An Indigenous Rural Marketing System in
North Kordofan, Sudan Report No. 3
Edward B. Reeves
Department of Sociology Department of Anthropology Agricultural Experiment Station College of Agriculture
University of Kentucky Lexington, Kentucky 40546
* Collaborative Research
A Research Development Program of the Agency for International Development, Participating
Land-Grant Universities, Host
County Research Agencies and
Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
AN INDIGENOUS RURAL MARKETING SYSTEM IN
NORTH KORDOFAN, SUDAN
REPORT NO. 3
Edward a. Reeves
With the assistance of
Muhammed Majzoub Fideil
Contract No. AID/DSAN-G-0149
The aim of the-present report is to illuminate the circumstances of smallscale farmers in the el-Obeid area of North Kordof an, 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 quantitites of agricultural inputs, such as seed and insecticides, but ii
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 opportunities 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.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. 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
Retailing ------------------------------------------------------- 74
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
LIST OF TABLES
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
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,
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
LIST OF FIGURES
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
SCOPE AND AIMS
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
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.
Most of the, data 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 performed.
(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 structures.
(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 capita 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 prog rams 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) performa nce 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 syst ems 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 comptetitive 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.
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 o r 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 common.
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 labor.
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.
HOW PERVASIVE IS THE MARKET?
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-scal'e 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 Oar 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 above.
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 contruction 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 products.
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 4
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 kinsmen.
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
1 22 Kordofan and Neighboring Regions
NORTH S \ 'L
I GEZI RA
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# El Oeid U* BLUE
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BAHR EL GHAZZAL
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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.
The Arabic word for "market" is suug (p1., 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
C M~ Approx. Scale = 1:150
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F Commercial Structure
Commercial Structure with
Commercial Structure with
Thatched Awning Ownership/Occupancy of Structure Use of Structure
Thatched Structure 1 Resident Owner/Owner Occupied a Grocery g Bakery m Restaurant
/,/Truck Route 2 Resident wner/Lessee Occupied b Grocery/Cloth h Tailor n Woven Mats
Piles of Firewood and 3 Absentee Owner/Owner Occupied c Storage I Utensils o Cooking Oil
Charcoal 4- Absentee Owner/Lessee Occupied d Vacant I Grain Merchant p Tanned Hides
PT Thatched Shelter for a Flour Mill k Shoemaker q Bicycles
Periodic Traders f Butcher's Shelter I Blacksmith r Metalwork
ABU HARAZ MARKETPLACE
Girls Primary A.KEY:
School -4 N.u7.,yl
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2 1in I 2g Le 2 -Resident Owner/Lessee Occunied
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I-i Inl~a 2O se of Structure
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Boys Primary School
UMM RAMAD MARKETPLACE
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. j ICommercial Structure
If i rStructure with Thatched Awning Thatched Structure
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Cp eOccupancy of Structure*
aket 1 Owner Occupied
II 1T 2 Lessee Occupied
la 1. @r Use of Structure
Ila a Grocery
, c- Storage
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I *Note: All structures are owned
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EL-GEIFIL SEASONAL MARKETPLACE
Approx. Scale 1:75.
Temporary Commercial I
B utchers' Shelter and Table
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S Crop Scales
(Symbol ic; not in use) Residence of Trader
1 Resident of el Geifil
Use of Structure
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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 April.
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,
TYPES OF PERMANENT ENTERPRISE IN THREE MARKETPLACES
Type of Enterprise Kazgeil Abu Haraz Umm Ramad
Storage 19 28 14
Grocery 11 16 13
Grocery/Cloth 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
Cl oth/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
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.
2One of the flour mills at Kazgeil is exceptionally large, having six dieselpowered milling machines. Most village flour mills have two, or at the most, three machines.
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
OWNERSHIP AND OCCUPANCY OF COMMERCIAL STRUCTURES BY PERCENTAGES IN THREE PERMANENT MARKETPLACES1
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%
1This tabulation is based on the data provided in Figures 2-4. Percentages are rounded to nearest whole number and may not sum exactly to 100 percent.
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
PERIODIC TRADES OCCUPYING THATCH SHELTERS AT EL-GEIFIL SEASONAL MARKETPLACE
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
(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 disatisfied 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,
Market-Related Institutions and Services
Administered Administered Villages Cooperative Watering Rural
Periodic Crop Auction Livestock Using This Societ Primary Intermediate Point for Council Veterinary
Village Market Market Market Marketplace Mosque Dj ensary tpe School School Animals Ieadqiuarters Service Electricity
razgeil F,M. Yes Yes 44 2 1 2 1 1 1 1 I Yes
Abu Haraz F.M Yes Yes 30 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 No*
Ayara SaTu Yes No 41 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 No
UnTn Ramad Su,W Yes No 25 1 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 No
Urrm Kuka M,Th Yes No 20 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 No
el-Geifil Su No** No 22 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 No
Unn Sot None No No 2 1 0 1I 0 0 1 0 0 No
el-Hananadiya None No No 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 No
el-Kharta None No No IS 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 No
Wardass None No No 3 0. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 No
Burbur None No No 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 No
Bagbage None No No 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 No
Urnm Sabagha None No No 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 No
* 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.
_ a 0
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 Commercial Enterprises by Villace
Storaqe/ Teashop/ Market Oil Flour Cheese Barber Grain Kinds of
Village Grocery Vacant Restaurant Truck Butcher Press Mi1l Factory Bakery Shoemaker Shoo Merchant Enterprise
Kazqeil 17 23 11 6 8 3 2 9* 2 5 3 4 12
Abu Haraz 29 27 19 7 6 3 2 2* 6 2 3 1 9
Umm Rarnad 15 20 1 2 1 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 9
Ayara 8 17 4 0 2 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 8
el-Geifil 4 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 6
Ummn YKuka 4 1 2 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 5
el Hammadiya 11 0 0 7 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 5
el -Kharta 9 2 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 5
Umm Sot 3 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 4
Burbur 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3
Bagbage 4 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Wardass 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Umm Sabagha 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
109 97 37 23 22 14 12 12 11 8 6 5
* 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 of0 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 materials:
PERMANENT COMMERCIAL STRUCTURE
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 0 0 74
Umm Ramad 21 3 14 0 0 2 L 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 2 2
Construction material Cost (in L.S.)
Corrugated steel 1000
Fired brick 500 4
Packed earth 400
Sun-dried brick 200
Packed earth w/thatch roof 200
Millet stalks 50
A Hierarchy of Villages 4
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,
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.
RURAL RETAILERS AND MIDDLEMEN
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.
SHOPKEEPERS BY VILLAGE, TOTAL, AND SAMPLE
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-Kharta 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
Personal Characteri sti cs
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.
AGE OF SHOPKEEPERS
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.
TRIBAL AFFILIATIONS OF SHOPKEEPERS
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
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 sheikh (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.
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.
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 retailor 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.
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 asociation 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.
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.
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.
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-Obeid 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.
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,
STARTING OCCUPATIONS OF VILLAGE SHOPKEEPERS
Occupation Frequency Percent
Farmer 43 74%
Shopkeeper's Ass istant/
Shop Partner 5 9
Migrant Wage Laborer 4 7
Government Employee 3 5
Local Wage Labor 3 5
MOST IMPORTANT SOURCE OF STARTING CAPITAL FOR FIRST SHOP
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 capital.
During the colonial period, commerce was carried to the remote areas of the Western Sudan by the jallaaba, an itinerant retailor 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 moved.
Only 5 per cent of the shopkeepers were truly "outsiders." They came from the Oar 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 fami ly 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 section.
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
SHOPKEEPERS' CULTIVATIONS OF ALL MAJOR CROPS IN 1981-82
Land under Cultivation
(in makhammas)* Percentage of Shopkeepers
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
MAJOR CROPS CULTIVATED BY SHOPKEEPERS
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
OWNERSHIP OF LIVESTOCK BY SHOPKEEPERS,
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
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
vi 11 age. Cattle and sheep are more like an equity investment. They are held in herds that are usually grazed away from the village and its encircli'ng 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. Retailing
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 establishng 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 crops.
Next to farming (90 per cent), crop-buying is the most frequently
occurring enterprise that is coupled with shopkeeping (71 per cent). Cropbuying 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.
TYPES OF ENTERPRISE OPERATED BY SHOPKEEPERS (N = 58)
Type of Enterprise Frequency Percent1
Farm 52 90%
Crop-Buying2 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 2 3
Irrigated Garden5 2 3
Cistern6 2 3
Cheese Factory 1 2
1Because these enterprises are owned in combination, the percentages. sum to
more than 100 percent.
2This category includes shopkeepers who buy crops at auction and/or who buy considerable quantities directly from farmers. 3This category includes only the shopkeepers who are actively building up a herd or those who regularly buy and sell livestock.
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
preoc cupation 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 business.
Table 16 is a breakdown of the combinations of "core enterprises" those occurring in more than 50 percen t 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 ecologi cal 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 eco nomy. Not surprisingly,,this type of combination is found exclusively in Class I and Class II villages.
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
COMBINATIONS OF CORE ENTERPRISES (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
SALE OF SEED FOR PLANTING BY SHOPKEEPERS
(N = 58)
Type of Seed Percent of Shopkeepers Selling1
1Most of this seed was sold in the period of May to July 1981. 2In 1981, the Kordofan Ministry of Agriculture distributed commercial groundnut 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 prices.
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 t-hat 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
is repaid in crops of an equivalent value, there is a built-in interest,, however. The borrower agrees to repay the loan with the crop immediately after the harvest, a time when, as was noted above, the prices of crops are usually at their lowest point. If the merchant then holds the crop for two or more months he may expect a 20 percent increase in value. Table 18 shows the range of loans and credit sales made by shopkeepers in 1981-82. We have been discussing the importance of the shopkeeper's roles for maintaining cash and food flows to farm households. Beyond this, it is interesting to note that shopkeeping itself is an important adaptive response of some farmers. Over 90 percent of the shopkeepers interviewed were farmers. The majority of these regarded themselves primarily to be farmers. For them, shopkeeping is fundamentally an investment made by a successful farmer as a hedge against crop failure as well as a means of providing their own families with foodstuffs throughout the year. For shopkeepers with the least amount of capital to invest, the strategy is to mark-up the price of their goods enough to allow their own family to take provisions from the shop free of cost. Thus, at the most basic level, the shop provides its owner and his family with a solution to the common problem that all farm families face of gaining access to a steady supply of money and food.
CASH LOANS AND SALES OF COMMODITIES ON CREDIT BY SHOPKEEPERS, 1981-82 (N = 58)
Value of Loans
and Percent of
Credit Sales Percent of Shopkeepers Shopkeepers Making
(in L.S.) Making Cash Loans Credit Sales
0 43% 7%
1-200 29 52
200-1000 21 26
over 1000 7 16
Farmers' Access to Crop-Marketing Channels
The general picture of rural marketing in el-Obeid area is that
agricultural products move from the smaller villages to rural bulking centers and then to wholesalers, processors, and exporters located at el-Obeid. Imported goods, domestic manufactures, and foods produced in other parts of the Sudan are distributed contrariwise from the urban center to the small villages. The marketing system appears to have a structure characterized by rural marketing centers that are embedded in highly stratified trade networks that sharply limit producers' choices to market their products. Our study of crop marketing, which used a sample of 166 farmers, gives a somewhat different picture. There are five channels for marketing crops that are widely accessible to producers, and while it cannot be said that every farmer avails himself of each channel or even a majority of the channels (Table 19), the system seems reasonably competitive and well suited for farmers' adaptation to market and infrastructural conditions. For example, in comparing farmers' access to channels, it was found that larger producers tend to sell in one channel while smaller producers tend to sell in more than one channel (see Table 20). Smaller producers opt for a more diversified marketing strategy that, as was stated earlier, allows small amounts of crops to be traded at local shops as a substitute for cash while waiting for the prices to rise in higher-return channels.
The channels that make up the rural marketing system are the same if the crop is sesame, groundnuts, or roselle (Figure 6). Just as environmental uncertainties make crop specialization an unwise strategy for producers, middlemen are compelled to be generalized traders since the supply and prices
FARMERS' ACCESS TO MARKETING CHANNELS FOR ALL CROPS
Degree of Access1 N Proportion of Farmers
Not Marketing 12 7%
Marketing in on9
channel only 92 55
Marketing in more
than one channel3 62 37
Total 166 99%
1A single channel is usually not limited to a single buyer. 2Thirty-two percent sold more than one crop in the same channel. 3Eighteen percent sold the same crop in more than one cliannel.