Agricultural Production, Land-use/cover Change and the Desertification Debate in the West African Savannah: An Adapted Political Ecology Approach
Keywords:Land-use and land cover changes, agriculture, desertification, West Africa
AbstractIn 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.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).