Improving agriculture in Africa through the right mix of farmers, land, and knowledge
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CTA. 1988. Improving agriculture in Africa through the right mix of farmers, land, and knowledge. Spore 18. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/44968
A great deal of Africa's wealth remains untapped, as productive land is not being cultivated as well as it could be. The potential for increasing agricultural production on the continent is thus considerable. But if it is to be realized, traditional...
A great deal of Africa's wealth remains untapped, as productive land is not being cultivated as well as it could be. The potential for increasing agricultural production on the continent is thus considerable. But if it is to be realized, traditional farming systems, most notably the heavy reliance on rain-fed agriculture, will have to be drastically improved. For such changes to be successful, the African concept of farming will have to be thoroughly revised, for improvement in productivity depends on developing farming systems that will increase the biological productivity of the land, rather than reduce it, as some African smallscale farming activities do. Africa's fragile soils are being eroded at an unacceptable rate, with losses of 30 t per ha of precious topsoil per year being seen in many cultivated areas. The very commodity on which African farmers and families depend is fast disappearing. Yet, although Africa's peasant farmers are most knowledgeable and, above all, experienced, they remain relatively powerless to halt the growing levels of erosion. Replacing Africa's traditional farming systems with systems from overseas will not provide an easy solution: they have not stood the test of time and long-term detrimental effects have not yet had time to become obvious. Furthermore, any commercially-orientated farming systems will founder under Africa's unique agricultural conditions. In Africa, farming systems must be robust so that if agricultural chemicals do not arrive or feedstuffs for livestock cannot be acquired, or spare parts for machinery are not available, the system does not collapse. Consequently, it is the crops, livestock and techniques with which the farmers are familiar that should be exploited to the full. The solution will involve mixing farming, land and knowledge together in the right blend, for the implementation of any new farming techniques will be dependent on an educated and receptive rural population. At present, the main deficiency is in know how. Agricultural problems in Africa can be reduced by innovative farming, and innovative farmers, people who are receptive to new ideas and who can put them into effect. But the task is not an easy one. Traditional rural farming lacks flexibility and peasant farming is more than a livelihood, it is a way of life, with farming systems interlinked with social systems. Altering one will cause changes in the other, as the European experience has shown. Farming practices and techniques in Africa have evolved through the centuries and it is imperative that these are moulded together with modern developments and technology to provide a system that can provide food for all on a sustainable basis. CTA recognizes this, and is also aware that agriculture is more than a technical activity. Farmers need information as well as access to techniques and equipment. CTA therefore strives to obtain and disseminate -- in the most appropriate form and by the most appropriate medium -- relevant information to practitioners and students of agriculture and rural development throughout the tropics. Agriculture in African Rural Communities is an illustration of this policy. Co-published with Macmillan and Terres et Vie in the series Land and Life, the book examines ways and means of improving African technology. Analysis of crop requirements, soil and water management and environmental factors are major components of the publication. However, more importantly, traditional ways and lifestyles are also evaluated together with modern improvements and technologies and the possibilities for integration which will lead to sustainable systems of crop husbandry form a major focus of the initiative. Available from: CTA Postbus 380 6700 AJ Wageningen THE NETHERLANDS