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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 folder6. A framework for action
View the documentA continental perspective
View the documentSome country-specific targets and implications

A continental perspective

Successfully addressing the problems discussed in the previous chapters will require simultaneous efforts in three areas (a) significantly, and as quickly as possible, reducing the rate of population growth through efforts that bring down the TFR; (b) changing farming systems and cultivation practices from extensive to intensive systems that incorporate adequate soil conservation and fertility management measures to ensure long-term sustainability; and (c) improving natural resource management so as to ensure that the natural resource base and agroecological environment remain intact. Essential to the achievement of these objectives will be addressing the special problems faced by rural women and the emerging land tenure constraints.

Some Basic Targets

These closely interlinked objectives can be expressed in a basic set of quantitative aggregate targets for each SSA country regarding desirable and achievable population growth rates, food consumption, agricultural growth, and environmental resource conservation (Table 6-2, pp. 106-107) Although they are, of necessity' only rough approximations, they illustrate the magnitude of the effort required—but also the payoff that will result if the challenge is successfully met.

To summarize, for Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, agricultural production needs to grow at about 4 percent a year during the period 1990 2020 This, given the present weight of agriculture in Sub-Saharan economies, is the rate required to achieve aggregate economic growth of at least the same rate. Daily per capita calorie intake should be increased from its present average level of about 2,027 to about 2,400 by the year 2010. The share of the population that is "food insecure" should be reduced from the present 25 percent to zero as rapidly as possible.

Unfortunately, scrutiny of the various country situations suggests that it is more realistic to aim for a target reduction to 10 percent by 2010 and to 5 percent by 2020. For environmental reasons, the rate of deforestation needs to be sharply reduced from the present average annual rate of 0.5 percent of the total remaining forest area to about 0.35 percent per year Loss of remaining wilderness areas should also be minimized as an indication, approximately 23 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa's total land area should be maintained as wilderness (compared with about 27 percent today). To preserve wilderness and forest areas, cropped land can only be increased from 7 0 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa's total land area at present to about 8.3 percent in 2020. The arithmetic of these indicative agricultural, food security, and environmental objectives requires population growth to decline steadily from the present average annual rate of over 3.1 percent to 2 3 percent per year in the third decade of the next century. This will require lowering the average TFR by 50 percent between today and the year 2030.

AcceIerating Agricultural Growth

The first requirement is to achieve sustained agricultural growth (more precisely, growth of agricultural value added) of 4 percent a year. This is the target set in the World Bank's 1989 long-term perspective study for Sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank 1989d). It would permit gradually improving food security and increasing rural incomes and foreign exchange earnings and savings. Slower agricultural growth would also compromise the minimum macroeconomic growth targets for SubSaharan Africa Case I in Table 6-1 (p. 99) shows the staggering food import requirements if present population and agricultural growth trends were to continue The food gap, even at the present low average per capita food consumption levels (about 202 kg/cap/year), would increase from 10 million tons maize equivalent at present to 24 million tons by the year 2000 and to 80 million tons twenty years later.

Without a reduction in aggregate population growth rates, even sustained food production gains of 4 percent annually would only represent an increase on a per capita basis of less than 1 percent a year Even with unchanged average consumption per capita, and with interregional food trade completely liberalized to allow intra-African food movement from surplus to deficit countries, aggregate food import requirement would therefore decline only slowly and would be eliminated only in the year 2004 (Table 6-1, Case II).

Even in this scenario, average per capita availability of food would not increase There would (in the absence of distributional changes) be no change m the percentage of those malnourished and facing food insecurity, but a substantial annual increase in their absolute number.

Table 6-1 Population and Food Security, 1990-2020

More than quarter of Sub-Saharan Africa's population was faced with food insecurity in 1980/81 (Table A-10), and the available aggregate statistics suggest a possible deterioration in this situation during the past decade. A scenario of unchanged average per capita food availability would imply, therefore, that over a quarter of all people in Sub-Saharan Africa would still be facing food insecurity twenty-five years from now.

The importance of making rapid progress in reducing population growth becomes ever: more apparent, when the closely related objectives of improving nutritional standards and food security are taken into consideration. Average daily calorie intake should be increased from its present very low level of 2,027 calories per person to about 2,200 by the end of the century and to 2,400 (the current average for the world's low-income countries) by the year 2010. ibis would imply raising per capita food availability from an average of 202 kg/year to about 232 kg/year over a fifteen-year period (Table 6-1, Case V) Since aggregate food consumption requirements would rise sharply, the food gap would remain at roughly its present level of about 10 million tons a year until 2010 and would not be closed until about the year 2015—even with sustained growth in food production averaging 4 percent per year and a steady decline in the rate of population growth to 2.3 percent per year during the decade 2020-2030 (implying a continuous reduction, beginning immediately, of the TFR over the next thirty-five years to half its present level). The potential food surplus which might gradually emerge thereafter under the assumption of static average calorie intake would presumably not materialize because consumption levels would increase above the 2,400 car/cap/day level that typifies present average conditions in the developing world.

It is clear, then, that-even with 4 percent annual growth in food production—the important objective of bringing the percentage of the population subject to food insecurity down to zero over the next twentyfive years cannot be achieved, et the aggregate level, unless fertility, rates are reduced by 50 percent. In addition, this objective will not be attained unless the growth in agriculture is equitably distributed over the population, benefiting urban dwellers as well.

The technological change required to realize the agricultural growth target of 4 percent per year will need to be land-saving in most of Africa for environmental reasons and labor-using in order to absorb the growing rural population. With capital also scarce' the technological change being promoted must be carefully matched to farmers' capacity to finance investments. Incremental capital use will not be inconsistent with the objective of environmental sustainability. The present labor scarcity in mud; of Sub-Saharan Africa at the farm and household level, one of the driving forces behind the high fertility rates, will ease over time with population growth—rural-urban migration notwithstanding. More labor per unit of land will lead to intensification. But intensification also requires making labor more efficient by adding capital. Part of this will have to be private capital, for fertilizers, animal traction, better tools, and investments in land amelioration and conservation. Much of it, however, will need to be public capital for rural roads and markets, water supply, investment in education, etc.

To minimize the need for bringing more land under cultivations the productivity of land will have to increase very rapidly. Clearly, the expansion of the land frontier cannot be halted immediately; in any case, in some countries there still are sizeable tracts of potentially productive cropland as yet unutilized—due partly to technological constraints at the farm level (such as heavy bottom soils that require plowing and possibly drainage), partly to difficult access (lack of roads). Allowing for a continuing expansion in total cultivated area at a rate of about 0.5 percent per year (horn about 150 million ha in 1987 to about 180 million ha in 2020), land productivity will have to increase by 35 percent annually over the next twenty-five years. Realizing this will be an enormous challenge (see Box 6-1).

Were the rural labor force to continue to increase at an annual average rate of about 2 5 percent, meeting the target of 4 percent annual growth in agricultural production would require that labor productivity in agriculture increase by at least 1.6 percent annually. Indeed, since those entering the rural labor force in the coming fifteen years have already been born, the decline in fertility rates included in this set of indicative targets will have a significant impact on the growth of the rural labor force only in the outer years of the time horizon used here If the targets are achieved for a continuous reduction in the average TFR to 50 percent of its current level by the year 2030 and, hence, for an average rate of population growth of 2.8 percent between 1990 and 2030, and if the e urban population were to increase at an average annual rate of 4.5 percent due to continuing ruralurban migration' the average annual growth of the agricultural labor force is more likely to be around 2.0 percent for the period as a whole (higher in the first two decades, substantially Iower thereafter). Labor productivity would therefore need to increase steadily over time so as to average about 2.0 percent per year. Given the very high proportion of women in the agricultural labor force and the current low productivity of female labor in farming, an appropriate emphasis on improving the productivity of female labor will pay significant dividends in this regard.

In the longer run, as the scope for policy improvement narrows, and with increasingly more stringent constraints on the possibilities for further expansion of cropped area, sustaining an agricultural growth rate of 4 percent per year will become even more difficult It will depend increasingly on intensification through greater use of modem inputs and equipment, diversification into higher-value crops' genetic improvements in crops and livestock, and general improvements in education of the population. Hence the importance of improved agricultural research, extension, and general education discussed m subsequent chapters.

Box 6-1 Me Annual Cereal Yield Gains of 3.5 Percent Achievable?

The statistical analysis of the determinants of cereal yields, summarized in the Appendix to Chapter 4, can be used to test the plausibility of these projections. According to the equation given there, increased labor use per hectare, facilitated by the growth in the rural labor force of 2 0 percent per year, would generate 0.7 percent annual growth in cereal yields Annual rates of increase in fertilizer use of 15 percent (and increases in the use of other modern inputs associated with rising fertilizer consumption) would generate cereal yield increases of 15 percent a year- An annual increase of 2 percent in primary school enrollments would lead to annual increases in cereal yields of 03 percent. And an end to deforestation (if not an actual increase m forested area) would at least eliminate this muse of declining crop yields. Together, this would give a growth m cereal yields of 25 percent per year year.

Other factors—such as more countries adopting appropriate agricultural policy, continually improving policies m all countries, a steadily expanding reach of rural transport infrastructure, improvements in marketing arrangements—would have to provide the additional stimulus needed to achieve the postulated 3.5 percent growth rate. I-his Is a difficult, but not impossible challenge to meet.

Managing forest Resources

The growing population of Sub-Saharan Africa will need more fuelwood, building, materials, and other wood and nonwood forest products. Woodfuel demand will increase roughly at the rate of population growth. Efficiency gains in energy conversion and use and some interfuel substitution in urban areas will somewhat dampen the rate of demand growth, but meeting currently unmet demand in fuelwood deficit regions would have the opposite effect Demand for other wood products should probably increase more rapidly, to allow development of forest-based industries, especially rural industries. Although the implications of such rising demand on forest area requirements are very difficult to quantify for Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, orders of magnitude can be delineated here.

In 1984-1986, an estimated 370 million m³ of fuelwood and charcoal were extracted from Sub-Saharan Africa's forests and woodlands, much of it in a manner destructive to the forest resources (World Bank 1989d). This implies an average per capita consumption of about 0 87 m³ per year and is consistent with the average per capita consumption estimates of about 05 m³ per year in urban areas and about 1 m³ per year in rural areas. With about 100 million urban and 322 million rural dwellers in 1985, aggregate consumption, using these average parameters, would have been on the order of 372 million m³.

With aggregate population growth declining over the next four decades to a rate of 2.3 percent per annum (and, thus' averaging, about 2.8 percent per year over this period), Sub-Saharan Africa's total population in 2020 would be on the order of 1,169 million (Table 6-1) Successfully addressing the key nexus problems would help reduce the rate of ruralurban migration, and urban population growth could be slowed considerably Wow the rates experienced in the last three decades If urban growth were to average 4 5 percent a year, the urban population in 2021) would total about 485 million (up from about 130 million at present) The rural population would rise to about 685 million by 2020, implying an average rate of increase of a little over 2.1 percent per year.

Properly managed fuelwood plantations may sustain yields, on average, of 4 m³ annually per hectare in the savanna zones and about 10 m³/ha/year in the forest zones. It may be assumed that the urban population in 2020 will be about evenly distributed between these two main climatic zones. With average fuelwood requirements for urban dwellers amounting to 0.5 m³ per person per year (in view of gradually increasing interfuel substitution and improvements in fuel utilization efficiency), 30.3 million ha of fuelwood plantations would be needed m the savanna zones in 2020 and a further 12.1 million ha in the forest zones to meet urban woodfuel requirements entirely from managed plantations. Assuming a lag of ten years from planting to harvesting, these plantations would need to be established within the next fifteen years This implies an annual rate of plantation establishment of more than 2.8 million ha every year, beginning immediately. Thereafter, further expansion in plantation acreage would need to match further growth in requirements (minus efficiency gains).

To the extent that transport facilities can be improved and the switch from fuelwood to charcoal and briquettes can be accelerated, more productive plantations in forest zones could meet some of the needs of urban populations in savanna zones, thereby reducing the overall acreage needed for fuelwood production. Moreover, many degraded and currently unproductive woodland areas could be reforested; hence, not all the acreage required for fuelwood production would need to be in addition to current forest and woodland areas.

Of course, much of the woodfuel for urban markets can and should come from managed forests, rather than plantations. Forests managed for sustainable woodfuel production could yield, say, an average of 1 m³/ha/year in the Sahelian and Sudanian savanna, about 2 m³/ha/year in the Guinea savanna areas and an average of 4 m³/ha/year in the forest zone Using an average sustainable yield estimate of 15 m³/ha/year for forests in the savanna zones, 81 million ha of well-managed forests in the savanna zones, and 30 million ha in the forest zones could' theoretically, meet the woodfuel needs of the urban population in 2020 This would imply that about tine-fifth of Sub-Saharan Africa's entire remaining forest area would need to be brought under effective management regimes with the aim of providing an adequate flow of woodfuels for the urban population on a sustainable basis. Since almost half of the remaining forest area is concentrated in a few countries in the Central African forest zone (Za, Gabon, Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon) and on Madagascar' the proposition of meeting urban needs from managed forests in the other countries means that a far greater proportion of the forest areas still remaining in these countries will need to be managed m a manner that would ensure sustainable woodfuel supply over the long run. This will be increasingly the case as forests and woodlands are converted to farmland and other uses.

Rural populations would need to meet their woodfuel needs increasingly through agroforestry activities. Rural requirements may average about 1.0 m per person annually. If a ten-year-old tree yields, at felling, 0 2 m³ of wood suitable as fuel, this would indicate a need for five trees per person per year—or fifty trees per person in a ten-year planting and harvesting cycle. For a ten-member household, about 500 trees would be needed—around the compound, on field boundaries, in windbreaks, in mixed tree crop farming systems, and in village groves and woodlots.

Clearly, these numbers can merely provide a rough indication of the orders of magnitude involved in satisfying woodfuel needs. As discussed earlier, the various dimensions of the fuelwood issue are highly location- and region specific and required, thus, careful attention at the national, regional, and local levels. Nevertheless, on balance, it is critical to bring about an immediate and drastic reduction in the rate of deforestation and to expand the area of productive managed forests, forest plantations, and tree farming to meet the vast needs for woodfuels and other wood products.

An attempt has been made to determine realistic targets for the major regions of Sub-Saharan Africa for the area under trees (Table 62). These targets reflect projected wood requirements, plantation and tree farming possibilities, and projections of required and feasible expansion in cropped areas. Realism suggests that deforestation cannot be stopped entirely. But it should be possible to lower the overall rate of deforestation from the present 05 percent per year to 0.35 percent per year. This means that the average annual rate of cropland expansion would have to be reduced from the present 0.7 percent to about 05 percent. These are realistic targets. But achieving them requires that forests used for wood production be managed efficiently, so that wood harvesting would suffice to meet the needs of populations growing at 2.8 percent a year and also satisfy essential environmental objectives linked to the environmental service functions performed by trees and forests.

The challenge posed by these targets is enormous—requiring a complete and rapid reversal of past trends, rather than merely an intensification of ongoing efforts, to accelerate along a growth path already attained. As indicated in the preceding chapters, the destruction of forest resources is the result of a variety of interlinked factors and forces. Achieving the target postulated here will be even more difficult than attaining that for agricultural production growth.

Conserving Wilderness Areas

To preserve biodiversity and the economic and social value of nonforest wilderness areas, these areas should not be allowed to decline very much from their present extent of about 27 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa's total land area (compared with 39 percent of the world's land area currently classified as wilderness areas). A reasonable target was derived by projecting forward the present rate of wilderness conversion to urban and infrastructure development and the postulated maximum expansion of cropped land. This means that wilderness area would decline to about 23 percent of Sub-Saharan Ah ice's total land area. This would allow a continuing modest expansion of cropland at an average annual rate of 0.5 percent over the next twenty-five years and an expansion of the area put to urban, infrastructural, and industrial uses at about 7.9 percent per year as per current trends.

Box 6-2 What Will It Take to Arrest Deforestation?

The statistical analysis (see the Appendix to Chapter 4) suggests that a reduction in the area cultivated per person at the projected rate of 2 percent per year will stimulate further deforestation at a rate of 1.2 percent of the remaining forest area per year. Annual population growth of ;! 8 percent will lead to deforestation at a rate of 15 percent per year. On the other hand' an increase in the intensity of fertilizer use of 15 percent per year will lead to a reduction in the rate of deforestation of 2.9 percent yearly. The aggregate effect would be an increase at a rate of 02 percent per year in land under trees. However, a policy environment conducive to agricultural growth will stimulate farmers to expand cultivation into areas currently forested. The effort to preserve existing forests and expand the area under trees will be lost, therefore, unless environmental action plans and land use plans are prepared and implemented which channel the expansion of farming away from forests and from areas that are to be reforested. The indicative targets shown in Table 6-2 imply, more realistically, continued reductions in the forest and woodland areas, but at much slower rates an those recorded et present.

Achieving this objective of wilderness conservation will be as difficult as achieving that for reducing the rate of deforestation—and for the same reasons. One difference, however, is that education appears to be successful in creating heightened awareness among local people of the value of wilderness areas. Improvements in the coverage and efficacy of basic education are therefore likely to help, as are agricultural intensification and reduced population growth. On the other hand, a policy environment conducive to agricultural development and growth will provide strong stimuli to farmers to encroach on wilderness areas in order to expand the area under cultivation (the effect is far stronger than in the case of deforestation, mainly because of the far greater ease of converting nonforested land to farming). This underscores the importance of (a) land use plans and environmental action plans and of their effective implementation to prevent such a development, (b) effective policies and infrastructure development to channel population movement and cropland expansion into less sensitive areas, and (c) widespread farmer access to markets and to yield-increasing farm technology.


There are, of course, considerable country variations in what is necessary and attainable. In Table 6-2 the above indicative overall targets have been adjusted to each country's circumstances and potential. Nevertheless, these targets are extremely ambitious. They indicate the magnitude of the problems faced and the efforts required. The elements of an appropriate action plan outlined in the following chapters are, therefore, similarly ambitious. Reaching these targets will be possible only by focusing on the synergetic effects inherent in the linkages and causality chains of the population-agriculture-environment nexus With rising agricultural productivity and outputs and growing incomes, population growth rates are likely to decline more rapidly. With agricultural intensification and decelerating population growth, environmental protection and resource conservation become more feasible. And preserving environmental integrity makes it easier to achieve sustainable agricultural growth.

If the objectives set out in the preceding paragraphs are attained, the vision of the future of Sub-Saharan Africa would be one with a more slowly growing population, and with the rural population increasing more slowly than the urban population. Significant gains in both land and labor productivity would permit the population to feed itself and to increase incomes, without expanding the area farmed beyond what is environmentally sustainable and without depleting and degrading the natural resource base. This would be accomplished through the widespread adoption of locally appropriate sustainable agricultural technology and resource management practices, increased land tenure security, and special efforts to improve the productivity of rural women and ease their time constraints. Reducing the rate of forest loss and preserving a substantial part of Sub-Saharan Africa's wilderness areas would permit preservation of biodiversity and wildlife and ensure the lifestyles and survival of indigenous forest dwellers. It would also ensure an adequate supply of fuelwood and wood for construction and local industry and of other forest products for consumption and income generation purposes.

These various interventions would have a strongly positive synergistic effect—as the negative effects of the present situation are synergistically related Improved agricultural incomes (especially in conjunction with improved education and health care) would further induce declining demand for children, in turn reducing the pressure on the environment and allowing for some environmental regeneration This in turn should have a positive effect on agriculture.

Realizing this vision will be enormously difficult, requiring radical changes in governmental policy and a strong commitment to assisting SubSaharan Africa on the part of international community. African governments, external aid agencies, and African and international NGOs will all need to pursue this goal. Most important will be the effort of millions of Africans acting, individually and collaboratively, in their own selfinterest. The major elements elements of an action program are described in the chapters that follow.