Sunday, Jun 23, 2024

Sudan - Land Governance Country Profile

Article Index

3. Land Tenure Systems


Land tenure is a critical issue for both cultivated areas and grazing lands in the Sudan. In the past the tribe, the principle unit of social organization, had the responsibility for allocation of land for various uses within the boundaries of the tribal domain (dar). In 1903 the Land Acquisition Ordinance gave the government powers to acquire land for irrigation schemes and other public purposes (Craig, 1991). Following this the 1905 Land Settlement Ordinance made general provision for the settlement and registration of claims to lands known to be waste, forest or unoccupied; such lands should be deemed the property of government unless claims to the contrary were proven. The two ordinances were then consolidated with others in the 1925 Land Settlement and Registration Ordinance. The 1970 Unregistered Land Act introduced an important modification by stating that any land, occupied or unoccupied, which had not been registered before the commencement of the Act should be the property of the government. This Act, together with the abolition of the traditional tribal institutions, has worked to the detriment of rangelands, with the loss of the controlling authority and traditional regulation of use.

More recently, and with the establishment of the federal system of government, arrangements are being made for the division of land and resources between the federal and state governments.

Although privately owned (registered) lands are not affected by the various acts, they are subject to continuous fragmentation due to the Islamic inheritance law.

Agricultural holding size varies according to the region and system of production: in the Gezira Scheme the size of tenancy is about 12 ha, while it is 6 ha. in the new Halfa Scheme; in Kuku Dairy Project in Khartoum State the tenancy is about 4 ha., while the average holding for vegetable growers in the same state is around 1.5 ha. and along the banks of the Nile freehold land may vary from less than 0.5 ha to a few ha.; in the mechanized farming areas the size of holding is around 400 ha., while in the traditional rain-fed areas a holding may vary from 2-30 ha. (Craig, 1991).

Land in Sudan is classified under categories namely: government-owned and customary tenure.

3.1 State Land

The Unregistered Land Act of 1970 and the Civil Transaction Act of 1984 designated all unregistered land as state land. The Unregistered Land Act further legitimizes expropriation by expressly authorizing government eviction of occupants on unregistered lands, through the use of reasonable force if necessary. Thus under those two laws all 90% unregistered land in Sudan is s owned by the government. Individuals and entities can obtain leasehold interests of various durations and terms. Islamic law recognizes individual freehold interests in land, and land that was registered as of 1970 is considered privately owned (UNEP 2012a).

3.2 Customary Tenure

Customary land tenure systems exist throughout Sudan and govern the practices of pastoralists in the north, the semi-feudal systems that developed on land close to the Nile, and the practices of southern and western tribes. Customary law varies throughout the country but has general features that are summarized as following:

  • Land is considered to belong to the people;
  • Usufructuary rights, not ownership rights, are the predominant forms;
  • Rights are liable to be defeated/ reversed after the elapse of certain period of time over which such rights are not exercised.
  • Occupied lands for cultivation, pasture, woodcutting, etc. are not formally registered;
  • land remains with the tribe or clan and cannot usually be sold to outsiders;
  • Most land rights are use rights, and land is considered retained by a household until abandoned (and in some circumstances even if abandoned); and rights to land and its natural resources may overlap;
  • Rights of excluding non-tribe members from the use of land;
  • Land is deemed to be the property of a tribe or clan and dealings in land are an exception rather than the rule;
  • The allocation of land rights is vested in the village‟s headman (Sheikh). The Sheikh has the right to divide the land within his domain among his villagers as well as to allot land to outsiders or to settle a dispute if he wishes to do so; and
  • Women have restricted access to land rights and in most cases, they do not possess the land, unless inherited from fathers or husbands.

Most groups distinguish between land used for grazing and hunting and land used for farming and residences, and different rules apply to the various land categories. Local leaders determine who has rights to land and other natural resources and who must seek permission for use of land (Rahhal).