Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 24 March 2020

Generating Wealth, then Sharing It

By: Alsir Sidahmed

It was a mere chance that producing broiler chicken from cages in Wad Ballal village coincided with the time of the Coronavirus hitting Sudan and the world. Producing 25, 000 chicken is not big news in itself, if not for two other points.

It is yet another living example that initiatives at the grassroots level have a chance to succeed and be sustained opening the door for more initiatives. The other factor is this new batch of broiler chicken and another one slated to hit the market before the holy month of Ramadan is adding value to the experiment of Wad Ballal of community-based development. This chicken production is an outcome of a joint-venture between Wad Ballal, 20km north of Medani in Gezira state and Al-Jaberia, some 514km in the Northern state. Both are adopting an approach combining the tradition of cooperation with an investment outlook, where members of the community are shareholders in the company they set up after satisfying all legal and administrative procedures.

The idea that was a brainchild of a brainstorming in Wad Ballal that took place more than 15 years ago between community members inside and outside Sudan to project a future for the village that caters for providing services, job opportunities and for the community to take care of its members in every possible way.

Wad Ballal approached then Khartoum Bank looking for finance for their first cattle breeding project. The mode of finance created for the project won the Ethical Finance Innovation Challenge Awards (EFICA) provided jointly by the world news agency Reuters Thomson and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. “The project uses a structure that channels investment through a community-established company and association, ensuring that farmers receive access to financing when it is needed most, as well as technical and marketing assistance.
The project has improved the quality of local livestock, has substantially increased the income of participating families while generating healthy returns for the village company and the bank itself. A portion of the profits are invested back into community development, creating a virtuous cycle,” the award statement said back in 2014.
The project now provides a living example of a new route that could be taken to tap the country’s natural resources at the grassroots level and help revive the countryside. Moreover, it provides an opportunity for small investors be it Sudanese inside or outside the country.

Though Wad Ballal experience, which was followed by Al-Jaberia depends on an initiative from grassroots, it is the kind of initiatives that needs a push from the government. That push requires declaring a target of replicating the experience in a number of localities in a number of states by making use of the competitive edge available in terms of resources. Moreover, these projects need a helping hand in the areas of feasibility studies, legal and administrative setup, finance and marketing.

In fact, such project could provide a good opportunity for the declared goal of moving from aid to development; in addition to the fact that they can provide a window of opportunity on how to help Sudan at the time it still on US list of countries sponsoring terrorism since such aid can go directly to the communities as the case with providing finance for the private sector companies.

Moreover, as the country ventures into a new political experience hoping for a democratic transformation, transparency, respect for human rights, it needs to tie that with something tangible before people more than the current political rhetoric. Villagers can have the first-hand experience of discussing which project they want to implement, how it was carried out, the behaviour of those responsible in an open, transparent atmosphere.

However, the big prize for such an approach is that it is going to provide a chance to replace the concept of wealth sharing with a new one: wealth-generating first, then sharing it.

The peace deal with SPLM, the CPA has introduced the wealth-sharing concept in Sudan’s political jargon, which gives a wrong impression that wealth is there ready to be shared. The outcome of such an approach is for some elites securing top jobs with their perks for themselves, while those in whose name arms were raised continued to suffer.

It is high time to reconsider that approach. The Wad Ballal and Al-Jaberia experiences show one of the ways for such a review.