Program

A Research Development Pro-
gram of the Agency for Interna-
tional Development, Participating
Land-Grant Universities, Host
County Research Agencies and
Private Donors.

MlI Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources '
University of Nebraska-Lincoln *.....




Edward B. Reeves
Field Director

With the assistance of
Muhammed Majzoub Fideil

Contract No. AID/DSAN-G-0149

October 1984


The aim of the present report is to illuminate the circumstances of small-

scale farmers in the el-Obeid area of North Kordofan, Sudan, where the

International Sorghum-Millet Research Project funded a farming systems study

in 1981-82. Whereas the previous reports resulting from this field study

dealt with general rural community characteristics, agricultural patterns, and

rural household economy, the emphasis in this instance is on the village-level

marketing system and farmers' access to agricultural product markets.

In recent decades, international development agencies have given the most

attention to marketing programs that involve large, centrally controlled

institutions like parastatal marketing boards and producers' cooperatives.

The indigenous rural marketing systems that are made up of small-scale private

traders and larger private firms have often been neglected by planners and

policy-makers. Yet, these indigenous systems may be better suited than the

centralized institutions to the uncertainties of small-farm production in

semi-arid regions such as the Western Sudan. The advantages of an indigenous

system compared to a centralized marketing system would seem to be: (a)

allowing greater flexibility for response to micro-level changes in market

information, (b) fostering greater competition insuring benefits to producers

and consumers alike, and (c) providing higher levels of rural employment owing

to the lower concentration and capitalization along the marketing channels.

Small-farm production in the el-Obeid area is carried out under highly

uncertain environmental and economic conditions. One way that farmers

distribute risk is to grow both food crops (millet and sorghum) for their own

consumption as well as a variety of crops that are primarily for sale (sesame,

groundnut, roselle, watermelon seed, and gum arabic). Price-setting markets

have a pervasive influence on the exchange of resources, labor, and products,

although capital inputs to farming are minimal, and land is still widely

regarded as a resource over which the community has final proprietorship.

Surveys made in rural marketplaces in the el-Obeid area reveal a range of

commercial enterprises, with many specialized businesses found in the largest

villages. A major distinction is noted between seasonal marketplaces (e.g.,

November to April) and others which are active the year round. Another major

distinction is between marketplaces that have government-sponsored crop

auctions and those that rely exclusively on local middlemen to purchase the

farmer's products. A ranked typology of villages is presented based on levels

of commercial and institutional development. It is proposed that this

typology would classify all villages in Kordofan Region.

The career histories of rural retailers and middlemen do not indicate

that ethnic origin or family support are significant factors in most cases of

entrepreneurs getting started in business. Business acumen, literacy,

accounting skills, success in agriculture, and migration for a period of wage

employment are all found to be important factors in the individual's acquiring

starting capital. Parental support of young men wanting to go into business

is more important in the larger villages than in the smaller ones.

The advantages of competition to the consumers is well recognized in the

villages, and most villages have more than one retailer/middleman. Most

village shopkeepers are also farmers. Shopkeeping and farming are highly

complementary enterprises, since they require the greatest amount of

management at different seasons of the year, and they offer mutual

opportunities for investment and risk distribution. Shopkeepers sell only

small quantities of agricultural inputs, such as seed and insecticides, but

they should be given serious consideration as the primary distributors in any

program to increase input distribution. Village shopkeepers are important

sources of money credit and credit in kind for the rural population. The

interest rate on money credit is usually quite high, but this appears to be

unavoidable under current economic conditions because of the high opportunity

cost of money at the time that most loans are made (during the cropping

season) and because of the risk entailed to the lender in view of the

uncertainty of farm production.

The marketing system for field crops in the el-Obeid area is analyzed to

assess farmers' access to marketing channels. The results show that the

larger producers tend to sell in the channels with the highest returns,

whereas the smaller producers are restricted to selling in channels with lower

returns. This difference can be explained by the cash flow limitations of the

smaller producers and does not seem to be a result of collusion to exclude them

from the more profitable marketing channels. Little evidence is found to

indicate that farmers' access to markets is significantly affected by

differences in the institutional and commercial development of the villages

where the farmers lived. Reliable storage methods, the availability of

transportation, and the competitiveness of the crop marketing system appear to

permit farmers in the smaller, less developed rural centers to receive as

equal a return as those in the larger, more developed centers.

In conclusion, the report finds that small farmers are not victimized by
monopolistic middlemen, nor do they face severely limited marketing opportuni-
ties in the el-Obeid area. Agricultural development efforts should consider

how to take advantage of the indigenous rural marketing system that is already

in place.


I. Scope and Aims------------------------------------ 1

Objectives of this Study---------------------------------- 1
Research Activities---------------------------------- 2
Plan of the Report------------------------------------- 4
The Need for Studies of Indigenous Rural Marketing Systems------ 5

II. An Overview of Farming Systems in the El-Obeid Area---------------- 9

III. How Pervasive is the Market?--------------------------------- 13

Dominance of the Urban Market Center--------------------------21

IV. Rural Marketplaces---------------------------------------24

Four Rural Marketplaces---------- ----------- --------24
Physical Layout ------------------------------------ 25
Village Institutions and enterprises--------------------------38
A Hierarchy of villages------------------------------ --49

V. Rural Retailers and Middlemen-------------------------------51

A Profile of Village Shopkeepers-----------------------------51
Personal Characteristics------------------------- --53
Career Histories----------------------------------------56
Involvement in Agriculture--------------------------- -- 69
Combinations of Enterprises----------------------------- 79
Agricultural Inputs---------------------------------- 84
Why Shopkeepers Fail----------------------------------- 84
Village Shopkeepers and Farming Families--------- -----------86

VI. Farmers' Acess to Crop-Marketing Channels---------------------------90

VII. Conclusions and Recommendations--------------------------102



1. Types of Permanent Enterprise in Three Marketplaces. . ... 31

2. Ownership and Occupancy of Commercial Structures by Percentages
in Three Permanent Marketplaces . .... . 33

3. Periodic Trades Occupying Thatch Shelters at el-Geifil Seasonal
Marketplace . . . . . . 37

4. Market-Related Institutions and Services . . . .. 39

5. A Profile of Permanent Commercial Enterprises by Village ...... 44

6. Permanent Commercial Structures by Village . . .... 47

7. Shopkeepers by Village, Total and Survey . . .... 52

8. Age of Shopkeepers . . . . . . 53

9. Tribal Affiliations of Shopkeepers . . . .... 54

10. Starting Occupations of Village Shopkeepers. . . . 64

11. Most Important Source of Starting Capital for First Year ...... 65

12. Shopkeepers' Cultivations of All Major Crops in 1981-82 . .. 70

13. Major Crops Cultivated by Shopkeepers. . . . . 71

14. Ownership of Livestock by Shopkeepers. . . . . 73

15. Types of Enterprise Operated by Shopkeepers. . . ... 80

16. Combinations of Core Enterprises . . . .... 83

17. Sale of Seed for Planting by Shopkeepers . . ... 85

18. Cash Loans and Sales of Commodities on Credit by Shopkeepers,
1981-82 . . . ... . . 89

19. Farmers' Access of Marketing Channels for All Crops . . 91

20. Farmers' Mean Production of All Crops by Access to Channels. .... .92

21. Marketing Crops by Channel . . . . . .. 95

22. Farmers' Choice of Channels by Mean Production (in mids*) of
All Crops . . . . . . .. 99

23. Mean Quantities* Sold of All Crops by Channel and Village
Institutional Development . . . . .100



This report is the third in a series asssessing the potential and

problems of agricultural development in an area of North Kordofan, Sudan. The

fieldwork on which these reports are based was performed between June 1981 and

August 1982 by two University of Kentucky social scientists with the help of

several Sudanese researchers. Funding for the research was provided by the

International Sorghum-Millet Research Project (INTSORMIL), a Title XII

Coordinated Research Support Project (CRSP) sponsored by the U.S. Agency for

International Development. The Sudan was identified by INTSORMIL as a key

country because of its unrealized agricultural potential as well as the

importance of sorghum and millet in the human diet.

In recent years the lack of reliable information about small-scale

agriculture and rural economy in the Western Sudan has become all too evident.

One consequence has been that agricultural researchers and policy makers in

many instances are compelled to formulate their objectives without knowing

what the circumstances and needs of the rural population actually are. This

approach leads to "top-down" measures that often run counter to local

interests and fail to provide adequate incentives to farmers and middlemen.

Like the earlier studies in this series the present one is aimed at helping to

fill this information gap.

Objectives of This Study

The main objective here, as with the earlier reports, is to shed light on

farmers' circumstances in the el-Obeid area. Farming in el-Obeid area has

become increasingly commercialized. For the most part, the farmers grow food

crops for sale and purchase the foods that their families eat. The structure



This report is the third in a series asssessing the potential and

problems of agricultural development in an area of North Kordofan, Sudan. The

fieldwork on which these reports are based was performed between June 1981 and

August 1982 by two University of Kentucky social scientists with the help of

several Sudanese researchers. Funding for the research was provided by the

International Sorghum-Millet Research Project (INTSORMIL), a Title XII

Coordinated Research Support Project (CRSP) sponsored by the U.S. Agency for

International Development. The Sudan was identified by INTSORMIL as a key

country because of its unrealized agricultural potential as well as the

importance of sorghum and millet in the human diet.

In recent years the lack of reliable information about small-scale

agriculture and rural economy in the Western Sudan has become all too evident.

One consequence has been that agricultural researchers and policy makers in

many instances are compelled to formulate their objectives without knowing

what the circumstances and needs of the rural population actually are. This

approach leads to "top-down" measures that often run counter to local

interests and fail to provide adequate incentives to farmers and middlemen.

Like the earlier studies in this series the present one is aimed at helping to

fill this information gap.

Objectives of This Study

The main objective here, as with the earlier reports, is to shed light on

farmers' circumstances in the el-Obeid area. Farming in el-Obeid area has

become increasingly commercialized. For the most part, the farmers grow food

crops for sale and purchase the foods that their families eat. The structure

1. Kordofan and Neighboring Regions . . . . .. 22

2. Kazgeil Marketplace .... .... .......... .... 26

3. Abu Haraz Marketplace ......................... 27

4. Umm Ramad Marketplace ..... ................ ..28

5. El-Geifil Seasonal Marketplace ................ .. .29

6. The Marketing System for Field Crops* in the el-Obeid Area .... 93

and performance of the marketing system are highly germane to the farmers'

circumstances and to the economic potential of the area. This indigeneous

marketing system is the focus of this report.

In the conclusion two issues are addressed: (1) whether the marketing

system imposes constraints on small-scale agricultural production in the

el-Obeid area, and (2) how may agricultural research aimed at small farmers be

enhanced by paying attention to farmers' marketing activities?

While the materials included in this report are intended to provide a

broad empirical basis for understanding the rural marketing system in the

el-Obeid area, many gaps in the data remain, such as an analysis of prices.

Some readers may find certain emphases peculiar. The primary researcher was

an economic anthropologist, and this will be evident from the report's

tendency to deal with the organizational context of marketing rather than the

"behavior" of prices.

Research Activities

Most of thedata on rural marketing that are presented in this report

were collected between October 1981 and June 1982. This period corresponds to

the dry season in the el-Obeid area when the greatest level of marketing

activity occurs. The data were collected as follows:

(1) July-August 1981, an initial survey of 18 villages, all located

within 50 km of el-Obeid, was used to discover the socioeconomic

characteristics of each village. This survey consisted of a group interview

with a number of farmers in each village. Each interview session lasted about

four hours and ranged over a broad list of topics, which included

transportation and access to markets.

(2) September 1981-June 1982, ethnographic observation and open-ended

interviewing about marketing activities were carried out in Abu Haraz, Umm

Ramad, el-Geifil and el-Kharta four villages from the original 18 chosen

because of their heterogeneity. Eventually, fairly extensive ethnographic

observations were also made at Kazgeil (May 1983). This line of inquiry

quickly revealed that the village shopkeeper was a vital link in marketing

chains, both in retailing of urban goods to rural consumers and in buying many

of the farm products that the rural households sell. The marketing surveys

made of farmers and village shopkeepers (described below) were designed after

a comprehensive picture of the marketing system had been obtained by means of

this less formal type of interviewing. Direct observations and recordings

were made of prices and quantities of crops bid on and sold at rural auctions.

This is the only accurate way to get prices at rural auctions. The government

records often show a lower price was paid than did in fact occur. Maps of

four marketplaces showing the spatial arrangements of commercial structures

and details of their use and ownership were also collected.

(3) September 1981-June 1982, a bi-weekly survey was made of cereal

grain prices at el-Obeid's central grain market. Interviewing and observation

on the range of marketing activities present in both locations were also


(4) December 1981-April 1982, a list of 26 commonly purchased commodities

was used to compare the prices of these goods in village shops and in the Abu
Jahel Market at el-Obeid, the major alternative market for most villagers

seeking to buy food and other household goods. Transportation constraints did

not permit these data to be collected on a systematic schedule. Nevertheless,

the data do allow some educated guesses about the determinants of prices among

rural retailers.

(5) February-June 1982, information was collected on quantities and

prices of crops and livestock sold in larger rural markets. A 100 percent

sample of tax records for crop sales was obtained during a two-year period

(1980-82) for Kazgeil, Abu Haraz, and Umm Ramad markets.

(6) April-May 1982, 58 shopkeepers were surveyed in 13 villages amounting

to at least a 50 percent sample of the shopkeepers in each village. Each

member of the sample was an owner/operator or part-owner/operator of a shop.

The interviews, which lasted up to two and one-half hours, dealt with the

shopkeeper's social characteristics, career history, assets, income-earning

activities including crop-buying and credit-lending, and farming activities.

At the same time that the survey of village shopkeepers was being carried out,

a brief survey was also made of market-related institutions, services, and


(7) June-July 1982, as part of a farming systems survey of 166 farmers

in 12 villages, a number of questions were asked of the farmers about selling

their crops and other products like gum arabic, livestock, and charcoal.

Not all of these data are presented in this report.

Plan of the Report

Close behavioral analyses of indigenous rural marketing systems is

necessary to understand the circumstances of small-scale farmers. Chapter II

summarizes the general characteristics of the farming system in the el-Obeid

area as a background for investigating the linking of agricultural production

and marketing processes. In Chapter III, the salience of marketing processes

in the lives of the rural population is assessed in a comprehensive survey of

how goods and services are exchanged in rural communities. The point of this

chapter is to show that small-scale farmers and their families in the el-Obeid

area are dependent on market exchange for the satisfaction of many of their


material wants. The economic influence on marketing organization of location

and transport is considered in Chapter IV by noting the differentiation of

rural marketplaces according to size and function. An analysis of the

differentiation of marketing localities takes us only part of the way,

however. Note must also be taken of the differentiation of village retailers

and middlemen who are primary actors in the marketing arena. The description

of shopkeepers in Chapter V identifies their economic roles and the major

determinants of those roles. Chapter VI addresses farmers' access to market

channels for agricultural products. Chapters V and VI form the heart of the

report and provide the key empirical evidence on which the conclusions and

recommendations rest.

The Need for Studies of Indigenous Rural Marketing Systems

The attention that small-farmer research is receiving in discussions

about national economic development is an indication of the concern that has

developed during the past decade for the role that small-scale agricultural

producers may play. Development planners realize that in most developing

countries, small producers make up the majority of the population and that,

owing to high population growth and the inability to expand quickly

non-agricultural employment, a significant decline in the proportion of

small-scale agricultural producers in the population is not going to be

realized in the foreseeable future. Moreover, the poorer nations are to

increase the per capital supply of food and decrease dependency on food

imports, a primary policy objective must be to boost agricultural output while

maintaining levels of rural employment that stimulate the demand for domestic

manufactures and services. Thus, programs aimed at promoting small-farm

production and rural entrepreneurship appear to be a necessary component in

the development package.

Marketing and production are central concerns in development programs

aimed at small-scale farmers. There are few areas of the world where the

money economy has failed to make dramatic inroads during this century, and the

overwhelming majority of contemporary small-scale farmers are involved in

markets at least occasionally as either buyers or sellers. Money income

derived from selling commodities or labor has become a key ingredient in the

economic adaptation of rural families in all the developing countries.

Heretofore, (Farming Systems Research) has been devoted largely to studies of

agricultural production and technology improvement, but agricultural

scientists also realize that the growth of production of small-scale farmers

depends to a considerable degree on market opportunities.

An assumption of development theory in that the efficient (lowest cost)

performance of markets contributes to national economic growth by increasing

agricultural output and farm incomes and by lowering the cost of food to urban

consumers. But the issue of marketing efficiency is frequently obscured by

the fact that alternative marketing systems exist, each with its own

advantages and disadvantages. For example, at the lowest level of

institutional complexity is the marketing of commodities by an itinerant

peddler. The peddler is often criticized in development studies because his

low returns do not permit capitalization, and thus he is limited to moving a

low volume of goods. According to marketing standards of the developed

countries, this type of merchandising is inefficient. Yet, in the context of

many rural areas in the Third World, the itinerant peddler may be the only

answer to distributing some kinds of goods to low-density population of

consumers. At the other end of the marketing spectrum, there are

organizations that earn high returns and move goods in large volumes like

producers' cooperatives, large private firms, and parastatal marketing

organizations. Such organizations are able to increase the technical

efficiency of a marketing system through the achievement of economies of

scale, but there are also likely to be costs such as reduced employment and

inequities in the distribution of rewards to the different classes of

participants in the marketing system.
To date, most of the attention of development organizations has been

directed at marketing programs that rely on centralized institutions like

parastatals and cooperatives. Indigenous rural marketing systems, which are

made up of small-scale private traders and larger private firms, are

overlooked by planners and policy-makers because there is almost no data

available about them. Nevertheless, it may prove to be the case that the

indigenous systems because they contain a relatively large number of

risk-taking, decision units are better suited than the centralized

institutions to the uncertainties of small-farm production, particularly in

semi-arid regions. A plausible hypothesis is that the indigenous rural

marketing systems are preferable to the centralized systems in the case of

small-scale farmers because the indigenous systems: (a) allow greater

flexibility for response to micro-level changes in market information; (b)

foster greater competition, insuring advantages to producers and consumers

alike; and (c) provide higher levels of rural employment owing to the low

concentration and capital intensification along the marketing channels. Given

the paucity of information about indigenous rural marketing systems, the
probability that outside intervention by governments and centralized marketing

bodies will impair a system's functioning more than they improve it must be

rather high. For example, in the Sudan, much government intervention in

agricultural markets has been based more on preconceived ideas about the

existing system than on factual information and analysis. The great appeal of

a centralized marketing institution such as the Gum Arabic Company has been to

bring marketing processes under governmental review and to facilitate the

collection of taxes. Parastatals have also been defended in the Sudan by

citing the need of Sudanese producers to "bargain with one voice" in the

export market. Producers' cooperatives are said to protect farmers from

greedy money lenders and middlemen. The negative aspect, which is less often

mentioned, is that centralized control can be inefficient and inequitable,

too. The marketing system's ability to respond to supply and demand forces is

made dependent on bureaucratic fiat, which itself becomes subject to such

non-economic processes as political patronage and inter-departmental rivalry.

Although an equitable distribution of benefits is the declared intention of

centralized marketing programs, the experience in the Sudan is that incentives

to producers are blunted by bureaucratic control efforts.

It is no small task to investigate rural marketing systems in the Sudan.

Almost nothing is known about the volume of trade and the size and number of

"firms" in these kinds of markets. The operating margins of assemblers,

wholesalers, and retailers are typically unknown and the processes of price

determination are little examined. The sources of trading capital are not

documented. It goes without saying, therefore, that questions about the speed

with which prices respond to changes in supply and demand or the allocative

efficiency of the marketing system or its capacity to handle increased demand

and supply cannot be answered with confidence. Finally, the absence of

detailed information about indigenous rural markets in the Sudan has opened

the way for doctrinaire assertions. Thus, some observers characterize the

indigenous rural marketing system as competitive but inefficient, while

others point to the domination of collusive middlemen. The present report

will address the validity of these assertions in the context of rural

marketing in the el-Obeid area.

Chapter II

An Overview of Farming Systems in the el-Obeid Area

The average annual rainfall for the el-Obeid area is about 350 mm. Most

of the rain falls in the period from July through October. The variability of

rainfall from one year to the next and within a single season is quite

irregular, making consistently successful farming difficult to achieve. The

soils are predominantly loose sand or clayey sand. They have low moisture

retention and low fertility. Regular fallowing after five or six years of

cultivation is the principal means for restoring soil fertility. Acacia

senegal is allowed to propagate naturally on fallow fields, yielding an income

from the collection of the gum arabic that the trees produce.

The rural population is found in dispersed, nucleated villages that vary

in size from five or six households to 1,000 or more. Village populations

fluctuate seasonally. They are greatest during the rainy months when crops

are grown and least during the hot, dry season. The average household is

composed of seven to eight members. Nuclear family residence, extended

families, matrifocal families, and other household arrangements are all fairly


Whereas the household is the basic unit of consumption, agricultural

production is typically managed by more than one decision-maker in the

household. The common pattern is for husband and wife to manage separate

farms. Unmarried sons and daughters who are old enough are also given land to

manage if it is available. Besides farming, virtually every household has

members who work in off-farm occupations, usually on a seasonal basis. The

latter include dry-season migration for a wage, charcoal manufacture,

water-hauling, tailoring, carpentry, metalworking, itinerant marketing, and

the operation of such full-time enterprises as village shops, bakeries, flour

mills, oil presses, cisterns, and trucks. Remittances from relatives living

elsewhere are an important source of income in some households.
On the average a household head cultivates about 10 hectares of land.

One-third of all cultivated lands are rented rather than owned by farm

operators. Most of the rented land is leased by better-off farmers from

farmers who are poorer than average. Labor is a key constraint; thus, poorer

farmers, lacking the financial capacity to.hire labor, gain an income from

idle land by renting it to others. Millet, sorghum, sesame, groundnuts, and

roselle are the major field crops. The cereals are primarily grown for

household consumption, though surpluses are sold to other farmers and to local

middlemen. Millet is the preferred staple of the rural diet, and the stalks of

the millet plant are used as a building material. Nearly half of the

cultivated lands were found to be planted in millet, while almost all of the

households grew this crop. Sorghum is not as important although most

households do grow some. Sorghum is frequently interplanted (in the same hole)

with sesame. White sorghum is preferred for making bread and porridges. Red

sorghum is used to make beer. Both the seed and the stover of sorghum are

used as fodder. About half of the cultivated fields are planted in sesame,

while over 90 percent of the farmers grow sesame in their fields. Sesame is

often intercropped with sorghum, cowpeas, watermelon, or roselle. Some

farmers sow varieties of sesame that mature at different rates in order to

avoid the labor bottlenecks that occur during the harvest season.
Sesame is the bread-and-butter cash crop. Most of it is sold at regional

markets and is destined for processing into oil, which is consumed in the

urban centers. Market prices of sesame tend to follow a predictable pattern.

The market for groundnuts, on the other hand, is quite unpredictable due to

variations in the export price. About 10 per cent of the cultivated land was

planted in groundnuts during the 1980-81 season. Roselle and gum arabic are

less important cash crops. Also, there are minor crops, such as cowpeas and

okra, which are intended for domestic consumption; but surpluses are sold or

traded. Watermelon is grown as a water source and fodder for livestock during

the dry season. It is also consumed in the household and by workers in the

field or sold in local markets and at el-Obeid.

The cropping cycle starts in the period of January to April with land

clearing. The four major crops are planted between May and August. Millet is

planted earliest because the locally preferred variety is long maturing. If

the early plantings succeed in germinating, the crop will mature before the

season in which insects and birds usually attack the immature candles. If the

early plantings of millet do not germinate, the farmer may replant after a

month. Alternatively, a shorter maturing crop like sesame or sorghum is sown

instead. Regular plantings of sesame, groundnuts, and sorghum generally occur

in June and early July. These crops, too, may have to be replanted if rains

are insufficient for germination or if sandstorms kill the seedlings.

According to an ideal expressed by farmers, every crop should be weeded

at least twice. Although wealthy farmers can afford to hire labor for a third

and even a fourth weeding of groundnuts, poor farmers are forced by cash flow

needs and the high opportunity cost of their labor to work for other farmers

and neglect weeding of their own fields. Harvesting operations are spread out

over the period of late August to December, with the most activity occurring

in October and November. All threshing operations are accomplished with hand


Next to the vagaries of the climate, labor is the most important

constraint on the cropping system. The cost of sustaining the household work

force and of hiring agricultural laborers is the largest input expenditure.

Looking at returns to labor by crop, it was calculated that the rate of return

was highest for millet, followed by groundnuts, sesame, and sorghum. Sesame's

popularity among farmers, although its rate of return is lower than either

millet or groundnuts, can be attributed to risk-aversion. Millet is a greater

risk to plant than sesame because of its higher susceptibility to pest attack

and to prolonged draught stress, while unstable prices and a high outlay for

the labor input limit the planting of groundnuts.

The availability of drinking water and pasture during the dry season is

the main constraint on livestock raising by sedentary farmers. Crop residues

and commercial sorghum are important sources of fodder for transport animals,

but herd animals subsist largely on the pasture that lies beyond the village's

zone of cultivated fields. Most farm families own a donkey and several goats.

Milk cows are also fairly common. Better-off families invest in large herds

of sheep and cattle.

Transport of crops from the field to the village and after that to nearby

markets is accomplished largely by pack animals. A farmer who does not own a

donkey to carry his crop can borrow or rent one from a neighbor. A crippling

shortage of motor transport was not found in any of the villages studied.

Villages lacking a truck can depend on regular visits from a transporter in a

neighboring village. During the height of the marketing season, a village is

often visited by several trucks competing for business. Crop-marketing occurs

during the dry season, so the flooding out of roads and tracks is not a

problem in this area. A major constraint to transporting crops is the

periodic shortage of diesel fuel and its high price. Farmers respond by

marketing through middlemen and by using animal transport. Long-term storage

of sesame and cereals is accomplished by a highly reliable pit burial

technique. Otherwise, crops are stored in gunny sacks inside a hut or

storehouse. In this case, there is some danger of loss due to pests or fire.



The influence of markets on the rural population in the el-Obeid area has

grown steadily in this century. Subsistence farming has given way to

small-scale commodity production, and the transfer of factors of production

between individuals and groups has been made increasingly subjected to market

forces. Today, the exchange of material goods and services at the village

level takes place in two broad spheres, a social sphere of non-market exchange

and the sphere of market exchange per se. Exchange in the social sphere is a

function of the rights and obligations that characterize persons and groups in

conformity with the norms of the society. While social exchange may not be

lacking economic motivation, sociability, status display, patronal privilege,

and other non-economic factors override the issue of material wants per se.

However, goods and services are exchanged in the social sphere at rates that

are fixed by custom, which gives the impression of a mechanism operating

similar to the price-setting functions of market exchange. The analogy

between market exchange and social exchange is appropriate for Sudanese rural

society provided that a number of qualifications are accepted. First, in

social exchange the conservative bias of custom usually overrides supply and

demand in the short term. Supply and demand trends may bring about a

permanent change in customary practices only if they exert a directional

pressure for a prolonged period. Supply and demand trends that are erratic or

cyclical, on the other hand, are likely to be associated with exchange customs

that seek a happy medium or that provide protection against disastrous loss.

Second, maximizing or minimizing motivations that are not economic, that

may in fact go against economic rationality, often obscure the influence of

supply and demand. Thus, in small-scale societies, ceremonial giving-away of

wealth is a principal means of winning prestige and social influence. Third,

in the market there is a free exchange between a "supply crowd" and a "demand

crowd." The market will operate indeed, is said to operate most efficiently

- when the relationship between the participants is characterized by anonymity

and autonomy. Not so with social exchange. It depends on a recognized

pre-existing relationship that is defined by social custom and which is the

"rationale" for the exchange to take place as well as the determinant of what

should be exchanged and how much.

Fourth, social exchange contains a heavy dose of morality that, like

other non-economic motivations, submerges the influence of supply and demand.

Thus, social exchange occurs not just because it is materially advantageous

but also because it is the morally right thing to do. The implication is that

a system of social exchange carries important information about the

relationship between the giver and the receiver. Participating in a social

exchange provides immediate and overt evidence of conformity to social norms.

Failure to participate is a blatant indication that social norms are being

violated. Market exchange by contrast is largely unencumbered by such moral

considerations. The buyer and the seller are concerned about the values of

the commodities they are exchanging. The quality of their relationship is not

a primary concern.

It has been necessary to digress briefly to distinguish the two spheres

of exchange in order to set the context for understanding the indigenous rural

marketing system that will be described in the chapters to follow. The broad

influence of the marketing sphere in practically every aspect of the rural

economy needs to be emphasized, particularly in view of the tendency by many

people in the Sudan both Sudanese and expatriots to characterize the

farmers of the Western Regions as being oriented toward producing for

self-subsistence rather than for sale. This series of reports from the

University of Kentucky/INTSORMIL farming systems research project invalidates

this generalization for the el-Obeid area and, by extrapolation of the

conclusions, for the goz soil belt in the Kordofan and Dar Fur Regions. On

the other hand it is just as important to realize that the influence of market

exchange is not uniform throughout the rural economy, and in certain sectors

it is hardly influential at all. Arable land, for example, is rarely sold,

although renting occurs with some frequency. Land most often changes hands in

keeping with the social norms governing inheritance, gift, and tribal or

communal grant.

The following pages deal with the extent to which goods and services are

exchanged according to social norms rather than market forces:

Land. The government of the Sudan has ultimate title to all rainlands in

the country, but local populations are permitted to exercise the right of

usufruct according to their traditional patterns of land tenure. In el-Obeid

area, each village is associated with a precinct of surrounding land on which
the inhabitants make their living. Pressure to hold the land near the village

for purposes of farming has encouraged a ubiguitous recognition in the local

mores for private, heritable rights in farm land. The Islamic pattern of

inheritance is subscribed to, at least in theory. According to this, a

daughter should receive one-half the share of a son. The widow is also given

a parcel of land from her husband's estate. Modification of the Islamic

inheritance practices probably occurs fairly frequently when the number of

heirs would lead to the division of the estate into parcels of land that are

not large enough to be farmed economically. In this event, several strategies

may be followed. The share of a daughter may be reduced or the shares of

several daughters consolidated and reduced so that the sons get larger shares.

A daughter may forego her claim to any land in return for her brother's

promise to support her whenever that is necessary. When too many sons are a

problem, the solution may be to encourage some of them to migrate permanently

for urban employment.

Rights in arable land are also transferred by gift. In most instances, a

gift has the same function of apportioning land among heirs. The common

practice is that each son demands a concession of land from his father as soon

as he is prepared to marry and establish an independent household. The father

often retains influence over his son, nevertheless, as their farming

activities are coordinated with the needs of the extended family. A man also

makes gifts of land to his wife or wives to provide each with a personal

source of income. If the woman is deserted by her husband or if he dies, the

piece of land that the husband has given is her security. Land that a woman

owns is distributed among her sons and daughters in a similar manner.

Private rights in land are only recognized when the owner is more or less

in continuous residence in the village. A villager who migrates for a number

of years risks losing his right unless his interests are protected by kinsmen.

When arable village land has been left untended for a number of years, the

headman may reapportion it among villagers who are ready to farm it.

In the past, tribal and village leaders had control of communal lands,

which they could allot to members of their social group or to outsiders who

wished to live among the group. This practice continues on a very limited

scale in villages that still have a surplus of arable land. Gifaar* is the

term used for communal lands that are under the control of the village

*See Reeves and Frankenberger, "Farming Systems in North Kordofan, Sudan,
Report No. 2, 1982" for an explanation of the transliteration of Arabic terms
appearing in this present report.

headman. Landless inhabitants or outsiders wanting to settle in the village

may ask the headman for a grant from the gifaar. The present situation in

most villages is that the gifaar, which is within reasonable walking distance

of the village and near to a water source, has all been occupied by

cultivators and, hence, has become privately owned in the sense discussed


The social sphere of non-market exchange is most influential, therefore,

on the transfer of rights to use arable lands. However, about one-third of

the cultivated land is rented. By contrast, sales of rights to farm land are

very rare. Two factors may explain this. First, villagers are reluctant to

sell farm land since it is their main productive resource. If an individual

cannot fully utilize his land due to a limitation of the labor he can draw

upon, then he will lease out rather than sell. Evidence available at this

writing suggests that most cases of land rent occur because of a labor

constraint. Second, the sale price of goz land tends to be very low in many

cases, according to informants, only 1 or 2 L.S. per makhammas. In fact, the

sale price is often equivalent to the rental price. This appears to reflect

the fact that land may be severely degraded through prolonged cropping before

its owner will consider selling it. The limited fertility of the soil in

addition to the ready accessibility of fallow land in many areas keeps land

values depressed for purposes of sale.

Labor. Farming in the goz soil area is an activity of nuclear and

extended families. Farm labor, as a consequence, is primarily obtained

through the obligations that family members have to contribute to the welfare

of the entire group. In a family-oriented farming system of this sort, the

labor of individual members is rewarded with numerous and diffuse kinds of

support from the other members, which are both of a material and a social

nature. The exchange of labor beyond the family circle may also occur on a

social basis. Nafiir is a term used to refer to the (in theory) reciprocal

exchange of farm labor among a number of families, particularly in operations (

that require the gathering together of a large work force for a limited

period. House construction is one such operation. In crop husbandry there are

the operations of harvesting sesame and groundnuts. Sometimes a nafiir, or (

work party, is assembled to assist a farmer who is disabled.

A work party normally lasts for a morning or an afternoon. To encourage

the workers the person who is sponsoring the party will serve tea, (sometimes

beer), and perhaps a meal. To participate in someone else's nafiir means that

he or she should reciprocate when invited to yours. At the present time, the

true nafiir which is this reciprocal exchange of labor based on mutual

support and communal feelings of solidarity is not of very great importance.

A significant consequence of the production of crops for market and the money

incomes that have accrued to farm families is that hiring farm labor has taken

precedence to the social exchange of labor. Informants explained this in

quite matter-of-fact terms, saying that hired laborers were more dependable.

Individually hired laborers as well as work parties of wage laborers are now

the norm. Patron-client relationships are another source of labor in the

sphere of social exchange, but in the big picture they are neither very

numerous nor very important. More will be said about patronage below.

Turning to non-agricultural enterprises, wage labor and partnership in

which one partner provides the capital and the other provides the labor are

clearly most significant. Aside from instances of patron-client relations,

the labor in the non-agricultural sector is completely in the sphere of market

exchange. The present tendency, which seems irreversible, is for surplus

members of the farm family to seek employment in an urban labor market. To

keep these persons "on the farm" carries a high opportunity cost. Not only is

the cost of their maintenance

high relative to their productivity but the opportunity of the family's

receiving cash gifts from a member who has found a relatively well-paying job

in the city is lost.

Livestock. Livestock are transferred between individuals according to

the rules described above for inheritance and pre-testative gifts. A gift of

livestock is one of the series of gifts that the groom's family is supposed to

give to the bride's family during the marriage ceremony. The importance of

livestock in the farming systems lies mainly in their marketability, however,

the primary function of livestock is investment and insurance.

Products of the field. As indicated above, millet and sorghum are

grown primarily for the household's consumption, although surpluses are

marketed and a few big farmers intentionally grow cereals to be sold in the

urban market. Beyond the consumption unit of the family, the exchange of

products of the field for social rather than economic purposes is quite

limited in the quantities that are involved. Small ceremonial exchanges

between individuals and between families occur daily and are closely connected

with cooking and sharing meals. Larger quantities are involved in the case of

a work party (nafiir), thanksgiving (karaama), wedding, funeral, or religious

feast. These occasions are rare occurrences.

Leaving aside the cereals, the other major products of the field -

sesame, groundnuts, roselle, and gum arabic are all produced largely if not

exclusively for sale. When surpluses exist, watermelon, okra, and cucumber as

well as wild plant foods are sometimes sold. It would be difficult to

overemphasize, therefore, the role of marketing in the disposition of farm


Food and Water. In the el-Obeid area, farm households buy many of

their foodstuffs from local shopkeepers. As a rule they produce enough cereal

to feed themselves for only a part of the year. Sorghum, produced on

mechanized schemes, is bought from-rural distributors. Except for rare

ceremonial occasions, a household buys meat each week or two from a village

butcher. The daily food bill ranges between 1.500 and 2.500 L.S. for most

families. Water is readily available in rain ponds and is usually free for

the taking during the khariif (July through October); however, during the seef

(March through June) at most villages, water is purchased from supplies at a

cost.as high as 50 piasters per tin during 1981-82. A tin holds four gallons,

and the average family uses four tins per day in hot weather. Marketing plays

a very large role in the distribution of food and water, therefore. Social

exchange beyond the family circle is restricted to ceremonial occasions, which

are relatively rare. Weddings, funerals, thanksgiving, and religious feasts

have already been mentioned. As in other Arabic-speaking countries,

hospitality takes the form of offering the guest a cold or hot drink and

sometimes a meal. Visitors stopping in the village are promptly offered a

bowlfull of water to drink.

Money and credit. While money and the close substitutes, gold and

silver, are given away at weddings as part of the dowry and conferred on

descendants as part of their inheritance, the social significance of these

goods is nil compared to the value that market exchange imparts to them. In

this respect, these goods are even more fungible and liquid than livestock.

Owing to inflation, holding money as a savings incurs cost. Other stores of

wealth such as livestock or crops will generally increase in value, as will

gold and silver. This is one reason why the moneylender's market is

characterized by high interest rates. Farm families seek credit in order to

purchase consumer goods and farm inputs during the pre-harvest period.

There is a type of social exchange that resembles credit-lending and in some

cases is virtually indistinguishable from it. This is the kind of social

exchange that occurs in a patron-client relationship.

Patronage. A patron-client relationship of one sort or another was

noted in many of the villages in our sample. Yet, patronage is not highly

prevalent in village society in el-Obeid area, owing, one suspects, to the

shortage of patrons with sufficient means rather than the shortage of needy

clients. Patronage refers to a personal relationship between two parties that

entails reciprocal yet different rights and obligations resulting from a

binding verbal agreement. The patron is pledged to use his superior social

standing and economic security to protect and provide material support to his

client. The client reciprocates by providing services to the patron. These

normally involve his own labor and possibly that of his family, too. The

patron-client relationship is usually long-lived. Certain forms of

sharecropping as well as recurrent indebtedness cannot be distinguished from

patronage. From the outside perspective patron-client relationships usually

appear to work to the advantage of the patron and to the disadvantage of the

client, but it is doubtful if this is true in absolute terms. The patron has

pledged to support his'client, and in the el-Obeid area the sentiments of the

community do not allow the pledge to be taken lightly.

Although a patronage relationship is predicated on a voluntary agreement,

it is typically validated by tracing a bond of kinship. The bond is easily

specified because village populations are endogamous, and kin relations are

highly reticular. In this way, the patron-client relationship is modeled on a

kin relationship and by implication is imbued with the moral imperatives of

trust and mutual assistance that social norms attribute to relations between


Dominance of the Urban Market Center

El-Obeid dominates marketing in a vast area of the Western Sudan (Figure

1). It is a major entrepot for imported goods, manufactures produced in the

Kordofan and Neighboring Regions


Khartoum, and cereal grains produced in the Gedarif area of the Eastern Sudan.

El-Obeid is also the largest bulking market in the west for cereals produced

in South Kordofan on mechanized schemes and for export crops groundnuts, gum

arabic, roselle, and watermelon seeds produced by the region's small farmers.

It is the main marketing center for oil that is processed from the sesame seed

that is grown in the el-Obeid area by small farmers. Finally, it is the last

major market on the stock route by which cattle and sheep are trekked to

slaughterhouses in Omdurman.

Chapter IV


The Arabic word for "market" is suug (pl., aswaag). A similar confusion

of meanings of the word occurs in the Arabic as in the English. Suug may mean

either: (a) the situation in which a commodity changes hands at prices

determined by the communications between diffuse groups of suppliers and

demanders or, (b) the physical site where such transactions regularly occur.

This chapter describes the characteristics of rural marketplaces in the

el-Obeid area. Markets in the transactional, rather than the locational,

sense are the subject of Chapter VI.

The isotropic geography of the goz soil region strongly influences the

indigenous economy. The costs of production for small-scale cultivators are

roughly uniform, except for intervillage differences in agricultural wage

rates, which are a result of variation in the local supply of labor and

differences of soil fertility and rainfall. Marketing costs, on the other

hand, are structurally differentiated. Transportation costs are proportional

to the distance traveled. When purchasing agricultural products from the

farmers, middlemen deduct transport costs from the farm gate price.

Furthermore, goods that originate from the urban market are marked up in price

to off-set higher transport costs the farther the goods must be moved to go

from the urban center to the rural consumer. Other marketing costs are

related to the margins of rural middlemen operating in different marketing

channels. This issue receives greater treatment in Chapter VI.

Four Rural Marketplaces

The character of rural marketplaces in the el-Obeid area is grasped from

considering the physical layout and the characteristics of the commercial

Chapter IV


The Arabic word for "market" is suug (pl., aswaag). A similar confusion

of meanings of the word occurs in the Arabic as in the English. Suug may mean

either: (a) the situation in which a commodity changes hands at prices

determined by the communications between diffuse groups of suppliers and

demanders or, (b) the physical site where such transactions regularly occur.

This chapter describes the characteristics of rural marketplaces in the

el-Obeid area. Markets in the transactional, rather than the locational,

sense are the subject of Chapter VI.

The isotropic geography of the goz soil region strongly influences the

indigenous economy. The costs of production for small-scale cultivators are

roughly uniform, except for intervillage differences in agricultural wage

rates, which are a result of variation in the local supply of labor and

differences of soil fertility and rainfall. Marketing costs, on the other

hand, are structurally differentiated. Transportation costs are proportional

to the distance traveled. When purchasing agricultural products from the

farmers, middlemen deduct transport costs from the farm gate price.

Furthermore, goods that originate from the urban market are marked up in price

to off-set higher transport costs the farther the goods must be moved to go

from the urban center to the rural consumer. Other marketing costs are

related to the margins of rural middlemen operating in different marketing

channels. This issue receives greater treatment in Chapter VI.

Four Rural Marketplaces

The character of rural marketplaces in the el-Obeid area is grasped from

considering the physical layout and the characteristics of the commercial

enterprises that are present. This kind of detailed information was collected

for four village marketplaces: Kazgeil and Abu Haraz are large, permanent

marketplaces; Umm Ramad, is a medium-sized, permanent marketplace; and

el-Geifil is a small seasonal marketplace.

Physical Layout

Figures 2-5 are sketch maps of these marketplaces. The commercial

structures are positioned around a central open place or plaza, and the

structures bordering the plaza face into it. On market day, petty retail

sellers are found in the market's central displaying goods on mats and gunny

sacks that have been spread on the ground. Abu Haraz has been an

administrative and trading outpost of el-Obeid since the nineteenth century,

but Kazgeil has been the more important of the two villages during much of

this century probably owing to the presence of Greek traders and Christian

missionaries. It is probably due to their influence that today Kazgeil

District has the most progressive local administration of all the rural

councils in the el-Obeid area. The maps of Abu Haraz shows remnants of

earlier market plazas. At Kazgeil the modern marketplace is still on the

original plaza formed by three large brick structures, which were built in the

1950s. At Abu Haraz the older market plaza is found north of the present

plaza. These buildings, which also date from the 1950s are in a poor state of

repair. Some are vacant while others are used occasionally for storage. Most

of the newer buildings that form the present marketing area in Abu Haraz were

built in the 1970s. Umm Ramad's marketplace dates from a few shops that

existed about 1963. El-Geifil's periodic marketplace developed in 1978 when a

government-administered crop auction was established. However, the auction

was not successful in attracting a large volume of crops. It has been

discontinued, although a clerk is sent to live at el-Geifil during the crop

Figure 2


o 0o

To Governme
Buildings & Sch


E Commercial Structure
SCommercial Structure with
Sheet-Metal Awning
SCommercial Structure with
Thatched Awning
SThatched Structure
i:Truck Route
SPiles of Firewood and
PT Thatched Shelter for
Periodic Traders

Lvetak 111A



4 1 3d 3d 2b
2 I

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o oo o o ooo ;

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o2s 2 /b
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oolt /1
.-- -:..-- --. "
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-- -"
-= -
18- -

* -



Ownership/Occupancy of Structure
1 Resident Owner/Owner Occupied
2 Resident Owner/Lessee Occupied
3 Absentee Owner/Owner Occupied
4 Absentee Owner/Lessee Occupied

Use of Structure
a Grocery
b Grocery/Cloth
c Storage
d Vacant
e Flour Mill
f Butcher's Shelter


Approx. Scale = 1:150



0 00

g Bakery
h Tailor
I Utensils
I Grain Merchant
k Shoemaker
I Blacksmith

m Restaurant
n Woven Mats
o Cooking Oil
p Tanned Hides
q Bicycles
r Metalwork

G o o
3 3 3 C D
'_- = 4 4 j L
= S-C 2C C = 4 0 *s S. .. 5
3 '- 3 4 4 4a U S 333 0 4) 4 -
*- 4 4 C .4 ^ 4 4ri 4) t) 4 a

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UIIBIS~ 33|0

Figure 4


ii '

oI t\\

II \\


II l 1c



i i



Approx. Scale =1:150





E Commercial Structure
SStructure with Thatched Awning
| Thatched Structure
0 Tree
-'Truck Route
Occupancy of Structure*
1 Owner Occupied
2 Lessee Occupied
Use of Structure
a Grocery
b Grocery/Cloth
c Storage
d Vacant
*- Flour Mill
f Butcher's Shelter

*Note: All structures are owned
by residents of Umm Ramad.



F2 3 E3Z

Figure 5


Approx. Scale = 1:75

r Temporary Commercial
Butchers' Shelter -
and Table
R Ring Toss Game
S Crop Scales
(Symbolic; not in use)

Residence of Trader
1 Resident of el Geifil
2 Non-Resident

Use of Structure
a Grocery
b Grocery/Crop Buyer
c Tailor
d Butcher
e Blacksmith
f Coffee Shop



I -

Av "*,


marketing season in order to collect the sales taxes from the

transporter/agent who buys crops regularly at el-Geifil. The periodic market,

which was established by village shopkeepers from el-Geifil and el-Geifil

North at the same time as the crop auction, operates weekly from November to


Both Kazgeil and Abu Haraz are Rural District Council headquarters. The

proximity of the government buildings and schools to the marketplace at Abu

Haraz is evident from Figure 3. At Kazgeil, the government buildings and

schools are located on the north side of the village a little distance from

the marketplace. Both Kazgeil and Abu Haraz are situated on important truck

routes. Each marketplace has a truck park beside the coffee shops that flank

the roadway. Truck drivers and their passengers are among the main customers

of these shops throughout the week. In addition, market visitors greatly

increase the business of these shops on market days.

The permanent markets have trees, which are important for the shade they

provide to people and livestock. Shade is also created by thatched awnings on

the front of many shops and by flat-roofed shelters (rakuuba) made of millet

stalks. All of the structures in el-Geifil's marketplace are built of millet

stalks tied to a wood frame. These are temporary structures that are removed

by their owners when the market season has ended.

The market layouts do not show any patterning in the spatial arrangement

of businesses by their types. Table 1 compares commercial establishments in

the three permanent markets according to the types of permanent enterprise

found. Storage buildings, groceries, and groceries selling cloth are the most

numerous kinds of establishment. The flour mill, several vacant buildings,

and a butcher's stand round out the basic list of commercial buildings found

in a medium-sized market like that of Umm Ramad. In Kazgeil and Abu Haraz,

Table 1

Type of Enterprise Kazgeil Abu Haraz Umm Ramad

Storage 19 28 14
Grocery 11 16 13
Grocery/Cloth1 8 15 4
Vacant 7 4 2
Flour Mill2 2 2 1
Butcher's Shelter3 1 1 1
Coffee Shop 10 19
Utensils 4 2 -
Cloth/Utensils 4 1 -
Carpenter 4 1
Grain Merchant 2 1
Bakery 1 5
Tailor 1 3
Barber 1 2
Shoemaker 1 1
Blacksmith 1 1
Bicycle Shop 1 -
Restaurant4 1 -
Radio Repair Shop 1

1The inventories of goods in two grocery/cloth shops at Kazgeil are about twice
as large as the inventories of similar shops at Abu Haraz and Umm Ramad. The
proprietor of a third grocery/cloth shop at Kazgeil specializing in women's
beauty aids and factory-made clothing for children noted that the customers
most often buying these goods were the cattle-herding nomads who pass through
the area seasonally.

20ne of the flour mills at
powered milling machines.
three machines.

Kazgeil is exceptionally large, having
Most village flour mills have two, or

six diesel-
at the most,

3There are 6 butchers each at Kazgeil and Abu Haraz; 2 butchers at Umm Ramad.

4This business is differentiated from the far more common coffee shops because
it is located in a brick building rather than in thatched buildings and
because several types of meat dishes are sold besides cooked beans, which
are usually the only food sold at a coffee shop.

businesses are much more diversified, reflecting a larger, more heterogeneous

clientele. In large marketplaces like these, the presence of government

institutions with salaried employees has a decided impact, as does the

location on a major truck route and the relatively large crop and livestock

markets. Localized comparative advantage is another reason for the diversity.

An example of this is the presence of traders dealing in woven mats at the

Kazgeil marketplace. This item of trade is found at Kazgeil because of a

craft specialization by Fellata groups living in Kazgeil and nearby villages.

This particular craft specialization is not found at Abu Haraz, with the

result that there are no permanent dealers of woven mats in that market.

Only large rural markets can support specialized service trades like

barbering, radio repairing, and operating a restaurant.

The results of a survey of the owners and occupants of commercial

structures in Kazgeil, Abu Haraz, and Umm Ramad are shown in Table 2. The

smaller, less diversified market of Umm Ramad has the lowest percentage rented

commercial buildings, and there are no instances of an owner living outside

the village. By comparison, renting buildings is about 1 1/2 times more

common at Abu Haraz than at Umm Ramad and nearly 2 1/2 times more common at

Kazgeil. Absentee ownership occurs in about one-fourth of the cases in each

of these large villages. While the incidence of renting appears to be related

both to the overall level of economic development in the marketplace and the

occurrence of absentee ownership, absentee ownership itself cannot be

explained by recourse to one or two major factors. A complex of geographical,

historical, and economic factors appears to be involved. First of all, a

building owner may migrate to some other location. This doesn't occur

frequently, but when it does, it is usually the result of a decision to

relocate the business in a larger community. Any buildings left in the former

Table 2

Kazgeil Abu Haraz Umm Ramad
CN=68) (N=80) CN=40)

Resident owner/owner occupied 46% 61% 83%
Resident owner/lessee occupied 28 15 18
Absentee owner/owner occupied 12 10 0
Absentee owner/lessee occupied 15 14 0

101% 100% 101%

100 percent.

1This tabulation is based on the data provided in Figures 2-4.
are rounded to nearest whole number and may not sum exactly to

village after relocation are usually rented rather than sold. Maintaining

commercial property in the village like maintaining farm land is a way for

the migrant to insure that his status in the village will be honored if it

becomes necessary to reinstate himself.

A second cause for absentee ownership of commercial buildings is

illustrated by the situation at Kazgeil. The village is surrounded by a

cluster of smaller villages of which a number are only a few kilometers away.

Some of the traders who live in these villages have been able to save earnings

from their business in order to open a shop in Kazgeil. Usually, this starts

with trips to Kazgeil on market days as a periodic trader. Initially, the

trader may sell from a mat. Later, he may rent a small shop. Finally, he

builds a shop of his own at Kazgeil. He opens the shop twice each week on

market days after walking the short distance from his home village. During

the rest of the week, the goods are locked inside the shop while the trader

stays in his own village where he probably operates a second shop.

Absentee ownership also occurs at Abu Haraz, but the circumstances are

typically different. The village is not surrounded by a large number of small

villages as Kazgeil is; and, unlike Kazgeil which competes with several other

large agricultural markets in its own district (i.e., el-Ibnoya and el-Aloba),

Abu Haraz is the major rural bulking center for a large area extending west of

el-Obeid into el-Nuhud District. Until recently, the major buyer of crops in

the Abu Haraz market was a brilliant businessman who lived in el-Obeid and

had close family ties with a number of leading families in the village. This

man seems to have held a monopoly for transporting goods to and from Abu Haraz

by truck. He also contributed to the growth of the village by building a

flour mill and helping a number of local tradesmen to get started. Crops were

brought to Abu Haraz by merchants who had bought them from farmers in their

villages. These merchants, of course, were anxious to obtain good prices for

their crops and did not like being forced to sell to the monopsonist,

particularly if his prices were low. The problem was partially solved by

building storehouses at Abu Haraz where the merchants kept their crops until

the prices were favorable. Many of the absentee-owned buildings at Abu Haraz

were constructed under these circumstances, but the situation is now in flux

since the businessman has died and trucks are now owned by several persons in

the village. Thus, some of the absentee owners now prefer to rent their

buildings; others have simply allowed their property to deteriorate so that it

is no longer suitable for storage or rental.

A survey of building owners in Kazgeil, Abu Haraz, and Umm Ramad

marketplaces determined that the modal number of buildings owned was one. At

Kazgeil, for example, 88 per cent of the owners possessed only one building,

while at Abu Haraz the proportion owning one building was 78 percent. The

proportion at Umm Ramad was 68 per cent. The owner of the largest number of

buildings at Kazgeil is a Greek businessman who has lived in the village since

1946. This man is legendary for his business acumen as well as for his
kindness and community-spiritedness. A number of merchants and small traders

at Kazgeil owe their start to his support. In the past he was the major

crop-buyer in the village, but this role is now performed by several other

merchants and his business is more directed toward operating a number of

cheese factories in the district, a large mill and bakery at Kazgeil, and

several trucks for transporting goods to and from el-Obeid. In addition to

the mill and bakery, the Greek also owns three other permanent structures: a

grocery/cloth shop, the restaurant, and a storehouse; all of these are rented.

The largest owner of buildings at Abu Haraz is a relative of the businessman

referred to above who used to be the major crop-buyer and transporter in the

village. This man also lives in el-Obeid. He owns three buildings at Abu

Haraz: a flour mill that he operates through a resident manager, his cousin,

and two other buildings that are leased to local merchants. At Umm Ramad, two

brothers own three buildings each. The elder brother is the largest

crop-buyer in the village. He uses all three of his buildings himself. One

building is a grocery/cloth shop; the other two are storehouses. His younger

brother operates a grocery, too, and uses another building for storage; the

third building is leased to another local shopkeeper.

This information points to a fairly low degree of concentration in

fixed-assets ownership for the three markets in question. In each

marketplace, more than two-thirds of the owners possess only one building.

All buildings are owned outright by individuals. There are no liens on these

commercial properties.

Table 3 shows the traders at the el-Geifil marketplace who occupied

thatch shelters in the 1981-82 season. The coffee shops were operated by

residents of el-Geifil, and six of the eight proprietors were women from farm

households. The other traders were made up of individuals from neighboring

villages as well as el-Geifil. The blacksmith, the butchers, and several of

the tailors travel a circuit, visiting more than one periodic market each

week. All of the grocery operators and the grocery/crop-buyers were either

from el-Geifil or from North Geifil, a geneologically related village located

a few kilometers north of el-Geifil. All of these traders operated shops in

their villages when not at the periodic market. Agricultural produce,

particularly sesame and gum arabic, was accepted as a means of payment for

groceries, in lieu of cash. The transactions were invariably small, rarely

amounting to more than 1 L.S. Three of the grocery operators were also buying

crops in larger volumes (e.g., by the sack). In turn, these traders were

Table 3


CA) Type of Trade Frequency Percent

Coffee Shop 8 32%
Tailor 6 24
Grocery 4 16
Grocery/Crop-Buyer 3 12
Butcher 3 12
Blacksmith 1 4
N = 25 T0

(B) Residence of Trader Frequency Percent

Resident of el-Geifil 15 60%
Non-resident 10 40
N = 25 100%

selling crops to a truck operator/assembler who visited the village once or

twice each week.

Village Institutions and Enterprises

The previous section referred to four villages, each of which had an

identifiable marketplace. This is not typical of villages in the el-Obeid

area or elsewhere in the Kordofan Region. The typical village does not have a

market plaza and a cluster of shops where most trading is conducted. Instead,

the shops (which are always groceries) are scattered among the houses and

compounds. The rural population seems to be clearly aware of the benefits to

be gained from having more than one shopkeeper in each village. In the event

that the village inhabitants are dissatisfied with the prices or service

(credit above all else) that they are able to get locally, they will either

visit shopkeepers in nearby settlements or they will help another shopkeeper

to go into business. It is rarely the case that a village lacks a shopkeeper.

Only two villages without any shops were found in the initial reconnaissance

of the area (see Reeves and Frankenberger, Report No. 1, 1981), and both were

quite small. One village was located on a major transport route 10 km from

el-Obeid. The second was in a remote location south of el-Geifil. The

inhabitants of this village marketed at el-Geifil, and most of the population

migrated during the dry season due to the scarcity of water.

In this section all 13 villages in the marketing study sample are

examined to compare their institutions and commercial characteristics. The

tables presented on the following pages give consistent evidence of a

hierarchical arrangement of villages according to their economic and

institutional characteristics. The institutions and services related to

marketing that are found in each of the 13 villages are indicated in Table 4.

In the sample of 13 villages, four villages have a permanent marketplace.

We have considered three of these in some detail already. The fourth, Ayara,

Table 4
Market-Related Institutions and Services

Administered Administered Villages
Periodic Crop Auction Livestock Using This
Market Market Market Marketplace Mosque



























operative Waterinq Rural
Society Primary Intermediate Point for Council Veterinary
Ltvpe) School School Animals Headquarters Service Electricity

2 1














* Abu Haraz District People's Council has instituted a local market tax to pay for the installation of electricity in the marketplace.

** There is a crop-marketing checkpoint. During the marketing season a government-salaried clerk stays in
el-Gelfil to record crop sales and to collect the taxes.



Abu Haraz


UL'Ta Ramad

Unrm Kuka


Unn Sot






Umn Sabagha

. ...... r ....

"," '.

is similar to Umm Ramad except for its location on the el-Obeid/el-Nuhud road,

a major truck route. Umm Kuka and el-Geifil each have a seasonal marketplace

that operates from November to April. The remaining seven villages in the

sample do not have marketplaces of even a seasonal nature. All villages that

have permanent or seasonal marketplaces have been given two days each week,

which are designated as "market days." The schedule is determined by the

People's Rural Council administration in el-Obeid. Care is taken to insure

that the market days assigned to neighboring markets do not conflict. The

largest rural markets have their most important market day on Friday. During

the crop-marketing season, this day is used to assemble the crops by

purchasing from farmers at the major rural auctions. The crops are then

delivered to el-Obeid on Saturday. Thus, Saturdays are typically a "dead day"

in major rural marketplaces during the crop-marketing season and the most

active day for crop sales in el-Obeid.

Table 4 shows el-Geifil with only one market day per week. The village

was assigned two market days, Sunday and Wednesday, but the participating

tradesmen felt that the volume of business did not warrant two days per week,

and the Wednesday market was discontinued. The el-Geifil market has not been

thriving for several reasons. Soil fertility in the area has suffered greatly

from overcropping, overgrazing, and wind erosion with the result that

crop-marketing has not been strong in recent years. During the 1981-82

season, for example, crop sales had declined by early March, and the seasonal

market was disbanded earlier than expected. The el-Geifil marketplace has

also come under strong competition from two other seasonal marketing centers

in nearby villages. Finally, el-Geifil is located next to an administrative

boundary. The village belongs to Umm Rawaba District, but it is closer to

el-Obeid. Thus, it must look to Umm Rawaba for political

patronage and to el-Obeid for selling its agricultural products and purchasing

consumer goods. Being pulled in two directions results in diseconomies with

which other villages do not have to contend.

Referring again to Table 4, five of the village marketplaces have a crop

auction administered by a clerk who is appointed by the People's Rural

Council. The clerk's role is to administer the auction; to record all

transactions of sesame, groundnuts, roselle, gum arabic, and watermelon seeds

(type of crop, quantity, total price, price per kantar, amount of taxes, and
name of buyer); and to collect taxes assessed and keep them until they are

picked up by a representative of the People's Rural Council headquarters.

Crop auctions are created by the rural councils, and the taxes they bring in

are the major source of revenue for these administrative bodies. The auctions

are generally located in the larger, more active marketplaces where access to

transportation is good and where agricultural production is high. A flexible

approach toward creating new crop auctions in high production areas and

discontinuing auctions that do not pay for themselves should be a key tool of

rural and agricultural development policy in this region.

At Kazgeil and Abu Haraz, the market clerk has the additional

responsibility of recording sales of cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys, camels,

and horses. Transactions concerned with livestock are performed directly

between the buyer and the seller by means of haggling. Once a price is

determined, the two parties go to the market clerk to record the sale and to

have the taxes assessed.

An effort was made to determine how many villages used the marketing

facilities in each of the 13 villages. These data are not very accurate in

some instances as indicated by the wide variation in response by different

informants in each village. Nevertheless, the expectation is upheld that

villages with permanent marketplaces and crop auctions serve as a marketing

center for the largest number of surrounding villages, while villages without

permanent marketplaces and crop auctions serve as a marketing center only for

their own inhabitants or, in a few instances, for several other villages.

El-Kharta is clearly anomalous in this respect. The village lacks a formal

marketplace and a crop auction, yet the populations of about 15 surrounding

villages depend on el-Kharta as a marketing center. The explanation is that

the extended family of the village headman are all merchants. They own two

shops and the flour mill at el-Kharta, and they operate a truck for hauling

water, goods, and passengers between the village and el-Obeid. The family

also uses the truck to assemble crops purchased in other villages.

Furthermore, one member of the family is a merchant in el-Obeid, and his

household compound is used for storing goods. This greatly facilitates the

family's business ventures. Owing to the family's resourcefulness, el-Kharta

has gained a commercial importance in its area that is not evident from

looking at its institutional make-up. Another very important factor is that

there is no competing permanent marketplace in el-Kharta's area. Still

another factor explaining the absence of a marketplace at el-Kharta is that

the village does not lie on a major truck route. It should be noted that

el-Kharta is located 23 km north of el-Obeid. Drought and poor harvests are

common in this area.

The remaining columns of data in Table 4 show a variety of institutions

and services that also tend to vary with level of marketing activities

occurring in the village. The presence of a mosque in a village appears to be

related to economic development. The mosque in most villages is a large

thatched structure built with the community's own resources. Shopkeepers tend

to be primary users of the mosque. Medical dispensaries are set up by the

Ministry of Health in certain of the villages, and cooperative societies are

created and supervised by the Department of Cooperatives. The cooperatives in

this sample of villages all have commercial functions. At Kazgeil, one of the

cooperatives owns a mill, and a second cooperative runs a shop selling

groceries and other consumer goods. Abu Haraz also has a consumer cooperative

as does Umm Ramad. These consumer cooperatives are formed for the benefit of

government-salaried workers, including teachers, and do not as a rule benefit

the large majority of the village's families. The presence or absence of

schools is strongly related to the level of market development because schools

depend on the village market and transport infrastructure in order to get

supplies, especially food for resident students. A watering point for animals

in herds and a veterinary service are found in Kazgeil and Abu Haraz, which

have livestock markets. These two largest villages in the sample are also

rural council headquarters for their respective districts. Again, it is the

higher level of economic development and transport infrastructure that makes

these villages ideal administrative centers. Electrification, which is

accomplished by diesel-powered generators, is extremely rare in the rural

areas. Kazgeil has electricity in the main mosque, and the service was

extended in 1982 to include the adjacent marketplace. The shopkeepers pay a

monthly fee for this service. At Abu Haraz, a sales tax on crops and

livestock is presently being levied to provide a similar electrical service

but as yet it is not operational.

A good way to gauge the levels of commercial development in the villages

is to inventory the major kinds of businesses that occur. Table 5 presents a

profile of permanent commercial enterprises for each village. This table

shows only the commonly occurring enterprises. The discussion in the previous

section dealt with some of the more unusual enterprises at Kazgeil and Abu

Haraz. It was noted in that context that such enterprises are not found in

smaller villages. The data in Table 5 are arranged to give a ranking both of
the kinds of enterprises according to the frequency of their occurrence

A Profile of Permanent

Table 5
Commercial Enterprises by Villaae

Vi large Grocery

Storaqe/ Teashop/ Market
Vacant Restaurant Truck

Oil Flour Cheese Barber Grain Kinds of
Butcher Press Mill Factory Bakery Shoemaker ShOD Merch.lnt Enterprise

Kazqei I

Abu Haraz

Umn Rarnad



Umm Kuka

el Hamnmadiya


Umm Sot




Uirin Sabagha

37 23 22 14 12 12 11

* The cheese factories are located outside the village, typically in a grazing area to which nomads bring their herds.














and of villages.according to the different kinds of enterprise that each one

has. Groceries (including grocery/cloth shops) and storage buildings are the
most common commercial establishments by far in the villages. Coffee shops

and restaurants are the next most frequent kind of business, but the

distribution is heavily skewed toward the larger market villages on major

truck routes. The presence of market trucks corresponds in a general way to

the economic development of the village. Each village with crop auctions,

except Ayara and Umm Kuka, has several trucks that are used for transporting

crops from the rural market to el-Obeid and consumer goods from el-Obeid

wholesalers to the shops. Ayara and Umm Kuka each depend on truck

operators/assemblers who buy crops directly from the farmers and shopkeepers

as well as at auction. Ayara is visited regularly by a truck from el-Obeid,
which belongs to the uncle of one of the shopkeepers. The truck-owner used to

be a big merchant at Ayara. He still owns the flour mill and a large cistern

on which the villagers depend for water during the dry season. Water for the

cistern is hauled by the same truck. This dependence on a big urban merchant

who is related to merchants in the village used to be characteristic of Abu

Haraz as well. This is probably a common feature of villages at intermediate

stages of marketplace development. As the village merchant group increases in

size, diversity, and wealth, dependence on a urban-based kinsman declines.

Some of the village merchants will purchase trucks and specialize in
transport, for example. At Umm Kuka, two truck operators service the village

regularly, hauling goods in the marketing season and water in the dry season.
Both trucks are from neighboring villages.

El-Hammadiya stands out as a prominent anomaly because it has seven
trucks, although in other respects the village lacks the features of

commercial development. At a distance of 22 km from el-Obeid, el-Hammadiya is

located in the middle of a dense area of settlement. Two of the seven trucks

are used for long-distance transport and are rarely seen in the village. The

other five service not only el-Hammadiya but also many of the surrounding

villages. Three of the trucks are engaged full-time in hauling water after

the rainy season has ended. The remaining trucks haul crops, consumer goods,

and passengers. These trucks follow an established route once or twice per

week. Starting in the morning and picking up people and goods at each village

along the way, the truck will drop its passengers and payload at the truck

park on the east side of el-Obeid. The truck driver then goes about his

business in town, which may include buying supplies for shopkeepers at

el-Hammadiya or one of the other villages. At an appointed time in the

afternoon, the truck returns to the parking area to pick up the passengers and

supplies that are going back to the villages that day. If the truck is

hauling crops, these are delivered to the el-Obeid crop market or to one of

the crop-buying agencies (see Chapter VI).

As seen in Table 5, the number of butchers, flour mills, sesame oil

presses, shoemakers, and barbershops corresponds broadly to the economic

development of a village. Cheese factories are strongly related to the

presence of cattle; Kazgeil and Abu Haraz marketplaces are visited by large

numbers of nomadic herders during the rainy season. The nomads are primarily

interested in selling milk products and weak or unproductive animals in order

to buy grain and manufactured goods. This trade is extremely important for

the economy of both villages and is one reason why these two marketplaces are

so large and diversified. Grain merchants are also found in these large

markets because of the presence of the nomads who account for three-quarters

of the grain merchant's business. The number of bakeries present corresponds

closely to the economic development of a village; the presence of a bakery is

also related to the presence of either coffee shops or schools or both.

The ranking of villages that is provided by comparing the different kinds

of commercial enterprises is similar to the ranking shown in Table 4, based on

the presence of a marketplace, a crop auction, and a livestock market.

Table 6 makes a comparison of villages according to the types of building
materials used in permanent commercial structures. It ranks the types of

building material by the frequency of occurrence, and it ranks villages by the

total number of permanent commercial structures in each.

Corrugated steel is the most common building material but only because of

the preponderance of this material in commercial structures at the larger

markets of Kazgeil, Abu Haraz, and Umm Ramad. Millet stalks are more nearly

the universal building material. Packed earth (e.g., adobe) and fired brick

follow in frequency of occurrence. Concrete blocks were a more important

building material in the 1950s than today because they have become very

expensive. The oldest buildings in several of the villages are made of

concrete block. Sun-dried brick occurs infrequently as does the construction

of packed earth walls with a thatched roof (called durdur). Neither of these

construction materials appears to represent a significant savings over the

packed earth structure with a flat roof made of corrugated steel.

Shopkeepers were asked what it would cost to build commercial structures

at 1981-82 prices. There was a high level of uniformity in their responses,

especially for the most common building materials like corrugated steel,

millet stalks, and packed earth. The following are rounded averages of the

cost to construct a standard size building from the different kinds of


Table 6


Packed Total
Corrugated Millet Packed Fired Sun-Dried Earth with Number of
Village Steel Stalks Earth Brick Concrete Brick Thatched Roof Structures

Kazgeil 34 27 0 16 3 0 0 80
Abu Haraz 41 24 4 4 1 Q Q 74
Umm Ramad 21 3 14 0 0 2 Q 40
Ayara 4 5 24 0 0 0 1 34
el-Hammadiya 2 7 4 0 0 0 0 13
el-Kharta 6 3 0 0 3 0 0 12
Umm Kuka 0 4 3 0 1 0 0 8
el-Geifil 2 4 0 1 0 0 0 7
Bagbage 0 6 0 0 0 0 0 6
Burbur 2 0 3 0 0 0 0 5
Umm Sot 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 5
Wardass 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
UMM Sabagha 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1

Total 114 88 52 21 8 2 2

Construction material Cost (in L.S.)

Concrete 2000

Corrugated steel 1000

Fired brick 500

Packed earth 400

Sun-dried brick 200

Packed earth w/thatch roof 200

Millet stalks 50

A Hierarchy of Villages

Tables 4-6 strongly point to a hierarchy of villages related to their

levels of commercial and institutional development. This information suggests

the following rank-ordered typology of villages:

Class I villages

Examples Kazgeil and Abu Haraz

Characteristics permanent marketplace; large crop auction and

administered livestock market; large number of

institutions and services; plentiful transport; a wide

variety of commercial enterprises; most commercial

construction is of durable materials; high investment

in fixed capital.

Class II villages

Examples Umm Ramad and Ayara

Characteristics permanent marketplace; small crop auction; no

administered livestock market; some institutions and

services are lacking; transport is readily available;

basic commercial enterprises (groceries, flour mill,

bakery, storage, butchery); most commercial

construction is of durable materials; moderate

investment in fixed capital.

Class III villages

Examples Umm Kuka and el-Geifil

Characteristics seasonal marketplace; may or may not have a small crop

market; no administered livestock market; many

institutions and services are lacking; transport not

available in the village; variety of commercial

enterprises is limited; at least half of the commercial

structures are made of millet stalks; low investment in

fixed capital.

Class IV villages

Examples Umm Sot, el-Hammadiya, el-Kharta, Wardass, Burbur, Bagbage,

Umm Sabagha

Characteristics no marketplace; no crop auction or administered

livestock market; all or nearly all institutions and

services lacking; transport commonly lacking but

available from other villages; variety of commercial

enterprises often very limited; the majority of the

commercial structures are made of millet stalks; very

low investment in fixed capital.

This classification system is a useful way of identifying villages by

their commercial and institutional development. The scheme would probably

classify all villages in Kordofan Region. However, Class I and Class II

villages are probably not found outside of el-Obeid, el-Nuhud, and Umm Rawaba

Districts because the stimulus of a large urban market is not felt. There

seem to be no villages of these types in South Kordofan, for example, because

of the general lack of urban development in that province.



This chapter sets forth the shared characteristics and differences among

the group of rural retailers and middlemen who are most directly involved in

agricultural markets.

In Sudanese colloquial Arabic, the concepts of "to buy" and "to sell" are

expressed by a common verb (baa9, yibii9). This semantic conflation expresses

succinctly the dual role of the middleman, who buys in order to sell at a

higher price. The marketing system for agricultural products hinges on the

activities of middlemen who buy products from farmers and sell them to other

middlemen or to processors. Rural middlemen are invariably diversified into

other enterprises, most especially farming and retailing consumer goods.

Understanding the social and economic circumstances of this group will help in

understanding the structure and performance of the rural marketing system.

A Profile of Village Shopkeepers

This profile is based on a random survey of 58 shopkeepers in 13

villages. All the shopkeepers are grocery or grocery/cloth dealers. This

group was singled out for the survey because observation and informal

interviewing revealed that they play essential roles in agricultural markets

and in the maintenance of the local farming system. Other types of village

commercial enterprise mentioned in Chapter IV lack the pervasive structural

influence on markets that the grocery shopkeepers have. The sample comprises

over half of the total population of shopkeepers in these villages. Every

village is represented by at least one shopkeeper (Table 7). Wardass and Umm

Sabagha, for example, are each represented by their single shopkeeper.



This chapter sets forth the shared characteristics and differences among

the group of rural retailers and middlemen who are most directly involved in

agricultural markets.

In Sudanese colloquial Arabic, the concepts of "to buy" and "to sell" are

expressed by a common verb (baa9, yibii9). This semantic conflation expresses

succinctly the dual role of the middleman, who buys in order to sell at a

higher price. The marketing system for agricultural products hinges on the

activities of middlemen who buy products from farmers and sell them to other

middlemen or to processors. Rural middlemen are invariably diversified into

other enterprises, most especially farming and retailing consumer goods.

Understanding the social and economic circumstances of this group will help in

understanding the structure and performance of the rural marketing system.

A Profile of Village Shopkeepers

This profile is based on a random survey of 58 shopkeepers in 13

villages. All the shopkeepers are grocery or grocery/cloth dealers. This

group was singled out for the survey because observation and informal

interviewing revealed that they play essential roles in agricultural markets

and in the maintenance of the local farming system. Other types of village

commercial enterprise mentioned in Chapter IV lack the pervasive structural

influence on markets that the grocery shopkeepers have. The sample comprises

over half of the total population of shopkeepers in these villages. Every

village is represented by at least one shopkeeper (Table 7). Wardass and Umm

Sabagha, for example, are each represented by their single shopkeeper.

Table 7


No. of Shopkeepers Total No. of
Village in Sample Shopkeepers

Abu Haraz 15 30
Kazgeil 10 20
Umm Ramad 8 17
el-Hammadiya 5 10
Ayara 4 8
el-Kbarta 4 8
Umm Kuka 2 4
el-Geifil 2 4
Bagbage 2 4
Umm Sot 2 4
Burbur 2 3
Wardass 1 1
Umm Sabagha 1 1

58 114

Personal Characteristics

All shopkeepers in the sample were males. Women are frequently periodic

sellers and beer brewers, but we did not encounter an instance in which a woman

owned or operated a shop in a village. Nearly all the shopkeepers were 20

years of age or older. In this sample the two shopkeepers who were teenagers

received their shops as gifts from their fathers, who retain an interest as

business partners. The more common pattern is for the individual to open a shop

when he is in his twenties, after he has married. Table 8 shows that 74 percent of

the shopkeepers interviewed were between 20 and 49 years of age. One may conclude

that these are the optimum years for shopkeeping, but this issue is clouded by

the fact that there has been a tremendous expansion in the number of shopkeepers

in the villages during the last twenty years, a trend that has accompanied the

growth of agricultural product markets. Shopkeeping is not as strenuous as

farming is. And, except in the case of large shops with a very high rate of

business flow, sustained mental acuity is not called for.

Table 8


Age No. of Shopkeepers Percent

Under 20 years 2 3%
20-29 years .13 22
30-39 years 16 28
40-49 years 14 24
50-59 years 8 14
60 years and over 5 9

Many shopkeepers spend several hours a day napping in the shade of the awning

in front of their shop. Shopkeeping is a non-demanding occupation,

satisfactory for an older man. Men continue to operate shops late in life

unless they have a son who desires to take over the business.

Eighty-eight percent of the shopkeepers were married. Most of them (76 percent)

had only one wife. Ninety-six percent were the head of their own household. Two

of the 58 persons interviewed maintained houses in el-Obeid. In these two cases,

both individuals were in transition from living in the village to living in el-Obeid.

This phenomenon has occurred in all the larger villages and will be addressed below

in the discussion of business strategies.

Shopkeeping enhances economic security. This is evident from the higher

average number of dependents. Shopkeepers average about 10 dependents compared

with the overall average number of six dependents in rural households.

All shopkeepers interviewed were Muslims. The only non-Muslim village

merchant who was encountered during the study was the Greek cheese-maker and

miller at Kazgeil who is a Christian. He is a master of the use of Muslim

courtesies, which are such an important aspect of interpersonal relations in

the village. We found no non-Muslim peoples residing in the villages in the

el-Obeid area save an occasional Dinka migrant from the South.

Table 9


Tribe No. of Shopkeepers Percent

Bideiriya 32 56%
Jawam'a 5 9
Manasira 5 9
Ja'aliya 3 5
Jalada 2 4
Other 10 18
57 101%

Table 9 indicates the tribes to which the shopkeepers are affiliated.

Those listed as "other" were mentioned only once. The Bideiriya clearly

dominate the picture, but this is not surprising since this tribe is the most

numerous in the study area. The Jawam'a tribe is another large group;

however, its area of greatest strength is in Umm Rawaba District. El-Geifil

is one of the westernmost Jawam'a villages. The five Manasira shopkeepers are

found at Kazgeil and Abu Haraz. The Manasira tribe is a major segment of the

Baggara cattle pastoralists who winter south of Kadugli and migrate to

pastures near Kazgeil and Abu Haraz during the rainy season. Successful

nomads as well as successful farmers may convert their capital into a shop,

therefore. The farmer-nomad may rely on relatives to continue to look after

his herd, and he is assured of customers from among his own tribe. This is a

part of the complex symbiosis between the sedentary and nomadic populations of

the Western Sudan. Ja'aliya is a tribe that originated in Nubia in the

Northern Sudan. There is some prestige attached to having this ancestry. It

should be noted, however, that none of these Ja'aliya shopkeepers was a very

big operator. Jalada is a Kordofanian tribe of settled cultivators.

Reports from some parts of the Sudan have suggested that village

merchants are ethnically distinct from the population who are their clientele.

Sharp business practices and exploitation are seen to result from this. No

evidence exists in the el-Obeid area to support this idea. For the most part,

shopkeepers were born in the villages where they practice their trade or at

least in a neighboring village, and most of the inhabitants are related to

them and they share the same religion and tribal affiliation. In the large,

ethnically diverse village, a tendency was noted for the members of an ethnic

group to patronize a shopkeeper with the same ethnic identity. This is not

hard and fast rule, however.

A surprising finding in this study was that the majority of shopkeepers

were not very active in political organizations and local voluntary

associations. Shopkeepers indicated that they do not like to be drawn into

political squabbles, which tend to erupt in these associations unless their

business is at stake. If they take sides in political disputes, they may lose

clientele. A few of the shopkeepers sampled were headmen of their village, or

a major section of it, but this situation was generally regarded even by them

as not being ideal. A shaikh (headman) is supposed to put the welfare of his

constituents before his own personal preferences. Having business interests

to protect can be a decided liability to one whose role is that of a guardian

and arbitrator. Thus, in the villages, political power and economic power are

not typically held by the same individual. A critic may reply that while the

merchant may not occupy a position of political power, his brother or cousin

does. This is sometimes true, but it could hardly be otherwise owing to the

complex interlocking of kinship in each village. The issue certainly needs

more study, but we are reluctant to press the foregone conclusion that

commercial interests control village politics.

Compared to the general population, literacy is fairly high among village

shopkeepers. Only 33 percent indicated that they could neither read nor

write. Eighteen per cent said that they could read and write sufficiently to

keep very simple accounts of customer's purchases on credit. Forty-nine per

cent were fully literate. Literacy and skill at keeping the books were cited

by many shopkeepers as essential skills. The shopkeepers in the sample who

were illiterate inevitably had the smallest inventories and numbers of

clientele. They were essentially precluded from expanding because of the need

to carry the business in their heads.

Career Histories

The career histories of shopkeepers vary according to age, village

location, marketplace characteristics, and the availability of relatives to

provide support. The five case histories below illustrate some of the

variability in career patterns.
Case I

Osman lives in el-Geifil, the village of his birth. He is 32 years old.

He belongs to the Jawam'a tribe as do the other residents in the village, and

he is a member of three village associations the village council, the

committee for the community chest, and the committee for supply. His career

began as a farmer. When he was 18 years old, his father gave him 20 makhammas

of land, and soon after he bought an additional 15 makhammas of good goz soil

for 15 L.S. He did not get married for several years, and during this time he

farmed in the rainy season and migrated to Khartoum in the dry season, working

in a fruit juice bar. He stopped this wage work after getting married. In

1976, with a starting capital of 100 L.S. plus scales, measures, table, and a

hut, he started his shop. The starting capital came from selling the

production of six makhammas, which he had planted in sesame during one season.

He saved labor costs by doing all the work himself. Two of his relatives are

also entrepreneurs in el-Geifil. His brother is a livestock breeder, and his

father's brother's son operates an oil press. The three enterprises are

operated separately, however; and none of the shopkeeper's relatives has given

him any financial backing. In 1981, the shopkeeper replaced his thatched hut

shop with one made of corrugated steel, costing 900 L.S. This building was

paid for entirely out of the shopkeeper's earnings as a dry-goods retailer and
crop-buyer. This shopkeeper is the most successful of el-Geifil's four

shopkeepers. His shop has the most varied inventory, and he does over half

the business in the village. He is locally known as er-raakhi ("the cheap

one"). The reputation for low prices appears to be directly related to this

shopkeeper's crop-buying during the shita (winter) and sorghum-selling during

the seef (summer) and early khariif (rainy season). The large volume of

commodities with which he deals means that he has a steady flow of working

capital, and it is also easy for him to commission a truck from a neighboring

village. Thus, his shop is resupplied on a regular basis. The other shops in

el-Geifil, by comparison, are much poorer and frequently run short of goods

that are in high demand.

Case II

Abder-Rahman is 41 years of age, lives at Umm Ramad, and operates a shop

there. Like most of the other inhabitants of Umm Ramad, he belongs to the

Bideiriya tribe. The only formal association that he belongs to is the

Sammariya Sufi sect, into which he was initiated in 1975. He was born in a

village north of el-Nuhud and, until 20 years of age, was a farmer with his

father in his natal village. He also learned tailoring, and in 1961 he came

to Umm Ramad to work as a tailor in partnership with a local shopkeeper. The

merchant provided the machine and the tailor provided his own labor. The cost

of thread, needles, and oil was taken from the gross income of the business.

The net profit was divided equally between the merchant and the tailor. In a

good year, the tailor's share would come to 200 L.S. He also used to migrate

to the Habila mechanized farming scheme area to work as a tailor during the

seef. During the rainy season, he returned to Umm Ramad to farm. At first he

was given three makhammas of gifaar land, but it didn't suit his needs and he

gave it to someone else. After that, he was given seven makhammas of

exhausted goz soil, but this he refused to go look at. He began renting land

by the futra system and now rents 30 makhammas from a divorced woman, who owns

at least 100 makhammas. He became a shopkeeper in 1977, building a jaluus

shop for about 100 L.S. The scales, table, shelves, and other equipment cost

another 100 L.S. In addition to this, he started out with about 300 L.S. of

working capital, cash, and goods. The capital accrued from his earnings as a

farmer and tailor at Umm Ramad and as a migrant worker in Habila. In 1981, he

built a new jaluus shop onto one side of his original shop for about 400 L.S.

A tailor now works in partnership with him. This shopkeeper is not an

important crop-buyer, but he is a successful retailer. Easy access to

inexpensive transport appears to account for this. Among Umm Ramad's

shopkeepers, this one ranks in the upper-middle range.

Case III
Ibrahim is 48 years old and has lived in Umm Subagha all of his life. He

is a Bedari tribesman as are his fellow villagers, and he is the headman of

the village. In addition to this position, he is a member of Umm Subagha's
development committee and the Ayara school board. He started out as a farmer

in the 1950s, cultivating sesame on land that his father had given him. After

getting married and building a new hut for his wife, he used the hut in which

he had lived as a bachelor as a shop. His starting capital was only 4 L.S.
He used a set of scales that had belonged to his father. During the 1969-70

season, he invested heavily in his farming operation. The harvest was

disappointing, and he had to close his shop for lack of capital. From 1971 to

1973, he farmed during the rainy season and was a laborer for the Rural Water

Corporation at el-Obeid during the dry season. After 1973, his farm
production improved, so he no longer needed to migrate in the dry season. In

1979, he sold his crop of sesame and groundnuts for about 50 L.S. At that
time the government-controlled supply of sugar to his village was being

handled by a shopkeeper in Ayara. The people of Umm Subagha supported him in

taking over this activity. His responsibility was to purchase the sugar

allotment at the government price and then to sell it to his fellow villagers

at a mark-up of 0.050 L.S./rootl. It was not long before he began bringing

other commodities along with the sugar. He built a new shop (durdur=circular

packed-mud wall; millet-thatched, conical roof) for 120 L.S. This is the only

shopkeeper in Umm Subagha. He travels to el-Obeid to buy goods by riding a

donkey to Ayara and hitching a ride on a truck from there. He does not buy

crops in large quantities because his fellow villagers prefer to sell at Ayara

auction market or in el-Obeid. His business is rather poor by comparison with

the other shopkeepers in the sample.

Case IV
Mahmoud, shopkeeper at Ayara is 36 years old, was born at Umm Doma. Umm

Doma used to be an independent village, but in 1980 the entire population

moved to Ayara to be near a secure water supply and the school. Now Umm Doma

is a part of Ayara, located to the east of the marketplace. The shopkeeper

started out in the 1960s as a farmer and animal breeder with his father. When

he married, his father gave him 12 makhammas to farm independently. In 1975,

the people of Umm Doma complained about the distribution of sugar at Ayara

market. A meeting was called, and he was chosen to take over the distribution

of sugar to Umm Doma. That year he earned about 145 L.S. from the sesame and

groundnuts that he had grown. With this capital he bought sugar at the

government-controlled price and resold it to families in his village at a

charge of 50 piasters/rootl. He spent the next two years distributing mainly

sugar. Then, he built a ghuttiya with communal labor provided by his

neighbors and opened a real shop. He was able to use scales, measures, and

other equipment that belonged to his father who at one time bought and sold

goods in the Ayara marketplace. In 1979 he built a jaluus building in Ayara

for 75 L.S. but only used it for storage. Along with the rest of the

villagers in 1980, he migrated to Ayara. He built a new durdur shop that is

beside his house for 10 L.S. with help from his neighbors. This shopkeeper is

an insignificant crop-buyer. He cannot afford to alienate his clientele by

moving into the jaluus shop that he owns in Ayara marketplace.

Case V

Mekki who is 50 years old and a lifetime resident of Abu Haraz, is one of

that village's wealthiest residents. He belongs to a highly honored section

of the Bideiri tribe that claims descent from the original Nubian traders who

settled the area in the eighteenth century, the Donagla (People of Dongola).

This man is treasurer of a primary school board and a member of the councils

in the two secondary school boards at Abu Haraz.

He started in the 1950s as a farmer and periodic trader. He used to

cultivate about six makhammas, which he inherited from his father, and he

operated an oil press that his father owned. In 1955, he went into

partnership with his father's sister's son who was also of Donagla origin.

They started with a combined capital of 600 L.S., which came from their

agricultural production, and they used for a shop the building that his father

owned in the Abu Haraz marketplace. In 1961, the two partners invested 500

L.S. in a truck, using money they had earned from crop-marketing. In the

years that followed, Mekki found he had an aptitude for the trucking business,

whereas his cousin was more interested in shopkeeping. In 1972, the partners

agreed to divide their assets, and each went his separate way. The cousin

became Abu Haraz's leading grain merchant, while Mekki got more involved in

transportation. During the past ten years, he has changed trucks about every

two years. He buys them in used condition, paying by installment. The last

truck was priced at 9000 L.S., for example. He paid 5000 L.S. down, and the
rest is to be paid in installments during a two-year period. Currently, he

operates two trucks that are used for hauling crops to the urban market,

manufactured goods to the villages, and passengers between both points. In

1979, he opened a grocery at Abu Haraz with his son as shop manager. The

building is rented for 7 L.S./month, and the original starting capital in

equipment and goods amounted to 5000 L.S. This transporter/shopkeeper is one

of the largest crop-buyers in the sample. He is an agent for a crop-buying

agency at el-0beid that specializes in gum arabic. The owners of this agency

are also Donagla, and they are related to a number of the leading

personalities at Abu Haraz, including Mekki.

Case VI
Abu Senin is 40 years old man and a shopkeeper in Kazgeil. He was born

60 kilometers northwest of el-Obeid, a member of the Dar Hamid tribe. He is a

member of the Sudan Socialist Union and treasurer of a school board at

Kazgeil. He started his career as an assistant to his father who was a

merchant in his natal village, but his father lost his capital owing to poor

harvests. He then went to Kazgeil in the early 1960s where he knew several

big merchants. He began to work as a shopkeeper's assistant for 3 L.S./month

and later for 6 L.S./month. Probably, he got the job through political

connections that his family had. During 1963-64 he was a partner in a shop.

Another merchant provided the capital, and he was the manager. The net profit

was divided evenly between them. In 1965, he tried to go it alone but quickly

lost his capital due to being "young and foolish." In 1966-68 he again

managed a shop with another merchant providing the capital. He also was

sharecropping with the man providing the capital. The harvests were bad, and

the shop had to be closed. In 1968-70, he was also the working partner in a

shop, with a sewing machine this time. Again, he was sharecropping with his

partner and, again, bad harvests broke up the partnership. In 1970-71, with a

capital of 100 L.S., he attempted to set up a grocery in Abu Jahel Market

(el-Obeid) but the wholesalers would not sell him goods on credit, and he

failed again. In 1971-74, he returned to Kazgeil, and his original employer

gave him 150 L.S. to stock and manage a grocery in which the earnings would be

evenly shared. Since 1974, with a loan of 100 L.S. that he got from a
wholesale supplier in el-Obeid, he became an independent shopkeeper. He built

a small shop in el-Ibnoya where he went to sell cloth on market days. He also

bought crops as an agent for a large rural buyer who is located at Kazgeil.

More recently, he has worked as an agent for an agency in el-Obeid, which is

just starting to compete as a crop-buyer in Kazgeil. Since 1976, he has

operated a shop in Kazgeil market as well as the shop at el-Ibnoya, and he

buys crops in both auction markets.

Abu Senin is among the more important crop-buyers in the sample. His

career is atypical in many respects, not the least of which is the frequency

with which his business ventures have failed. In person, he is friendly and

articulate, which may explain why he never is at a loss for financial backing

when he needs it.

The six case studies above indicate the substantial amount of variation

found in shopkeepers' careers. Certain patterns emerge nevertheless. For

example, nearly three-quarters of the shopkeepers interviewed noted that their

earliest occupation was that of a farmer, while only 9 percent stated that

their careers began as a shopkeeper's assistant or a partner in a shop (Table

10). Local and migrant wage laborer as well as government-salaried employee

(e.g., soldier, water-pump mechanic, policeman) were starting occupations in
only a few cases. For 57 percent, profits from the sale of agricultural

products were the most important source of equity capital in starting a shop

(Table 11). Sesame and groundnuts were invariably mentioned as the most

important crops for generating money capital.

In 19 per cent of the cases, the shopkeeper started out as a junior

partner who managed the shop while the senior partner supplied the capital.

Net revenues were divided equally between the two partners. In such cases,

Table 10

Occupation Frequency Percent

Farmer 43 74%
Shopkeeper's Assistant/
Shop Partner 5 9
Migrant Wage Laborer 4 7
Government Employee 3 5
Local Wage Labor 3 5

Table 11



Most Important Source
of Starting Capital Frequency Percent

Agriculture (including livestock) 33 57%
Partnership 11 19
Gift from Father 5 9
Itinerant Retailing 4 7
Crop Market Middleman 3 5
Wages/Separation Pay 2 3

the partners are typically close relatives, but there are a few exceptions

(see Case II and Case VI above).

In 9 per cent of the cases, a young man was put in business by his father

who financed the shop, the equipment, and the working capital. All of these

cases occurred in the largest markets of Kazgeil and Abu Haraz, and in each

case the man making the gift to his son was reputed to be wealthy. In fact,

all were big merchants or transporters. The acquisition of starting capital

by gift a sort of pre-testative inheritance appears strongly related to

the concentration of wealth, therefore. Furthermore, if the acquisition of

starting capital by partnership and by gift are combined the rationale being

that both sources of starting capital depend on a socially defined

relationship and do not require previous work or husbanding of resources on

the part of the beneficiary fully 72 percent of the shopkeekpers did amass

starting capital from their own labor.

Loans were not an important source of first-time starting capital in any

of the 58 cases, but they were significant in two other instances: (1) In the

1977-78 season, a man who had been the junior partner in a shop divided the

assets with his partner and built a new shop. To finance this move to an

independent business, he used earnings from groundnut cultivations and

borrowed 250 L.S. from his son-in-law. (2) Case VI, described above, started

marketing cloth in the el-Ibnoya market with a loan of 100 L.S. from a

wholesaler in el-Obeid. Shopkeepers stated that as a general rule money

credit is very hard to obtain. Partnerships such as those described

previously are seen as a more secure arrangement for the party providing the


During the colonial period, commerce was carried to the remote areas of

the Western Sudan by the jallaaba, an itinerant retailer and crop-buyer.

Oftentimes, the jallaaba traveled far from his home area among people who were

not related to him by religion, tribe, or common language. Whether it was

warranted or not, the jallaaba gained a reputation for callous treatment of

the people he traded with. This idea has become generalized and extended to

virtually all rural merchants. Urban Sudanese and expatriots alike often

express the conviction that the village shopkeeper ruthlessly exploits his

customers who are his neighbors.

One explanation for this that is usually cited is that the shopkeeper is

not really a native of the village but an outsider who settles down there.

The villagers become dependent on the monopoly of goods and credit that he has

to offer, and so they pay exhorbitant prices and usurous interest. Part of

this argument can be called into question now. The career histories collected

on 58 shopkeepers indicate that 70 per cent of them are practicing their trade

in their natal village; 25 per cent were born in a neighboring village and

moved to their present location in young adulthood. In all cases, the move

was prompted by the greater economic opportunities in the new location. In no

case did an immigrant merchant become a monopolist in the village to which he


Only 5 per cent of the shopkeepers were truly "outsiders." They came

from the Dar Hamid area north of Bara, the Blue Nile Region, el-Nuhud

District, and so forth. They belonged to tribal groups that were foreign to

the el-Obeid area, and at first they may have spoken dialects of Arabic that

varied somewhat from the dialect of the people among whom they settled. But

in every case they settled in the larger villages with active markets and a

sizeable number of shopkeepers already present. Far from being a

jallaaba-like monopolist, these immigrant merchants counted on the ease of

communications found in the large villages, the large and occupationally

diverse population, and the competition already prevailing in retail sales to

make it possible for their enterprise to find a niche.

Another wrong impression about village shopkeepers is that kinship is the

determining factor in who becomes a rural merchant. Although 76 per cent of

our sample of shopkeepers had relatives who were also merchants, kin relations

have given shopkeepers an access to starting capital in only a small minority

of the cases. Personal initiative and thrift are more significant in most

cases than family connections in establishing a shop. This is not to suggest

that kinship can be ignored as a determinant in rural entrepreneurship. It

does play a decisive role where the gift of starting capital from a father to

his son or a father-son partnership is found. These arrangements as we have

seen generally indicate a concentration of wealth that is more characteristic

of Class I villages. According to our informants relatives usually keep their

business interests separate but not to the extent of failing to take some

advantage. Thus, in Umm Ramad, one of the shopkeepers has a brother who

operates a truck. If the truck is going to be crowded with goods and

passengers, the shopkeeper may get preferential treatment as far as being

assured that his consignment is among the goods transported, but he will still

have to pay the normal rate for transporting his goods. Merchants note that a

failure to keep separate accounts of separate enterprises in this way (also

when the enterprises are owned by the same individual) can lead to disaster.

Yet another misconception is that since the village shopkeeper invariably

extracts exhorbitant profits from sales to his customers, his livelihood is

secure and easy. The first clause of this statement is considered in the

section on retailing below. The career histories say something about the

security of shopkeeping as an enterprise. Seven shopkeepers (12 per cent)

mentioned that they had lost their capital and were forced to shut down their

business on at least one occasion. In one instance, the shop was destroyed by

fire, and the shopkeeper could not reestablish himself for several years. In

a second instance, the shopkeeper took a second wife and spent money

frivolously rather than investing in inventory. The remaining cases had to do

with a drastic loss of income owing to poor harvests. These latter examples

point to a close relationship between agriculture and shopkeeping, which has

already been alluded to. This topic is the focus of discussion in the next


Involvement in Agriculture

In Table 12, a percentage breakdown of shopkeepers by the size of their

cultivations in 1981-82 is shown. Five (9 per cent) of the shopkeepers did

not cultivate any crops and are not counted in the table. Significantly, all

of these are located in Class I villages where according to the shopkeepers'

own statements, the volume of retail trade and other commercial opportunities

for earning an income may make it unnecessary to grow crops. The overwhelming

majority of the shopkeepers, however, do cultivate, and at least in the

villages of Class II through IV, shopkeeping is regarded as subordinate to

farming. In these villages, informants typically stated that crop-raising

produced a higher return for the shopkeeper's family than did retail sales at

the shop. However, crop-buying, which is closely related to retailing (see

below) and which is practiced by 71 per cent of the shopkeepers, greatly

enhances the potential revenue of the shopkeeper. This is particularly true

in Class I and Class II markets where crops are bought by middlemen in bulk

and where direct transport to the el-Obeid markets is accessible.

The mean size of shopkeepers' cultivations, 30.2 makhammas, is
substantially higher than the 18.05 makhammas found for farmers in a

preliminary survey. That survey revealed only 23 per cent of the farmers

cultivating more than 20 makhammas. This survey of shopkeepers found 41

percent cultivating more than 20 makhammas. Given the labor intensity of the

farming system in the el-Obeid area, a shopkeeper is able to expand his area

Table 12

Land under Cultivation
(in makhammas)*

Percentage of Shopkeepers

1-10 19%
11-20 40
21-30 19
31-40 9
over 41 13


*Range in size of cultivations: 3 to 90 makhammas; mean size of cultivation:
30.2 makhammas.

of cultivation beyond what a normal farm family could successfully work by

hiring extra labor during the cropping season. This is a period when the

typical farmer has a serious cash flow problem. The fact that the shopkeeper

has the financial capability to hire labor at this time points to a strong

affinity between farming and shopkeeping. This issue is elaborated in the

concluding section of this chapter.

Striking differences appear when the proportion of crops that are grown

by shopkeepers is compared to that of ordinary farmers discussed in Report No.

2. Thirty-nine percent of the shopkeepers' cultivations were planted in

sesame compared to 48 percent for the sample of farmers, while 23 percent of

the shopkeepers' cultivations were planted in millet compared to 38 percent

for the farmers. These results indicate that shopkeepers, compared to

ordinary farmers, are opting to reduce sesame and millet cultivations in order

to plant larger areas in groundnuts and sorghum. Groundnuts are a speculation

crop because of the instability of prices in the world market. Thus,

shopkeepers like other holders of capital show a tendency to accept the higher

levels of risk that groundnut production for market entails. Sorghum planted

in pure stands, on the other hand, is given greater emphasis by shopkeepers

because it is used as a livestock feed, particularly in the dry season. Table

13 shows the major crop cultivated by the shopkeepers.

Shopkeepers compared to normal farmers stand out as owners of livestock. They

tend to own larger quantities of animals than regular farmers and to own

animal species of higher value such as cattle, sheep, camels, and horses.

Table 14 summarizes the ownership of livestock by shopkeepers. Camels,

horses, and donkeys are kept in small numbers for working stock. Goats

provide milk to the household (rarely meat) and are readily sold when a small

sum of cash is needed. All of the above animals are typically kept near the

Table 13


Average Area
Cultivated Range
Type of Crop (in Makhammas) (in Makhammas)

Sesame 11.9 1 to 45

Millet 6.8 1 to 25

Groundnuts 5.8 1 to 42

Sorghum 5.7 1 to 40

Table 14


Percent Distribution of Shopkeepers*
by Quantity of Animals Owned

Average Quantity
Type of Animal None 1-5% 6-10% More than 10% of Animals Range
Per Owner

Donkeys 17% 81% 2% 0% 1.8 1 to 6
Goats 28 28 26 19 9.2 1 to 35
Cattle 41 31 14 14 9.0 1 to 60
Sheep 65 9 9 17 22.9 5 to 100
Camels 72 24 3 0 2.3 1 to 10
Horses 86 12 2 0 2.4 1 to 10


village. Cattle and sheep are more like an equity investment. They are held

in herds that are usually grazed away from the village and its encircling belt

of fields, although a milk cow is often near the village for use by the

shopkeeper's family. Sheep are customarily slaughtered during religious

festivals and marriages. Otherwise, the sheep herd is used as a store of

value or for market speculation. The higher levels of livestock ownership

observed among shopkeepers when compared to ordinary farmers are further

evidence of their superior financial capability.


The typical shop is built of corrugated iron sheeting, packed earth, or

millet thatch. A list of a shop's basic equipment would include a balance

with authorized weights, a table, shelves, trays, boxes, and sacks for holding

goods to be sold. Many shopkeepers build a rakuuba (thatched shelter) next to

the shop for the convenience of customers who want to loiter and talk. The

shop is a major social nexus in any village, and it is not unusual to find a

small group of men and boys gathered in front of it at any time during the day

or early evening. In Class III and IV villages, shops are usually open every

day unless the shopkeeper has business that takes him away from the village.

Even in this circumstance, a son or some other male relative will stand in for

the absent shopkeeper. Failing that, the shopkeeper may hire an assistant to

cover for him. The main point is that in these smaller villages, the

shopkeeper tries to be open for business as much as possible, at least during

the post-harvest season in order to increase the likelihood of sales. In

Class I and II villages, the largest shops may close regularly on the days

following market day. The shopkeepers in these instances are also likely to

be large crop-buyers, and the day following market day is reserved for hauling

crops to wholesale buyers in el-Obeid.

During a normal day in the post-harvest season, the shop will open at

about 7:30 a.m., after the shopkeeper has drunk tea and milk at home. Around

10:00 a.m., his son will bring a breakfast of 9asiida (sorghum or millet

porridge) with mulaaH (sauce). The shopkeeper may be joined by friends or

someone who works for him such as a tailor. If the village has a mosque, the

shopkeeper is likely to attend the noon prayer, leaving the shop in his son's

care or closing the doors if there is no one to watch over it. The shopkeeper

goes home to eat the midday meal and to take a nap. He reopens the shop about

6:00 p.m. and stays open until nightfall or later if he is willing to burn

kerosene for the lantern. During the khariif, this pattern is interrupted

according the shopkeeper's need to attend to his cultivations and to oversee

hired workers.

Without exception, all of the shopkeepers interviewed sold items that are

in daily demand by rural families, particularly food stuffs and common

household and toilet goods. A survey of the stock in trade of a number of

shops revealed that the types of goods sold are highly uniform. The most

common commodities were the following: tea, coffee beans, sugar, salt, red

and black pepper, a dozen or so kinds of spice, dried tomatoes, canned tomato

paste, biscuits, sorghum, wheat flour, yeast, onion, dried okra, pasta, sesame

oil, candy, chewing gum, matches, hand soap, laundry soap, bleach, razor

blades, flashlight batteries, padlocks, henna (a dye applied to the hands and

feet of newlyweds and married women), kerosene, bicarbonate of soda, aspirin,

chloroquine phosphate in ampules (for malaria), and custard powder mix (for

treating diarrhea in children). Most shopkeepers will have most of these

commodities on their inventories, although the availability of particular

commodities such as sorghum, wheat flour, and sugar is highly sensitive to

extra-regional supply networks. During the post-harvest season when customers

are most likely to have cash to spend, the shopkeeper is more likely to add

bolts of cloth and inexpensive shoes to his inventory.

All of the shopkeepers interviewed buy goods from wholesalers at
el-Obeid. In doing so, they attempt to maintain an inventory that expands and

contracts with seasonal changes in demand. Consequently, shops are most fully

stocked during the post-harvest season, whereas shelves are often bare during

the cropping season. Managing the inventory is also sensitive to the

shopkeeper's amount of working capital. Many shopkeepers stated that cash

flow problems occurring during the seef and the khariif constrained their

ability to purchase inventory. Another factor that limits replenishment of

the shop's stock of goods during the rainy season is the scarcity of

transport. Muddy stretches and fast-flowing streams inhibit travel throughout

the el-Obeid area after a rain, and there is no incentive, such as

crop-marketing in the post-harvest season, for truck drivers to visit many of

the villages. The result is that many of the smaller and more remote villages

are virtually cut off from motorized transport during the rainy season.

When purchasing supplies from a wholesaler at el-Obeid, the shopkeeper or

a relative must accompany the truck, buy the goods, supervise the loading, and

accompany the merchandise back to the village. In some cases, however, the

shopkeeper makes an arrangement with the truck driver who supervises the

purchases. Some of the larger shopkeepers receive credit from wholesale

distributors, but this practice is not widespread. Sales of crops and

livestock are the most important sources of working capital for the shop.

To be successful, a shopkeeper needs to cultivate a large and loyal

clientele. Relatives and friends are the core of this group. The shopkeeper

may do several things to increase the size of his clientele. Offering goods

at prices beneath those of competitors is one strategy, but since transport

rates are fairly standardized, the only way this can be done consistently is

by vigorous comparison shopping of goods from different wholesalers in

el-Obeid. This strategy incurs its own cost by virtue of the time and skill

required to make it successful. Perhaps the most important means of gathering

a clientele is for the shopkeeper to sell his goods on credit to steady

customers. Most shopkeepers make credit sales to customers every day. The

extension of money credit to trustworthy clients is also important, although

it does not occur as often as credit purchases and affects a much smaller

segment of the clientele.

Between December 1981 and June 1982, a survey was made of prices of a

market basket of consumer goods. No effort has been made to analyze the data

statistically because of the unsystematic sampling method that was followed.

An intuitive assessment of the data supported by additional information

acquired through a more general method of inquiry suggests the following

conclusions about retailing:

(1) Generally, the prices of commodities at different shops within the

same village are uniform. Small differences in price usually reflect price

changes at the wholesaler in el-Obeid or changes in transporting rates. Such

price differences result more from differential costs of supplying the

shopkeepers and less from price competition among shops. However, price

competition also occurs on a limited scale, but credit extension seems to be

the primary context for competition. In the Class I villages, for example,

the largest retailers appear to be in a position to be price leaders, but they

don't vigorously exercise this role. Instead, they assure themselves of a

very large clientele through a liberal credit policy.

(2) The prices of commodities between villages show a slightly higher

variation than prices of commodities found at different shops within the same

village. The between-village differences in price can be attributed partly to

different transport costs. Shops in the villages that are farther away from

el-Obeid as well as those that lie off the major truck routes generally charge

slightly higher prices than shops in the villages nearer to el-Obeid and those

that have easier access to transportation. Between-village differences in

price are also due to the amount of competition between shopkeepers in each

village. Villages with only one or two shops are likely to show consistently

higher prices (by a few percentage points at most) than in villages with a

larger number of shops.

(3) The prices of all goods sold at the shops are sensitive to prices in

the el-Obeid retail and wholesale markets. In establishing the prices for

commodities, shopkeepers take into consideration the opportunity cost to the

villagers of going to some other marketplace to buy their supplies.

(4) While some of the larger shopkeepers use a percentage mark-up

calculation to set the prices for their goods, the majority use a simpler

system of marking-up by a convenient unit of price. In most cases, the

mark-up is about 10 percent above retail prices in Abu Jahal market. The

mark-up above the wholesale prices is 15-25 percent.

(5) Periodic shortages occur with imported products like cigarettes and

kerosene. Supply and prices for domestic manufactures like candy, matches,

and biscuits appear to be very stable. Agricultural products, including most

of the food items listed above, experience seasonal price movements, which

reflect the supply situation at el-Obeid.

(6) Shopkeepers are usually unaware of prices in neighboring village

marketplaces unless they have a reason to visit them regularly (e.g., to buy

or sell crops at an auction or, less typically, to purchase supplies for their

shop from a large retailer).

(7) The larger retailers in Class I villages also sell goods at

wholesale to small shopkeepers and to itinerant traders from the surrounding

villages who do not have convenient access to transportation traveling

directly to el-Obeid.

Combinations of Enterprises

Shopkeeping is rarely a specialized economic activity. In the sample,

only one shopkeeper was solely engaged in that enterprise, and he was located

in Kazgeil where consumer demand tends to be high not only because of the

large size of the village but also because of the many smaller villages

nearby. The modal number of enterprises (including shopkeeping) was four and

the maximum was eleven. Table 15 is a frequency distribution of types of

enterprise operated by the shopkeepers. The salient affinity between

shopkeeping and farming has already been alluded to. These two enterprises

are highly complementary since the shop serves as an investment for the farm's

earnings during the musim (post-harvest marketing season) and, during the

latter part of the seef and khariif, when other farm families are cutting back

on consumption because of reduced cash flow, the shopkeeper may feed his own

family from the shop. Shopkeepers typically hire labor within or from outside

their villages in order to plant, weed, and harvest some or all of their


Next to farming (90 per cent), crop-buying is the most frequently

occurring enterprise that is coupled with shopkeeping (71 per cent). Crop-

buying is not combined with shopkeeping only in Class I villages where large

buyers usually discourage smaller buyers from entering the market and where

the presence of government-salaried clientele makes it unnecessary for some

shopkeepers to cater to farmers. The significance of crop-buying in that

crops are a substitute for cash in exchanges between the farmer and the

shopkeeper. This issue requires a digression.

Table 15
(N = 58)

Type of Enterprise Frequency Percent1

Farm 2 52 90%
Crop-Buying 41 71
Livestock Breeder/M rchant3 30 52
Tailor/Hires Tailor" 26 45
Coffee Shop 6 10
Horse-Drawn Cart 6 10
Transport Camel 4 7
Well 4 7
Truck 3 5
Oilpress 5 2 3
Irrigated Garden 2 3
Cistern6 2 3
Cheese Factory 1 2

iBecause these enterprises are owned
more than 100 percent.

in combination, the percentages sum to

2This category includes shopkeepers who buy crops at
considerable quantities directly from farmers.

3This category includes only the shopkeepers who are
herd or those who regularly buy and sell livestock.

auction and/or who buy

actively building up a

4A shopkeeper who owns a sewing machine usually either hires a tailor or shares
or does the work himself. In several cases, the shopkeeper supplemented his
own labor by hiring another tailor during the busiest season of the year,
November to February.

5Because of the water requirements, irrigated gardens are found at only a few
locations in the el-Obeid area, notably Bangedid and Khor el-Abyad.

6Cisterns ranging in capacity from 25 to 80 barrels are found in many villages
in the el-Obeid area. The cistern owner provides water to the villagers during
the dry season for a fee. A truck comes every few days to fill the cistern
(See Reeves and Frankenberger, 1981, Report No. 1, pp. 47-57).


With the development of agricultural production for sale, farm households

have found it necessary to buy most of their food from local marketers.

Purchases are made daily or every few days. Water is readily available and

usually free for the taking during the rainy season; however, during the dry

season, water must also be purchased. A family may use four tins (16 gallons)

of water per day in hot weather.

Food and water have a market-determined price. Thus, a central

preoccupation of farm households is to provide a sufficient money income for

the purchase of food and water. Farmers may pursue off-season occupations

such as tailoring, charcoal making, or water hauling. Families at the poorer

end of the spectrum hire out their labor to other farmers, especially during
the cropping season. However, the principal means of obtaining a money income

is to sell crops in bulk at government-administered auction markets.

Farmers realize that if they sell their crop immediately after the

harvest, they will be at a disadvantage because the prices tend to be lower at

that time. Their strategy is to hold as much of their crop as possible and

wait for a price increase. In the meantime, they must have food, and in order

to meet their needs, they rely on village shopkeepers. Most shopkeepers will

accept crops as payment for purchases. The farm household needs to exchange

only small amounts of crops to satisfy their immediate consumption

requirements. This strategy allows the household to hold back from selling

crops in bulk, anticipating a beneficial rise in the prices.
A type of enterprise in which a majority of the shopkeepers (52 percent)

are involved is livestock breeding and speculative buying and selling of

livestock. Invariably, the shopkeeper hires a herder to look after the

animals. Livestock sales are often used as a source of capital to finance

farming operations according to the reports of a number of shopkeepers.

A near majority of shopkeepers (45 percent) are either themselves tailors
or they hire a tailor to work on a machine that they own. In either case the
machine is usually installed in front of the shop, and the shopkeeper stocks

bolts of white cloth for the men's clothing and pastel or printed cloth for

the women's clothing. The less frequent enterprises shown in Table 15 are
nearly always operated by the shopkeeper in partnership with someone else.

The shopkeeper provides the capital and keeps an account of expenditures and

revenues. The junior partner provides labor and day-to-day management of the


Table 16 is a breakdown of the combinations of "core enterprises" those
occurring in more than 50 percent of the cases. It is very clear from this

presentation that the combination of "shop + farm + crop-buying + livestock

breeder/merchant" is the most common pattern. Each of the enterprises
provides external economies to one or more of the other enterprises in the
combination. Also, a decline in one or two of the enterprises owing to

ecological or market factors may be compensated for by channeling investment

to the currently most successful enterprises. A reasonable hypothesis,

therefore, is that this particular combination of core enterprises is the most
adaptive, given the area's highly unpredictable climate and economy. Not
surprisingly, this type of combination is found exclusively in Class I and

Class II villages.

Agricultural Inputs

Farmers as a rule reserve their own seed, but some shopkeepers do sell

small quantities (i.e., one or two sacks) of various types of seed during

planting time, as Table 17 shows. A near majority of shopkeepers (48 percent)

lend sacks to farmers as a way of encouraging bulk sales of crops. Most

shopkeepers sell DDT pesticide to protect crops in the field while they are

Table 16

(N = 58)

Type of Combination1 Percent Cumulative Percent

Shop + Farm + Crop-buying +
Livestock breeder/Merchant 40% 40%

Shop + Farm + Crop-buying 26 66

Shop + Farm 14 80
Shop + Farm + Livestock
breeder/Merchant 10 90

Shop only 5 95

Shop + Crop-buying 3 98

Shop + Crop-buying + Livestock
breeder/Merchant 2 100

1Only the core enterprises are considered in this table. Thus, each "type of
combination" occurs also in association with some of the lower frequency
enterprises shown in Table 15. See the text for an explanation.

being dried in piles and to protect crops stored in sacks (see Reeves and

Frankenberger, Report No. 2, pp. 38-39, 1982). A few shopkeepers also sell

small quantities of Aldrex-T, a fungicide-insecticide that is used as a seed

dressing by a few of the larger farmers.

Why Shopkeepers Fail

During the study, we met a number of failed shopkeepers and others who

having failed were attempting to make a comeback. Knowing why they failed

contributes to our understanding of the constraints and incentives that act

upon rural entrepreneurs. Failed shopkeepers were nearly always small-scale

operators; their capital investment was usually less than 500 L.S. Secondly,

their business concerns were relatively undiversified. This characteristic

goes along with the low level of capital investment, of course. These factors

- low resources and forced specialization made the shopkeepers especially

vulnerable to three kinds of loss:

(1) A disastrous harvest might force the shopkeeper to liquidate all his

capital in order to maintain his family through the year.

(2) Failure to keep careful records of his expenditures and returns to

ascertain that he is at or above the break-even point is a pressing

danger with illiterate shopkeepers.

(3) When the shopkeeper does not keep the shop's budget separate from

that of his family, then goods taken from the shop for his family's

consumption are not debited on the shop's account, resulting in an

underestimation of the overhead.

Village Shopkeepers and Farming Families

The village shopkeeper has been maligned in many countries of Africa as a

monopolist and an exploiter of the rural population. The results of the

present study, however, suggest that the farmer and the shopkeeper both

being dried in piles and to protect crops stored in sacks (see Reeves and

Frankenberger, Report No. 2, pp. 38-39, 1982). A few shopkeepers also sell

small quantities of Aldrex-T, a fungicide-insecticide that is used as a seed

dressing by a few of the larger farmers.

Why Shopkeepers Fail

During the study, we met a number of failed shopkeepers and others who

having failed were attempting to make a comeback. Knowing why they failed

contributes to our understanding of the constraints and incentives that act

upon rural entrepreneurs. Failed shopkeepers were nearly always small-scale

operators; their capital investment was usually less than 500 L.S. Secondly,

their business concerns were relatively undiversified. This characteristic

goes along with the low level of capital investment, of course. These factors

- low resources and forced specialization made the shopkeepers especially

vulnerable to three kinds of loss:

(1) A disastrous harvest might force the shopkeeper to liquidate all his

capital in order to maintain his family through the year.

(2) Failure to keep careful records of his expenditures and returns to

ascertain that he is at or above the break-even point is a pressing

danger with illiterate shopkeepers.

(3) When the shopkeeper does not keep the shop's budget separate from

that of his family, then goods taken from the shop for his family's

consumption are not debited on the shop's account, resulting in an

underestimation of the overhead.

Village Shopkeepers and Farming Families

The village shopkeeper has been maligned in many countries of Africa as a

monopolist and an exploiter of the rural population. The results of the

present study, however, suggest that the farmer and the shopkeeper both

Table 17

(N = 58)

Type of Seed

Percent of Shopkeepers Selling1

Millet 19%

Sorghum 14

Sesame 34

Groundnuts2 5

1Most of this seed was sold in the period of May to July 1981.
In 1981, the Kordofan Ministry of Agriculture distributed commercial ground-
nut seed to farmers in the el-Obeid area. Exceptionally high prices offered
for groundnuts the previous year had caused fears that the farmers had sold
their reserve seed. This seed distribution program may account for the low
percentage of groundnut seed sales by shopkeepers in 1981.

benefit from their relationship. An important step in understanding the

significance of marketing for the farming system in the el-Obeid area is to

understand how exchanges between farm families and village shopkeepers help to

satisfy the farm household's consumption wants. In light of this, we may

speak of a "symbiosis" existing between farm families and village shopkeepers.

With the development of agricultural production for sale, the farm

household is compelled to buy most of its food stuffs from local shopkeepers.

Purchases are made daily or every few days, and the daily food bill ranges

between 1.5000 and 2.5000 L.S. for most families. Water is readily available

and usually free for the taking during the rainy season (July through

October); however, during the hot, dry season (March through June) in most

villages, water is obtained at a cost ranging as high as 0.300 L.S. per tin.

One tin holds four gallons, and a family may use four tins per day in hot

weather. Food and water have a market-determined price. Thus, a central

preoccupation of the farm household is to provide sufficient money income to

purchase food and water according to daily requirements.

A principal means to obtain a money income is to sell crops in bulk at

government-administered auction markets. But to sell the crop immediately

after the harvest entails a disadvantage because the prices are lower at that

time than later in the marketing season. Farmers prefer to hold as much of

their crop as they can off the market until a month or more has passed to

allow the prices to increase. Still, they must have food, and money or a

substitute for money is needed in order to buy it. This is where a major role

of village shopkeepers is engaged. Most shopkeepers will accept crops as

payment for purchases of goods at the shop. The farmer (or, more likely, his

wife or child) sells only small amounts of crops to satisfy the immediate

consumption needs of the household. This strategy allows the farm family to

hold back in selling crops in bulk, anticipating a beneficial rise in the


Starting during the dry season and continuing until the time of harvest,

farm families face another cash flow problem. Poor families and those with

bad harvests run short of crops to obtain a continuing money income to

exchange in kind for food and water. To some extent, the money shortage is

relieved by selling labor or taking up a seasonal trade. Nevertheless, many

families experience a squeeze because household expenditures increase during

the dry season as water becomes scarce and costly. In the rainy season, food

costs (particularly for cereal grains) are high, and there are the additional

costs of farm inputs, particularly seed and labor. Again, it is the village

shopkeeper who provides a service to alleviate the strain. Goods from the

shop are sold to farm families on credit. This is virtually a universal role

of shopkeepers. In our study only two shopkeepers in a random sample of 58

did not sell commodities on credit, and both of them were located in a large

village that is a rural administrative center where a considerable proportion

of the population receives a government salary.

Credit sales usually entail a promise by the borrower to pay back in cash

or in an amount of crops that have an equivalent money value. In the first

instance, the shopkeeper may overvalue the commodity slightly in effect

charging a flat interest rate of 5 percent to 10 percent. But according to

informants, there is no interest in most cases if the borrowers is a relative

or friend of the shopkeeper. Shopkeepers explain that credit sales allow them

to move their inventory more rapidly and promote good will. The ability of a

shopkeeper to extend credit without interest when paid back in cash appears to

be an important factor in building and maintaining a clientele. Foregoing the

interest charge amounts to something like a business promotion. When credit

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