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close this bookReversing the Spiral - The Population, Agriculture, and Environment Nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa (WB, 1994, 320 p.)
close this folder11.Conclusion
View the documentThe problem
View the documentRecommendations for action
View the documentStatus of implementation
View the documentIssues and follow-up

The problem

The countries of Sub Saharan Africa face three important challenges (1) reducing the rate of population growth, (2) safeguarding their natural resource base, and (3) making agriculture, as quickly as possible, sufficiently productive to ensure rising standards of living for the rapidly increasing population without further endangering the resource base available for this purpose .Because these three challenges are closely interlocking, the ambitious indicative targets set out in Chapter 6 are more likely to be achieved if the actions suggested in each specific area are successful.

Rapid population growth, environmental degradation, and slow agricultural growth in Sub-Saharan Africa are closely linked. The principal problem is that the technologies applied in shifting cultivation and transhumance pastorals systems, appropriate under conditions of low population density on Africa's fragile natural resource base, are environmentally damaging when practiced by rapidly increasing populations When population densities increase and shifting around on the land becomes Impossible, but farming practices do not change, soils degrade and forests are destroyed. Soil degradation and deforestation constrain agricultural growth Lagging agricultural growth perpetuates rural poverty and food insecurity, which in turn impede the onset of the demographic transition to lower human fertility rates.

Past efforts have, on the whole, failed to reverse the downward direction of the spiral that is driven by the synergetic forces of this nexus The explanation, at least in part, appears to be that past efforts have been pursued too narrowly along conventional sectoral lines matching established institutional arrangements and traditional academic disciplines—while crucial cross sectoral linkages and synergies have been ignored .Environmental integrity and resource conservation are critical for sustainable long-term growth of agriculture, and of the economy But this will be very difficult to achieve if present rates of population growth persist. Population growth is unlikely to decelerate unless there is more vigorous of agriculture, and of the economies dependent on agriculture. At the same time, agricultural growth based on traditional patterns of resource use and production technologies will be increasingly constrained by rapid population growth and the degradation of environmental resource base

A key conclusion of this study is that far more emphasis needs to be placed on efforts designed to promote effective demand for sustainable and environmentally benign farming technologies, for family planning services, and for resource conservation.

Box 11-1 Kenya: The Nexus Synergies at Work

In Kenya, population density on cultivated land is high. Education is relatively good, and females participate. Infant mortality has declined due to relatively good health care, food security, and women's education. Agricultural policy has been quite good, smallholder commercial farming is profitable, and private sector participation in all aspects of agricultural production, marketing, and processing is high. Land tenure security is assured (although there have been problems with land grabbing by influential elites as well as with the land rights of livestock herders and of women). Women are receiving attention from the agricultural extension service .Family planning programs are in place. Popular sensitivity to the costs of environmental degradation is high, and there has been successful environmental conservation action in the form of a national soil conservation program, the maintenance of sizeable national parks, and the widespread tree planting under the Greenbelt Movement promoted by a national NGO working almost entirely with women. Urban bias in economic policy is less pronounced than elsewhere in Sub Saharan Africa, and the development of secondary towns and cities characterizes Kenya's urbanization policy. Relatively good infrastructure, including a countrywide network of roads, has been developed.

The combination of these (and other) factors has had a number of desirable results Agricultural growth has been averaging between 3 and 5 percent per year. Tree farming and other agroforestry activities have increased, and the area under trees may now in fact be expanding .There is at least marginally effective protection of national parks and of wildlife. Farmers participate in marketing decisions, with farmer-managed cooperatives playing a significant role Kenya's urban markets are stocked with Kenyan farm products, assembled in rural markets and secondary towns and brought to market largely by private traders. And the TFR has begun to decline measurably in recent years generate demand has remained largely unrecognized—or at least poorly served. The synergies inherent in the nexus provide considerable potential for addressing the demand side of these important problems

There is low demand for small families, and there is inadequate supply of family planning services Both are keeping total fertility rates (TFRs) high, Low demand for small families is due to cultural factors, high infant mortality, low education for girls, and limited family planning spaces. More contentious is the impact of economic incentives. High demand for child labor maybe created by systems of shifting cultivation, severely constrained access by rural women to production inputs other than child labor, the need for child labor as part of a survival strategy in the face of poor food security, and increasing degradation and depletion of soil and water resources. Demand for smaller families is manifesting itself, however' where the density of population on cultivated land is high, infant mortality is low, food security is high, and female school enrollment rates are high. Countries with these characteristics are entering demographic transition, and family planning programs are likely to be extremely effective there in responding to the strongly emerging demand for family planning services.

Forest degradation is stimulated by rapid population growth combined with shifting cultivation (people moving into forests to farm), poorly regulated logging, and "open access" land tenure. Open access occurs when there is no effective regulation of land use, either traditional or modern. This allows farmers and others to exploit the land, and the resources on it, in an unsustainable manner .Fuelwood priwhich, which are too low to cover replanting costs, are constraining fuelwood planting. Fuelwood prices are low because fuelwood can be mined, nearly freely, from open-access areas Where there is open access, trees can tee cleared for farmland by migrant farmers

Women's time is increasingly constrained in rural areas, as fuelwood and water become scarce, and women have to walk farther for water and fuelwood .With less time available, women have difficulty maintaining food output, and this contributes to food security problems.

Technological innovation, which could permit traditional farming and livestock practices to evolve in an environmentally sustainable manner, is not keeping up with the present rapid rate of population growth. The gap between population growth and the rate of agrotechnological innovation is enormous.

Lack of demand by farmers for new agricultural technology is as important as lack of supply of appropriate technology in explaining slow agricultural growth Lack of demand is related to several factors:

· Open-access land tenure conditions are replacing customary land tenure systems. With open access, land occupation and use is temporary and there is no incentive the farmer to invest in farm intensification. Open access also reduces the incentive for farmers to conserve the land (since it is not theirs).

There is often a lack of financial resources with which farmers (especially women) can invest This low-income trap is operable in much of subsistence agriculture.

Labor constraints on women often prevent them from adopting those technologies that are labor intensive.

· In much of Sub-Saharan Africa poor agricultural and economic policies, combined with currently low world prices for many .agricultural products, have reduced the profitability of farming and hence the incentive to intensify farming. They have often restricted farmers' ability to participate fully in land management, marketing, or price setting.

Appropriate improved agricultural technology for farmers is often locally unavailable or unknown; there can be no effective demand for what does not exist or is not known to exist.