Agricultural Production, Land-use/cover Change and the Desertification Debate in the West African Savannah: An Adapted Political Ecology Approach


  • Peter Kojo Boateng Monash University



Land-use and land cover changes, agriculture, desertification, West Africa


In the semi-arid tropics of West Africa where farming is the major livelihood source, it is claimed that African farmers are degrading their land: first because of shifting cultivation, later because population growth brought about “over-cultivation” or farm expansion and the scattering of more farms on the landscape.  In response to these issues, West African governments have emphasised the need and rolled out programmes for modernisation of smallholder agriculture through promotion of capital-intensive and market-driven strategies. Implicit in this modernisation policy orientation is the idea that the way production is organised by peasants in the semi-arid environments have to change; meaning poor peasants, regarded as perpetuators of land degradation, who may not produce for the market need to be modernised in line with the state’s vision of agricultural development and environmental management. However, new perspectives being generated from several local level studies of agricultural production and land-use/cover change in the semi-arid savannah regions of West Africa offer departure points from those dominant narratives of increasing degradation and desertification. This paper discusses this emerging paradigmatic revolution by reviewing the literature on 3 highly polarised issues around land-use/cover change in the West African savannah – (a) discourses of environmental degradation; (b) human-environment interactions and agricultural production; and (c) mapping of land cover changes in drylands. Within these reviews, the paper highlights ways it move beyond currently contrasting views, before advancing an adapted political ecology framework deemed suited for exploring the complex relationships between agricultural production and land-use/cover change.

Author Biography

Peter Kojo Boateng, Monash University

Peter Kojo Boateng has conducted research on sustainable agricultural livelihoods development issues in Ghana and Sri Lanka since obtaining his B.A (Geography and Rural Development) at KNUST and MSc (Development Management) at the University of Agder, Norway. He has authored a monograph on the effects of Ghana’s Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS I and II) on rural farmers’ livelihoods, and is currently a PhD Candidate at the School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Australia.