Nubian Agricultural Practices, Crops and Foods: Changes in Living Memory on Ernetta Island, Northern Sudan

Philippa Ryan, Maha Kordofani, Mohamed Saad, Mohammed Hassan, Matthew Dalton, Caroline Cartwright, Neal Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural practices in northern Sudan have been changing rapidly but remain little documented. In this paper we aim to investigate changes to crops grown in living memory and their uses through interviews with Nubian farmers on the island of Ernetta. By exploring cultivation and crop processing practices, together with associated material culture and foodstuffs, we also seek to explore how agricultural and food heritage are connected, and to better understand reasons for crop changes. Several cereals and pulses that were previously important subsistence crops are now grown as comparatively minor crops. The replacement of the sagia (waterwheel) by diesel pump irrigation, the introduction of commercial crops, and the reduction of the annual flood have led to fundamentally new cropping patterns within household farms. At the same time, each species has its own narrative and timing of change. Shifts in crops grown are paralleled by transitions in foodways, associated material culture, and land use. The project is timely, as much of the information about past crop uses resides in the memories of elderly farmers. The findings highlight the broader global need to document endangered memories of cropping patterns, traditional ecological and food knowledge, including local terms for foods and crops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-272
Number of pages23
JournalEconomic Botany
Issue number3
Early online date8 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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