Saudi Arabia land leases and dam conflicts, Sudan

Sudan's traditional and pastoral communities have been suffering from the results of massive land grabs over the past decades.


In July 2016, the Sudanese parliament approved a bill that allows Saudi Arabia to reform and cultivate more than a million acres of land in eastern Sudan. The agreement has sparked criticism from the Nubian society in Sudan. Sudan will lease the one million feddan in the north-eastern area of the Upper Atbara and Setit dams to Saudi Arabia for a period of 99 years. (One feddan is equivalent to 1.038 acres or 0.42 hectares). The decision follows the National Assembly's approval of the framework agreement with Saudi Arabia. [1]

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Basic Data
NameSaudi Arabia land leases and dam conflicts, Sudan
Provincenorth-eastern area of the Upper Atbara and Setit dams
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe total amount of arable land in Sudan is about 175 million feddan which is equivalent to 45% of the Arab world’s arable land, out of which only 31 million feddan are being used.

More than two-thirds of the approved projects during 2004 - 2008 belonged to investors from six countries, namely: Saudi Arabia (18.4 %), Turkey (12.8 %), Syria (12.0 %), Egypt (9.3%), Jordan (8.2 %), and Lebanon (7.8%). The remaining members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates) owned about 6.7% of the total number of approved projects. In other words, 75% of approved projects belonged to the Arab investors and Turkey. According to the Ministry of Investment the number of implemented projects in three sectors (agriculture, industry and services), between 2000 and 2010, reached 505 with a total capital of $7.425 billion.

Project Area (in hectares)420,000 (one million feddan)
Level of Investment (in USD)7,425,000,000.00
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date1984
Company Names or State EnterprisesCitadel Capital (Citadel) from Egypt
Al Rajhi International Investment Company from Saudi Arabia
Saudi National Agricultural Development Company (NADEC) from Saudi Arabia
Relevant government actorsCentral Bank of Sudan
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSudan Democracy First Group:

The Nubian Association against Dams

Radio Dabanga:
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Forms of MobilizationLand occupation
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesCommunal land tenure system needs to be legalized.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Large scale land grabbing is still happening.
Sources and Materials

[3] - Land Grab and Institutional Legacy of Colonialism: The Case of Sudan
[click to view]

[8] - The Implication of Land Grabbing on Pastoral Economy in Sudan
[click to view]

[7] - Land Use, Ownership and Allocation in Sudan
[click to view]


[1] - Bill allows Saudi Arabia to cultivate Sudan lands
[click to view]

[5] - Sudanese farmers held for working dam land
[click to view]

[2] - ‘Laws legalised land grabbing in Sudan’: Democracy First Group
[click to view]

[6] - ‘Laws legalised land grabbing in Sudan’: Democracy First Group
[click to view]

[4] - ‘Saudi land lease in eastern Sudan won’t benefit ordinary people’
[click to view]

Media Links

Sudan farmers fear 'foreign land grabs' - Al-Jazeera
[click to view]

Other Documents

Protest against the sale of land in Khartoum. October 25, 2016
[click to view]

People in the Jreif district of the Sudanese capital Khartoum protesting against the government's land policies. Oct 26, 2016
[click to view]

Protest against the sale of land in Khartoum. October 25, 2016
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorChristophe Maroun - [email protected]
Last update06/11/2018