In The Southern Sudan 1974 – 80
The breadth of knowledge and experience of the members of the Forum never ceases to amaze. This week David Hopkinson, a recent recruit, gave an enthralling and graphic account of his experiences in Southern Sudan in the 1970s. South Sudan was then three provinces with a certain degree of autonomy: since 2011 after two civil wars it has been an independent country.
David was an outdoors boy who decided to devote his career to agriculture. He joined the Colonial Service in Tanganyika just before independence and stayed in the newly independent Tanzania for ten years as part of British aid to the country. He then joined the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. After two years in Jordan he was sent to Wau in Southern Sudan in the immediate aftermath of the first Sudanese Civil War. His brief was to get agriculture working again through rice schemes, a soil laboratory and a research station. The staple crop is Sorghum, a cereal which can grow 4m tall, from which beer is made.
David outlined some of the many difficulties under which he worked – a local runway with a steep slope, an intermittent railway in the swamps, a house full of smelly bats and groundnuts at the outset, tropical diseases such as malaria and river blindness and a variety of animal life which we saw from his photographs.
Despite all the setbacks David lived in Southern Sudan for six and a half years with his wife and three children and looks back on his time there with “rose tinted spectacles”. The writer of this piece assumed afterwards that he came home to Britain for a quieter life. Not at all – he was sent to Iraq just as the war with Iran was starting.