National Public Policy and Natural Hazards in Developing Countries: Analysis of Absorptive Capacity in Kassala City, Sudan

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




David J. de Laubenfels


Cash crops, Monocultures, Economic loss, Agricultural policies, Floods

Subject Categories

Geography | Public Policy


The objective of this research is to test the hypothesis that in developing countries national public policies which are oriented towards cash crops and monocultures decrease the capacity of individuals to absorb the economic loss of natural hazards. Those policies are seen here as external factors outside the immediate human and natural systems. The hypothesis was applied to Kassala city, Sudan, and was recast into the national agricultural and flood policies and how they decrease the capacity of farmers to absorb flood losses. Two associations were discussed: first, the association between the national public policy (the Gash Delta Scheme) and flooding at Kassala, and that this association produced insufficiency of irrigation water; second, the association between the insufficiency of irrigation water and the decreased capacity of farmers to absorb flood losses.

Data for the calculation of income, savings and flood losses were basically collected through a questionnaire survey and partially from the local records. The data was then examined through the descriptive cartographic technique and special measures of the relation between savings and losses were graphed and mapped. The basic methodology involved the development of a ratio between annual savings over a number of years covered by a selected design flood and the losses resulting from that flood event. The saving-loss ratio provided a useful framework for the determination of the absorptive capacity.

Conditions at Kassala showed a typical flood magnitude and losses, yet the majority of farmers had a small margin to absorb stress because their savings did not enable them to overcome flood loss. In some cases the negative absorptive capacity was related to the high flood losses, whereas in others the basic reason was the abandonment of between one-fourth and one-half of the sagia.('1) The majority of those with positive absorptive capacity did not experience any losses because of their distance from the flood.

This situation existed because of the role of the national publicpolicy. This role was unintended, but could be interpreted as lessconcern for farmers at Kassala and more concern for cash cropsdownstream at the delta. The flood walls at Kassala were, then,meant to provide irrigation water for the delta, and yetsimultaneously they decreased recharge of the Gash basin at Kassala. ...


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