chapter  32
9 Pages

Agricultural intensification as a climate mitigation and food security strategy for sub- Saharan Africa


In 40 years, the population of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to double in size to 1,680 million people (UN 2009). The daunting challenge of meeting the food demands of an additional 840 million consumers in 2050 will be further complicated by stresses induced by climate change. Low productivity, the high incidence of poverty, and missing markets for inputs, seeds, irrigation, credit, land, labor, and crop insurance all limit the capacity of African farmers to deal with the food demands of the future in the face of a changing climate. To compound matters further, land clearing for agriculture has almost completely eliminated the West African Guinea Rainforest and is on track to do the same in the Congo basin. Deforestation and forest degradation associated with land preparation for agriculture are the largest sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and species extinction in Africa (Canadell et al. 2009). This chapter considers the role that the sustainable intensification of agriculture may play in jointly addressing the multiple concerns of food security, economic growth, biodiversity conservation and GHG emissions. We dismiss the notion that the productivity gains needed to transform agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa can be achieved through “low-input agriculture,” arguing instead that extensive low-input slash and burn agriculture and laissez-faire land-use policies have resulted in the unnecessary deforestation of millions of hectares of tropical rainforests in West and Central Africa. The first part of the chapter examines the mitigation potential of sustainable intensification on GHG emissions in the humid and sub-humid tropics of West and Central Africa drawing on research conducted by the Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn (ASB) program in Cameroon (see also the chapter by Minang et al.). The second half explores a potential develop-

ment pathway for sustainable intensification based on experiences with cocoa-based farming systems of West Africa and coffee-banana based farming systems of the Great Lakes region in East Africa. The chapter concludes with the recommendation to support a paradigm shift from the current consumptive model of natural resource exploitation to an equilibrium model of resource management that is coherent with national and regional development objectives.