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African Environment and Development

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African Environment and Development

The previous lectures were devoted to show the human and natural resources that exist in Africa and their distribution.  The next few lecturers attempt to show how the resources are combined to produce useful products and services to mankind.  This lecture deals with agriculture which is the main activity of the people in terms of provision of means of subsistence and income.

 

OBJECTIVES

 

 

At the end of this lecture you should be able to:

(i)           explain the main agricultural systems;

(ii)         locate major irrigation schemes;

(iii)       account for the food shortage;

(iv)       identify the available livestock;

(v)         identify the main problems facing agricultural sector

 

 

7.2  GENERAL OVERVIEW OF AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is the main activity for the majority of the population in Africa.  Many people are directly and indirectly depending on agriculture for food, income and employment.  Agriculture in Africa is closely related to climatic and vegetation zones.  For example, cultivation of tree crops and root tubers is confined to the equatorial rain forest zone.  In the tropical savanna, the crops, cotton, maize, tobacco are  grown.   Pastoralism predominates in the arid and semi arid zones.

African Environment and Development

 

A salient feature of agriculture in the dominance of small scale peasant farming.  Most of the subsistence and some export crops are grown on small farms using traditional methods.  In contrast, large scale farming is devoted to export and commercial crops using modern methods.

 

The land tenure system is closely related to the sociocultural organization of the communities.  In many parts the communal tenure prevails but each farmer has security of tenure on the land cultivated. Figure 7.1 (a) and (b) show the different areas known for production of different agricultural products.  Table 7.1 give the performance of agricultural sector in terms of production and food imports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 7.1 (A): Africa Agriculture

 

 

Figure 7.1 (B): Africa Agriculture

Table 7.1: Some Indicators of Agricultural Performance in Africa

 

COUNTRY

INDEX OF AGRICULTURE

PRODUCTION 1979 – 1981 = 100

FOOD IMPORT DEPENDECE %

 

1978 – 1980

1988 – 90 1978 – 80 1988 – 90

1992

Algeria

97

123

97

122

26

Angola

101

98

97

101

NA

Benin

101

160

101

154

25

Botswana

95

110

95

110

NA

Burkina Faso

98

146

144

100

25

Burundi

95

120

98

122

18

Cameroon

98

119

98

119

15

Cape Verde

100

153

100

154

NA

Car

98

122

97

121

19

Chad

99

124

97

120

18

Congo (Braz)

96

121

96

121

NA

Congo (DRC)

97

127

97

127

NA

Cote d’Ivoire

93

132

93

128

19

Egypt

97

142

98

154

29

Ethiopia

98

104

99

105

15

Gabon

98

115

98

114

17

Gambia

101

118

101

119

NA

Ghana

97

146

96

148

10

Guinea

97

111

97

109

NA

Guinea Bissau

97

121

97

121

35

Kenya

100

146

102

149

6

Lesotho

106

105

107

104

NA

Liberia

98

112

97

114

NA

Libya

86

148

86

148

NA

Madagascar

97

119

97

120

11

Malawi

99

118

99

113

8

Mali

95

130

95

127

20

Mauritania

98

113

98

113

23

Mauritius

103

114

104

114

13

Morocco

104

170

105

170

14

Mozambique

98

106

98

108

NA

Namibia

99

123

99

125

NA

Niger

98

108

98

108

17

Nigeria

96

151

96

151

18

Rwanda

94

107

94

103

NA

Senegal

99

133

99

133

29

Sierra Leone

100

108

101

109

21

Somalia

97

135

97

135

20

South Africa

95

107

95

108

5

Sudan

96

100

94

98

19

Swaziland

94

124

94

125

NA

 

continued…

Tanzania

97

122

97

123

6

Togo

98

132

99

128

22

Tunisia

98

118

98

117

8

Uganda

103

128

103

127

8

Zambia

103

141

103

139

8

Zimbabwe

97

134

95

126

3

 

NA        Data no available

Source:  UNO, (1986) p.143

World Resources Institute, (1992) p.272

Instituto del tercer Mundo, (1997) p. 27

7.3       AGRICULTURE SYSTEMS

7.3.1        Bush-Farming

This is common system practised  by peasants in the rainforest and savanna zones.  It is composed of two subsystems, shifting cultivation and rotational bush fallow.  In shifting cultivation a virgin land is cleared and cultivated for some time then left for bush to grow to recover fertility.  The settlement and the farm boundaries are usually temporary.  It is normally practised where land is plenty and population density is low, e.g. the Congo Basin.

In rotational bush fallow, the farm and settlement are permanent.  In each season one plot of land is left for grass to grow while other plots are planted with crops.  Usually a rotation of crops or  multicropping is practised  each season; and it includes a fallow  cover.  In some cases the fallow cover is selected.  The system is common in the savanna where population pressure is high, hence land intensification.

African Environment and Development

7.3.2   Mixed Farming

In this system crop cultivation and livestock keeping are integrated.  For example, the livestock manure is used in the farms and a feeder crop is  also grown.  The system is practised by both peasants and large  scale farmers in estates.  The crops grown include both export and subsistence, such as bananas, coffee, cotton, maize.  Examples of small scale farmers are the Sere in Senegal, Hausa in Nigeria and Sukuma in Tanzania.  Large scale farms are located in highland areas in East, Central and Southern Africa.  These farms can be seen in the Maghreb, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.  In these farms the crops grown include barley, coffee, fruits, maize, tea, tobacco, wheat and feeder crop like clover and lentils.  Dairy farming is also practised under the system.

 

7.3.2        Pastroralism

This system is practised in the arid and semi arid where livestock keeping  is the main activity.  Both nomads and the sedentary people practise the system.  The livestock kept include camels, cattle, goats, sheep, donkeys and chicken.  Camels and donkeys are usually kept for transport purposes.

 

In nomadic pastroralism the families move with their livestock in response to availability of water and pastures.  The movements can be long distance across different states or transhumance.  For example, the Fulani move across the sahel from Senegal to Cameroon.  Other nomadic people are the Tuareg of the Sahara and the Masai in East Africa.

 

In recent period, many nomads are becoming sedentary people.  They live in oasis and grow on small plots millet, onions, date palms and melons.  Those who live river valleys grow cotton, sugar cane cereals and keep small herds of cattle and sheep.  The reallocation of land for other purposes like oilfields  and irrigation agriculture has forced nomads to change their way of life to wage employment and peasant farming.

African Environment and Development

7.3.4   Plantation/Estates

These are large scale commercial holdings which are privately owned and managed.  They use modern methods of farming and concentrate on export and commercial crops. Plantations are larger than  estates and usually focus on one crop like sugar cane, coffee, tobacco, oil palm, bananas.  They are common in Cameroon, Congo DR,  cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sudan, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Estates usually deal with one or two crops; or may operate as mixed farms.  Dairy farming is as common feature in estates.  The crops grown in estates include coffee, tea, flowers, fruits and vegetables.  These farms are common in the Maghreb coast, Kenya highlands, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

7.3.5  Ranches

These are large scale farms devoted for keeping of livestock, especially beef cattle and sheep.  They are located in areas unsuited for crop production due to low rainfall or poor soils.  The countries which are known for such farms are Morroco, Mali, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Botswana, Namimia, Zimbabwe, South Africa.

7.3.6  State Farms

These are large scale farms such as plantations or ranches which are owned and managed by public enterprises.  Usually in these farms there is cultivation of crops and/or keeping of livestock for export and/or subsistence.  The crops are cultivated on commercial basis and the types depend on ecological zone.  The livestock kept include beef and diary cattle and sheep.  These type of farms have been adopted after the Soviet “collective farms”; Chinese “communal farms”; or Israel “kibbutz”.  They were common after independence in Egypt, Sudan, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Tanzania, and Zambia.  In recent years most of these farms have been privatised, redistributed to rural people or in some cases abandoned.

 

 

 

 

Which type of agriculture system(s) is practised in the arid and semi arid areas?

 

7.4   IRRIGATION AGRICULTURE

The irrigated land in Africa is less than 10% of the world’s total.  By 1993 the total irrigated land area was 10.4 million hectares.  The countries in which irrigation is significant are Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria and South Africa.  Others, where irrigated land is above 5% of total cropland are Gambia, Libya, Madagascar, Somalia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, and Mauritius (World Resources Insitute, 1992).  The main irrigation schemes are given in Table 7.2

Table 7.2: African: Main Irrigation Schemes

 

NAME

COUNTRY

AREA IN HECTARES

Lower Nile and Delta Egypt 2.5 million
Gezira – Managil, Girba Sudan 1.7 million
Rbia Valley Morocco 18,000
Metidja Farms Algeria 8,500
Richard Toll Senegal 5,600
Niger – Inland Delta Mali 60,000
Volta Plains Ghana 200,000
Tana River Project Kenya 13,000
Chiredzi – Hippo Valley Triangle Zimbabwe 30,000
Kafue Flats Zambia 20,000
Cuanza River Project Angola 10,000
Orange River Project South Africa 250,000

7.5    LIVESTOCK

In Africa over half of the land consists of arid and semi arid areas which are unsuitable for crop cultivation, hence, used for livestock grazing.  Livestock is the source of food, provides manure, traction power for cultivation, and industrial raw materials.  There is a wide variety of livestock in Africa namely, cattle, goats, sheep, camels, donkeys, pigs, chicken, etc.  While cattle, sheep, pigs and chicken can be reared in both the sub – humid and semi arid areas, the rest are confined to arid and semi arid areas.

African Environment and Development

The spatial distribution of cattle, camels, goats, and sheep in the continent is shown in Figure 7.1(c).  Statistics show that in 1990, there were 18.4 million cattle; 372 million goats and sheep and 838 million chicken which constituted 14%, 20% and 8% of world totals, respectively (World Resources Institute, 1992).

The cattle reared consists of Ankole, Zebu and exotic breeds.  They are reared for both beef and diary purposes.  Goats and sheep are usually kept together with camels in the arid zone while camels and donkeys are important in the semi arid zone.  They provide meat, milk and are used for cultural purposes.

African Environment and Development

The Highveld, Atlas slopes and tropical highlands are noted for the production of wool and mutton from sheep.  In recent years, the number of livestock is increasing and also the amount of grains fed to them.  This practice is taking place mainly in the commercial farms, such as, diary farms and ranches where modern methods of farming are used.

African Environment and Development

The staple food crops in Africa are yams, bananas and rice in the humid zone; maize, millet and sorghum in the savanna; sorghum and millet in the arid and semi arid zone and wheat and potatoes in the temperate zone.  The areas which grow food and export/commercial crops are shown in Figure 7.1(a) and (b).

Food production has been increasing in the continent.  However, the growth has not kept with the pace of population growth.  For example, in 1983 – 1993 cereal production rose by 30%, but per capita food output fell by 5%.  The yields per hectare were cereals 1.2 tons, root tubers 7.2 tons compared to the world average of 2.6 tones and 11.8 tons, respectively (World Resources Institute, 1992).

In many countries per capita food production is declining due to rainfall variations, poor soils fall in producer prices and low use of agricultural inputs.  The consequence of the poor output of food is that the continent is a net recipient of food aid.  The main types of food imports include cereals, edible oils and mild.  The principal donors are the USA and European Union Countries.  Recent changes with respect to food are the expansion of maize growing at the expense of traditional grains, increase in the cultivation of food, and rice becoming a staple food in more countries, like Congo, DR and Cote d’Ivoire.

Africa is frequently hit b widespread food shortage.  There are several factors that contribute to the problem.  The factors relate to production, marketing and distribution, climatic, as well as social and political conditions.  In terms of production the factors are traditional methods of farming and prevalence of pests and diseases.  Others include poor storage facilities, unpredictable climatic conditions, occurrence of drought and foods, and the allocation of more land for export crops at the expense of food crops.  Also, more farmers cultivate maize and rice which are more marketable than grains which are suited to the ecological zones.  Civil and liberation wars have displaced many people leading to shortage of labour in rural areas.  Furthermore, these wars have made life in the rural areas more risky.

 

 

 

 

What are causes of food shortage?

 

 

7.7 PROBLEMS OF AGRICULTURE

(a) The predominant method of farming is traditional and there is less investment in irrigation, hence, productivity is low.  The situation has led to food shortage and low income.  Furthermore, food shortage has resulted in seasonal hunger and malnutrition becoming endemi

(b) Although the number of livestock is high it is kept for more social than economic reasons.  It provides less mild and meat; less used for ploughing and its manure is less applied to the farms.  Nomadic life is usually inconducive for development.  It creates enemity with cultivators and causes political disturbances.

(c)  In many areas the land is communal. The system is restrictive to land improvement and limits it to be used as security for agricultural credit.

(d) Land fragmentation.  In many communities same plot of land is distributed to successive generations such that each secures smaller and smaller plots.  The practice limits the expansion of agricultural lands, hence the income that could be generated by increased production.

 

SUMMARY

 

 

 

Agriculture is the main activity for majority of the people.  It provides food, industrial raw materials, income and employment opportunities.  It is practised under many systems of both indigenous and foreign nature.  Irrigation is practised on very small scale, mostly as supplimentary to the traditional farming.  The acreage under irrigation is small relative to its potential.  There are very few large scale irrigation projects.  Most of these are integrated with HEP schemes.

African Environment and Development

There is large quantity and variety of livestock in the continent.  Most of it is kept under traditional methods hence the productivity is low.  Moreover, the livestock is kept more for cultural and prestigeous purposes than economic gains.  The agriculture sector faces many problems; these are traditional technology, low productivity, unsuitable land tenure system land fragmentation and unpredictable weather conditions.

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