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close this bookSustaining the Future. Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 p.)
close this folderPart 2: Environmental issues and futures
close this folderTowards sustainable environmental and resource management futures in Sub-Saharan Africa
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View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe concept of sustainable development and its implications
View the documentDriving forces
View the documentLevels of environmental effects of human activities and sustainability concerns
View the documentConstraints on sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa
View the documentRecommendations
View the documentReferences


The concept of sustainable development and its implications
Driving forces
Levels of environmental effects of human activities and sustainability concerns
Constraints on sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa


Bede N. Okigbo


To the layperson, the environment consists simply of anything animal, plant, and mineral, in addition to other things around us such as the atmosphere, sun and, moon. To the ecologist, the environment is a more complex, multifaceted, interlocking, and overlapping phenomenon that is physical, biological, anthropic, and resource generating in nature (Pomeroy and Service 1986). The physical environment consists of: a terrestrial component, made up of land, water, wind, and climatic elements such as solar radiation and temperature; the aquatic component, made up of bodies of water, dissolved and suspended matter, currents, light, and other elements; the resources, made up of food of plant and animal origin, air (including oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide), water, shelter, etc.; the biological environment or component, consisting of living things made up of a diversity of species and their wide range of characteristics; and last, but not least in importance, the anthropic component consisting of humans and human multisectoral activities in agriculture, building, construction, fishing, hunting, industry, tourism, etc. It is of interest to note that humans and human activities are grouped into a separate category despite the fact that humans are also animals. This is because of the overwhelming influence or effects that humans have on the environment, shaping and conditioning things in the present and in the future. The implication of humans and human activities as a special component of the environment is that they give rise to other environments that are economic, political, and cultural in nature.

Again, to the layperson the above environmental resources (plant, animal, and mineral) are synonymous with natural resources. But, to the resource economist, in the human ecosystem humans assign utility to various elements of the environment, thus conferring on them the role of resources (Chapman 1969). A resource is the result of human interaction with elements of the environment. When humans make use of any element of the environment, thus changing its status to that of a resource that fulfils one or more human needs, this involves a different kind of interaction or interrelationships in which humans play a central role.

A component of the environment that humans use as a resource acquires an economic or rarity value, whose magnitude depends on its nature and the size of the requirements humans place on it, which depend on the size of population using it, humans' needs and desires, and humans' values and skills (Chapman 1969). The implications of this are that the economic value of a resource depends a lot on the magnitude of its reserve(s), its characteristics, including ease of extraction and processing, and the technologies available for rendering it into forms that satisfy human needs. Consequently, according to Chapman (1969):

Resource availability is the result of interactions among the nature and size of humans' requirements, the physical occurrences of the resource, and the means of producing it.

The future availability of resources can be determined on the basis of assessment of:

- the particular combination of economic and technological conditions that determine present production,

- the level of production that would take place under different economic conditions,

- the level of production that could take place under different technological conditions (i.e. types, mixes, sequences, and timing),

- the nature and quantity of the total physical stock of both renewable and non-renewable resources.

The total stock or resource base is the sum of all components of the environment that would be resources if they could be extracted from it.

The resource constitutes the proportion of the total stock that humans can extract and make available under prevailing technological and economic conditions.

The reserve is that proportion of the resource that is known with reasonable certainty to be available under prevailing technological, economic, and social conditions.

The requirements and availability of resources very much depend on their interrelationships with time, space, and technology. The relative importance of time lies in the fact that, whereas certain biological processes take a very long time, some ecological processes may require a relatively short time, and human activities may take only a very short time to change the result of thousands of years of evolution. Furthermore, technological changes occur with time, and the economics of the availability of resources may depend on the distribution in space or distance between sources and where they are used, and the technology available at a given time or stage for facilitating access to the resources.

The importance of science and technology then lies in the fact that, through their applications, we can (a) identify the presence and determine the amount (quantity) and the characteristics (quality) of reserves, (b) conserve/manage them, and (c) process them with increasing cost-effectiveness in order to ensure rational utilization of resources. Management and economics are of importance in that resources are often scarce and/or exhibit inequalities in availability and distribution. Management also is very important in the processing and utilization of scarce resources as cheaply as possible. It is not surprising then that, in sustainable development, there is increasing realization of the interrelationship between economics and ecology. In fact it is for this reason that, in an age of sustainable development, Goodland (1991) maintains that conventional economics and conventional ecology should be integrated into ecological economics (fig. 7.1 and table 7.1).

The complex interrelationships that exist among resources and humans in various sectoral development activities are shown in figure 7.2. It is necessary to emphasize that, in the development process, both general and specialized education are important in our understanding and managing of natural resources. Education provides a solid foundation for the research needed to develop new technologies and expand the frontiers of knowledge, while training is necessary for imparting the skills needed for conservation, management, and rational utilization of resources.

Fig. 7.1 The domains of conventional economics, conventional ecology, environmental and resource economics, and ecologicd economics (Source: Constanza 1991)

The problem of renewable and non-renewable resources

In the development process, strategies and technologies used in the conservation, management, and utilization of renewable resources should be different from those used for non-renewable resources, such as minerals. Non-renewable resources should be conserved and wisely utilized so as substantially to extend the time of their availability and existence. Such a long period of time is necessary for seeking and finding alternatives. Although renewable resources can be regenerated, they have to be conserved and carefully utilized in order to realize their renewability. For example, although the soil is renewable, if it is managed in such a way that rates of loss and degradation exceed the rate of soil formation, the result is lack of renewability and sustainability. Similarly, although plants or animals are renewable, the extermination of certain species that are necessary for their breeding and continuous regeneration may ultimately lead to their extinction. Thus the loss of species or even individuals with unique characteristics results in the loss of their irreplaceable unique genetic information and make-up.

Table 7.1 Comparison of "conventional" economics and ecology with ecological economics

  Conventional" economics "Conventional" ecology Ecological economics
Basic world-view Mechanistic, static, atomistic Evolutionary, atomistic Dynamic, systems, evolutionary
  Individual tastes and preferences taken as given and as the dominant force. The resource base viewed as essentially limitless owing to technical progress and infinite substitutability Evolution acting at the genetic level viewed as the dominant force. The resource base is limited. Humans are just another species but are rarely studied Human preferences, understanding, technology, and organization co-evolve to reflect broad ecological opportunities and constraints. Humans are responsible for understanding their role in the larger system and managing it for sustain ability
Time frame Short Multi-scale Multi-scale
  50 years maximum, 1-4 years usual Days to eons, but time-scales often define non-communicating sub-disciplines Days to eons, multi-scale synthesis
Space frame Local to international Local to regional Local to global
  Framework invariant at increasing spatial scale; basic units change from individuals to firms to countries Most research has focused on relatively small research sites in single ecosystems. but larger scales becoming more important recently Hierarchy of scales
Species frame Humans only Non-humans only Whole ecosystem including humans
  Plants and animals included only rarely for contributory value Attempts to find "pristine" eco-systems untouched by humans Acknowledges interconnections between humans and rest of nature
Primary micro goal Max. profits (firms) Maximum reproductive success Must be adjusted to reflect system goals
  Max. utility (individuals) All agents following micro goals leads to macro goal being fulfilled Social organization and cultural institutions at higher levels of the space/time hierarchy ameliorate conflicts produced by myopic pursuit of micro goals at lower levels, and vice
  All agents following micro goals leads to macro goal being fulfilled. External costs and benefits given lip-service but usually ignored    
Assumptions about technical progress Very optimistic Pessimistic or no opinion Prudently sceptical
Academic stance Disciplinary Disciplinary Transdisciplinary
  Monistic; focus on mathematical tools More pluralistic than economics, but still focused on tools and techniques. Few rewards for comprehensive, integrative work Pluralistic; focus on problems

Source: Constanza (1991).

Fig. 7.2 The interactions among components of natural resources in sectoral development acffvities (Source: B. Brouillette, N. J. Graves, and G. Last, African Geography for Schools, London: Longman; Paris: UNESCO, 1974)

Futures in normal commercial everyday usage are used to designate goods and stocks sold for future delivery. Here the term is used in a prognostic manner to forecast what the future portends in terms of the status of resources and the condition of the environment for future generations as a result of the impacts of multifarious human activities. It requires an assessment of past and present development policies, strategies, technologies, and programmes with regard to the extent to which they have resulted in unsustainability, lack of it, or enhancement of the resource base. A sustainable future will be possible only where appropriate and effective measures are taken now to replace the past and present non-environmentally friendly development policies, strategies, technologies, and programmes, and in addition to introduce the requisite changes in attitudes, morals, and behaviours in different cultures.

The concept of sustainable development and its implications


Sustainable development as a concept and development paradigm for lasting progress was originally defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) to mean "development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (WCED 1987). The Commission further added that "this concept does not imply limits - not absolute limits but limitations imposed by the present state of technology and social organization on environmental resources and by the ability of the biosphere to absorb the effects of human activities." This definition implies that sustainable development involves policies, strategies, and programmes that do not make it more difficult for the development process to be continued by future generations than it is for present generations. It would appear that this definition emphasizes the objectives to be achieved rather than explicitly defining sustainable development.

One of the earlier concepts of sustainable development was advanced by Sachs (1973), who used the term eco-development. Eco development was defined to consist of strategies designed for particular eco-zones with a view to:

(a) making fuller use of specific resources in each eco-zone in order to meet the basic needs of its inhabitants while safeguarding the long-term prospects by rational management of these resources instead of their destructive exploitation;

(b) reducing to a minimum the negative environmental effects and even as far as possible using waste products for productive purposes;

(c) designing adequate technologies for achieving these goals. (Ominde 1977)

There does not appear to be any substantial difference between eco-development and sustainable development, both of which embody environmental concerns in development activities and programmes. The real difference lies in the fact that, whereas the former was a development paradigm born at the beginning of the period of environmental and "limits of growth" concerns, the latter came at a time when environmental activism and pressures from green parties all over the world necessitated not only a new development paradigm but a slogan and buzzword christened sustainable development.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP 1992) argues that the WCED (1987) definitions of sustainable development have been criticized as ambiguous and confusing because "sustainable development," "sustainable growth," and "sustainable use" have been used interchangeably even though they do not have the same meaning. "Sustainable growth" is regarded as contradictory in that nothing physical can grow indefinitely, while "sustainable use" is applicable only to renewable resources in terms of "using them at rates within the capacity for renewability." Based on these arguments, UNEP (1992) put forward the following relevant definitions:

Sustainable development means improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems.

Sustainable economy is the product of sustainable development; it maintains its natural resource base and it can continue to develop by adapting to changing circumstances and through improvements in knowledge organization, technical efficiency, and wisdom.

Sustainable living indicates the lifestyle of an individual who feels the obligation to care for nature and for every human individual, and who acts accordingly.

According to MECCA (1992), sustainable development is said to exist if each generation per capita inherits a more valuable stock of capital (human-made and natural) than the earlier generations. This definition raises the question of what are valuable resources and the problem of how far one can be more specific about sustainability without bringing in value judgements on what is important for ensuring a given quality of life.

Recently, Benneh (1993) presented an African concept of sustainability that constitutes an extension of the WCED (1987) definition of sustainable development by emphasizing that sustainable development is not simply a question of managing resources in a manner that meets current needs while not making it more difficult for future generations to meet theirs. Rather, it is a strategy of resource management that regards the capital stock as a baton in a relay race handed down to us by our ancestors, and it is our duty to ensure that it is successfully transferred to future generations more or less intact and without much decline in value.

Although this concept, like the WCED (1987) definition, does not specifically indicate what sustainable development entails, it raises an issue that the WCED (1987) discussed but did not include or allude to in its definitions. This is the problem of transition, which takes into account the past, the present, and the future. It is perhaps the most difficult challenge and implication of sustainable development: it recognizes that maintenance of environmental quality, productivity potentialities, biological diversity, and resilience of ecosystems should go hand in hand with development activities, but it does not stipulate how the necessary changes from a past of exploitative squandering of the earth's natural resources and degradation of the environment to a sustainable future can be effected through the present period of transition when the necessary changes in attitudes, ethics, morality, culture, and lifestyles against the driving forces of polarization and momentum of the modernization process and other change factors discussed later will be made.

In this paper, sustainable development is defined as consisting of policies, strategies, plans, production systems, and technologies used in executing projects and programmes aimed at satisfying real human needs in perpetuity while maintaining environmental quality, biodiversity, the resilience of ecosystems, and the welfare of all organisms by integrating conservation, management, and rational utilization of resources at individual, institutional, community, national, regional, and global levels. Conservation here, according to Jacobs (1988), is an indispensable part of a wide field known as "the wise utilization of natural resources" aiming at utilization ad infinitum. It aims at (a) maintaining essential ecological processes and life-support systems, (b) preserving genetic diversity, and (c) ensuring the sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems.

What sustainable development entails

Requirements for sustainable development, according to WCED (1987), include: a political system that secures effective citizen participation; an economic system that is able to generate surpluses and technical knowledge on a self-reliant basis; a social system that provides for solutions for tensions arising from disharmonious development; a production system that respects the obligation to preserve the ecological base for development; a technological system that can search continuously for new solutions; an international system that fosters sustainable patterns of trade and finance; and an administrative system that is flexible and has the capacity for self-correction.

Caring for the Earth: A Strategy for Sustainable Living (IUCN/ UNEP/WWF 1991) enunciated nine principles for sustainable development:

Respect and care for the community of life.
Improve the quality of human life.
Conserve the earth's vitality and diversity.
Minimize the depletion of non-renewable resources.
Keep within the earth's carrying capacity.
Change personal attitudes and practices.
Enable communities to care for their own environments.
Provide a national framework for integration, development, and conservation.
Create a global alliance.

It is obvious from the above that sustainable development not only entails the embodiment of environmental concerns in development activities and technology use but also necessitates changes in attitudes, behaviour, philosophy, moral and ethical values, religious practices, and relationships among human beings and between humans on the one hand and organisms or things on the other at the local, national, regional, and global levels.

Implications and challenges in sustainable development

In addition to the above requirements for sustainable development, there are several implications of the sustainable development paradigm that pose serious challenges for mankind now and in the future. Some of these implications and challenges are discussed in Pearce et al. (1990), Goodland et al. (1991), and Sachs (1992). Only salient aspects of these are considered here.

According to Pearce et al. (1990), a key prerequisite for sustainability is maintaining the constancy of the stock of natural resources and environmental quality. But because this condition has already been breached, in that the environment in many situations has become degraded by human activities, the problem of maintaining the constancy of the capital stock is not just one of stopping further environmental degradation but undoubtedly one of enhancing the environment. The implications of this are addressed from different viewpoints by the Brundtland Report (WCED 1987), which stipulates that sustainable development requires non-depletion of the natural capital stock as indicated in the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN/ UNEP/WWF 1980), although WCED (1987) insists that, if needs are to be met on a sustainable basis, the earth's natural resources have to be both conserved and enhanced. Reasons for conserving the natural capital include moral obligation and the supposed mutual interdependence of development and natural capital conservation.

Goodland (1991) presents very convincing arguments and undeniable evidence to conclude that the limits of growth, in which the earth functions as a source of inputs and sink for waste products, have been reached and that options for ensuring sustainability in future are running out. Evidence for this conclusion includes: (a) over 80 per cent of the earth's net primary productivity is already being consumed to meet humans' food and other needs while population is still increasing, (b) global warming owing to increasing levels of carbon dioxide is already producing adverse climatic effects that threaten humans and various ecosystems, (c) ozone depletion is taking place owing to increasing levels of greenhouse gases (methane, CFCs, and nitrous oxide), which are eating up the protective ozone layer with adverse consequences for humans and other living things, (d) land degradation and loss of soil fertility and productivity make it difficult to produce enough food, feed, and fibre for rising populations of humans and animals, and (e) biodiversity has been lost with increasing deforestation, especially in species-rich tropical ecosystems, with loss of species estimated at 500 per annum.

Daly (1991) notes that the human economy has passed from an era in which human-made capital was the limiting factor to an economic development era in which increasingly scarce natural capital has become the limiting factor. He recommends that priority should be given to "qualitative development" based on more efficient use of energy and natural resources, an increase in end-use efficiency of the product through recycling, and the reduction of waste and pollutants.

Tinbergen and Hueting (1991) as well as Serafy (1991) consider equity issues, sustainability constraints under low rates of economic growth, uneven/varying population growth rates, and the effects of North-South trade on the environment and development in the South. Doubts are raised about the soundness of some WCED (1987) equity considerations in economic growth and the strategies aimed at increasing economic growth and development in developing countries going pari passu with lower non-increasing growth rates in developed countries in order to ensure that developing countries achieve higher per capita income and alleviation of poverty in order to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor countries. The fallacy in this is that, because growth in developed countries has naturally acquired momentum, it is very likely that its rate will continue to rise rather than decrease. Moreover, the intended objective can be achieved only if the developed countries transfer the resources needed to redress the negative effects of richer countries' arrested growth to the developing countries, thereby reducing poverty.

It is observed that the time-horizon of development should be taken into account, for some obvious reasons. First, sustainable development usually aims at a long-term time-frame of several generations, but politicians and policy makers plan on short-term time-frames of four to five years. Secondly, sustainable development that involves many generations or centuries cannot go on indefinitely where both population and per capita use of the earth's finite resources grow significantly. Even where population and economic activities remain static, the accumulation of pollutants and waste will continue to increase with the growth of entropy beyond nature's capacity for self-repair.

The principle of the free market mechanism as a way of creating certain optimal conditions has not often yielded the expected results in sustainable development because the blessings of free trade have associated with them (a) production pollution arising from the production process, (b) consumption pollution, which is the indirect effect of pollution produced by consumers in enjoying goods and services, and (c) negative impacts on the environment of the production process. Sustainable development cannot be achieved in a world where developed countries with higher technical skills for producing a wide range of technology selfishly focus on consumer goods and services instead of focusing on more basic improvements in using the world's resources to the benefit of the poor. Furthermore, sustainability cannot be achieved and inequalities eliminated through the trickle-down process from the developed countries unless the increasing ability to use resources more efficiently and to reduce waste and pollution is used to assist less fortunate people who cannot provide the minimum level of basic needs.

Liberalization and an increase in North-South trade and aid cooperation have not significantly contributed to equity and sustainable development, especially where the poor developing countries are tempted to exhaust their valuable natural reserves at lower prices in order to feed the trend-setting and unsustainable consumption patterns of the North in return for consumer goods and machinery. Such trade involves the depletion of natural resources by the sale of non-renewable minerals and harvests from soils, forests, and oceans, and the soils being increasingly used as the dumping sites of undesirable waste. Related to this is the fact that aid to developing countries to develop the same technologies that degrade the environment and cause the same pattern of polluting consumption as in the West cannot contribute to sustainable development.

Droste and Dogse (1991) observe that investments in education, science, and technology that contribute to human welfare and the decisions surrounding them are also often contributors to environmental problems. Examples include:

investments in short-term income-generating activities such as deforestation, intensive agriculture, and plantations, without concomitant investments in soil conservation and protection measures;

spending more money on combating pollution or on remedial measures than would be needed for preventive measures;

the use of subsidies, trade barriers, and various production technologies (including biotechnology) in the developed countries to produce surpluses that undermine the production of farmers in developing countries, making it difficult for the latter to compete or even ensure access to the inputs needed.

Constanza (1991) maintains that, to achieve global sustainability, it is necessary to switch from the concept of ecological and economic goals being in conflict, to one of economic systems being dependent on ecological life-support systems, and also to incorporate it into our thinking and actions at a very basic level. In other words, human beings must realize that:

(a) humans are only part of the subsystem in both local and global ecosystems;

(b) sustainability is a relationship between dynamic human economic systems and larger but normally slower-changing ecological systems in which human life can continue indefinitely, human cultures can develop, but the effects of human activities must remain within bounds, so as not to destroy the diversity, complexity, and function of the ecological life-support system.

It is necessary that the idea of economics being in conflict with ecology be replaced by one of the integration of conventional economics and conventional ecology into ecological economics, as shown in figure 7.1 and table 7.1. There is also a need to ensure continued adequate investment in natural capital and in finding ways of limiting physical growth so as to encourage development with an emphasis on qualitative improvement.

The above survey of the implications of sustainable development is necessary because it emphasizes that the problem is not mainly one of having a better definition of what sustainable development is. The main issue or critical factor is how to rehabilitate the natural resource base and repair the damage already done while not contributing to making things worse by continuing unsustainable living - locally, nationally, regionally, or globally. In this regard, it is also obvious that the greatest challenge is how to engender a transition that is steady, continuous, and on an even keel in all sectors at individual, community, national, regional, and global levels.

Driving forces

The problem of environmental degradation as a result of various development and other activities that constitute driving forces has to be understood as a basis for determining measures for ensuring sustainability. The driving forces considered here include:

agriculture, including livestock production and fishing
population explosion
fuelwood and energy management and associated deforestation
poverty and affluence urbanization
other miscellaneous activities and phenomena.

Holdgren, Daily, and Ehrlich (1995) recently included among driving forces: excessive population growth; maldistribution of consumption and investment; misuse of technology; corruption and mismanagement; and powerlessness of the victims. The authors also refer to underlying human frailties such as: greed, selfishness, intolerance, and shortsightedness; and ignorance, stupidity, apathy, and denial. These are among the miscellaneous activities and phenomena listed above but only modernization is considered in detail here, although they are implied when it is stressed that, for sustainable development, changes are needed in attitudes, lifestyles, morals, ethics, behaviour, and philosophy.


Modernization may be defined as a process of transformation of the way of life (culture, social and economic structures, and attitudes) from the characteristics of traditional societies to those dictated by changes brought about by industrialization, urbanization, trade, and communications. Of major importance in the modernization process is the West European influence, which was most pronounced during various periods of colonialism. This was followed by a period of political/ideological, technical, cultural, and other influences related to American/West European and East European aspects of modernization associated with the Cold War. With the end of communism, Westernization influences have become dominantly more American. However, it must be admitted that, just as with sustainable development, modernization has many interpretations. Its meanings and indicators range from its being equivalent to industrialization to a more complex process affecting all aspects of human life, with the indicators ranging from GNP, income, or number of cars per 100 people to combinations of major economic indicators ranging from life expectancy to numbers of scientists per 1,000 of population and quality of life indices. A few definitions of modernization are considered below to clarify the situation.

Todaro (1986) defines modernization as the transformations in attitudes, institutions, and ideologies that are associated with processes such as urbanization and industrialization, whose characteristic ideals include: rationality, which is the substitution of modern methods of thinking, acting, producing, distributing, and consuming for age-old traditional practices; planning or the search for a rational coordinated system of policy measures that can bring about and accelerate economic growth and development, with the plan period usually in units of five years; social and economic equalization aimed at promoting more equality or equity in status; improved institutions and attitudes, including changes that are deemed necessary to increase labour efficiency and diligence; the promotion of effective competition, social and economic mobility, and individual enterprise, raising living standards, changing outmoded land tenure systems, and changing educational and religious structures.

Hoogvelt (1982) defines modernization as a process by which developing countries were to be made either efficient producers and exporters of agricultural products and raw materials, or consumers of industrial products from the West, or both, thereby participating in world economic relations. Modernization started at the end of World War II in underdeveloped countries as a process in development activities regarded in liberal progressive circles as a necessary complement to the economic reconstruction in war-ravaged industrial countries and of a prosperous world capitalist economy based on free trade. In order to accomplish this goal rapidly, it was felt that fast changes from "stone age" to the twentieth century through the modernization process were necessary. According to the neo-evolutionary theory of development, modernization involved structural compatibility between certain primary consequences of modernization, consisting of advanced economic institutions (money markets, occupational specialization, profit maximization, etc.), and certain second-order consequences, consisting of Western "modern" political, social, and cultural institutions, with second-order institutions such as social mobility of individuals, nuclear family patterns, nationalism, formal education, a free press, voluntary associations, urbanization, and consumerism regarded as prerequisites for economic development. There was also some collusion of interests between Western international capitalism and the ruling elites of the new ax-colonial territories, who in many cases dictated the goal of development to be economic, involving the wholesale adoption of Western social, economic, and political structures. Traditional elements or counterparts of these consequences and characteristics of modernization, such as kinship and the extended family, were condemned as obstacles to development.

Until the second United Nations Development Decade, the above primary and secondary characteristics of modernization of the neo-evolutionary modernization theories led to the use of indicators for comparing developing countries that included such economic, political, and social factors as degree of urbanization, industrialization, political democracy, secularization, social mobility, occupational differentiation, free enterprise, and independent judiciary. The World Bank and other international organizations used these factors to outline the socio-economic programmes that contain these elements as a basis for qualifying for aid. Western technology, Western methods of production, and Western economic enterprises were also welcomed as vital agents of development.

Dube (1988) observes that, following World War II and the escalation of the number of independent countries, modernization was born as a new development paradigm. At that time, as new independent states launched massive economic development and technical change programmes aimed at getting them in a few years to where their erstwhile colonial rulers had taken centuries to reach, the developed countries were forced by conscience and humanitarian interest, in addition to strategic power interests and promise of long-term economic gain, to extend their cooperation in a limited way. Modernization emerged as one of the formulations of social scientists aimed at evolving stable patterns of relationship that were mutually beneficial, with prospects of short-term and long-term national interest weighing heavily on both developed and developing countries. In putting forward the theories of modernization, social scientists were determined not to offend the sensitivities of the new nations. "Modernization" was invented as a more acceptable term to replace "Westernization." Because of its academic respectability, funds flowed easily to research on this new paradigm, and aid was extended to programmes aimed at achieving it.

Dube (1988) also notes that modernity was understood to be a common behavioural system associated with the industrial, literate, and participant societies of Western Europe and North America. Developing countries were impressed by the varying degrees of success of the countries that early in the twentieth century joined the race for industrialization, such as Japan (the first Asian country to do so) and Russia. The basic underlying assumptions were that:

1. inanimate sources of power could be tapped with a view to solving human problems and ensuring minimum acceptable standards of living, the ceiling of which will rise progressively;

2. both industrial and collective efforts should be channelled to achieve this;

3. to create and run complex organizations, radical personality changes and attendant social structures and values were necessary.

As to the nature of modernization, it is regarded as a process very similar to development (see table 7.2). However, although many of the attributes of the two processes - such as their being revolutionary, complex, systematic, lengthy, and phased - are acceptable, others are open to question, including the following:

some of the benefits have been widely diffused but large sections of human society often remain unaffected;

the extent of their being global is debatable;

although the world is increasingly being described as a global village on account of homogenization, the rise of ethnicities and pluralities of culture is tearing it apart;

whether the process is irreversible remains to be seen - the rise of fundamentalism and what is happening in the Soviet Union indicate that it is not;

whether the processes are progressive remains a matter of opinion, with individual alienation and social anomalies occurring and collective violence increasing;

although the benefits are substantial, the social cost and cultural erosion (coupled with environmental degradation) are escalating.

There are several dilemmas associated with modernization and development:

there are inequalities in wealth and affluence, with many countries not attaining high growth rates of GNP;

many countries (developed or developing) face cycles of recession, severe inflation, and growing unemployment;

the rationality of the system is in question, with current gaps in access to resources among countries and between men and women;

there is increasing violence and crime;

corruption is a way of life in many places;

the lifestyles of the affluent in developed countries are taking hold in developing countries;

there is misdirection of science and technology and even funds for development to military and disharmonious pursuits;

although developed countries spend billions of dollars on tools of destruction, they cannot devote 1-2 per cent of their GNP to development in the developing countries;

developing countries spend millions on military hardware while millions of their people die of hunger;

the world's finite energy resources of coal, tar, petroleum, oil, natural gas, and uranium not only are unevenly distributed but are becoming exhausted, while the capabilities for generating alternatives and their sustainable use vary from one country to another;

non-fuel mineral resources are also running out, as well as being unequally distributed;

world forest resources are disappearing fast and rapid loss of bio-diversity is also taking place;

billions of tonnes of soil are being lost to erosion and vast areas of agriculture are being degraded;

increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases are causing ozone depletion and climatic change.

Table 7.2 The similarities between modernization and development

Modernization Development
1. Revolutionary process with significant technological and cultural consequences, e.g. rural agrarian cultures being transformed into urban industrial cultures 1. Same
2. Complex and multidimensional process with series of cognitive, behavioural, and institutional modifications and restructuring 2. Same
3. Systematic process with variations in one dimension producing important co-variations in other dimensions 3. Same
4. Global process, with ideas spreading from one centre of origin to other parts of the world 4. Same
5. Lengthy process with no known way of producing it instantly 5. Same
6. Phased process that, according to experience, involves known phases and sub-phases, namely: 6. Same, namely:
(i) traditional (i) underdeveloped
(ii) transitional (ii) developing
(iii) modernized (iii) developed
7. Homogenizing process, with advanced stages significantly narrowing differences between national societies and ultimately reaching a stage when the universal imperative of modern ideas and institutions prevails, and various societies are so homogenized as to be capable of forming a world state 7. Same
8. Irreversible process, although there may be occasional upsets and temporary breakdowns 8. Same
9. Progressive process regarded as inevitable and desirable, ultimately contributing to human well being culturally and materially 9. Same
10. Painful process and in some instances in the past built on painful and ruthless exploitation of segmeets of society, dividing or integrating peoples, and resulting in privileged or underprivileged people 10. Same for areas that have been under colonial rule
11. Multilinear and multi-path process, with societies not necessarily all taking the same route but some times alternative paths 11. Same
12. Cannot be visualized as continuous or unending path since they are conditioned by outer and inner limits and human perceptions can change and have changed course 12. Same

Source: Adapted from Dube (1988).

Dube (1988) identifies several factors that obstruct modernization and observes that many nations are torn between their allegiance to tradition and a commitment to modernization. Several barriers to modernization of an ideological, motivational, institutional, and organizational nature are encountered, as well as problems of a decline of the paradigm, ambiguities and inadequacies, environmental constraints, and global problems.

Modernization and sustainable development in Africa

Modernization has associated with it several benefits, including: education and educational infrastructure; applications of science and technology in banishing ignorance and superstition; improved health and sanitation; improved communications; improved water supplies; improved nutrition; and employment and high incomes. Most of these consequences, except that of high incomes, are very likely to enhance sustainability in development.

There are also many changes associated with modernization that have adverse effects on sustainability in development. These include: increased dependence on the West for what Africans wear or how they think; the importation of inappropriate technologies; a change in standards associated with lack of appreciation of traditional things; unsustainable lifestyles; and acculturation stress owing to massive exposure to Western media and communication channels to an extent that Africans are unable to fight back. It is a paradox, for example, that improved health and medical services, better sanitation, a decline in infant mortality, and longer life expectancy, which are associated with modernization, are causes of rapid population growth and its obvious adverse environmental and socio-economic consequences.

Modernization has made deep inroads into African culture and has also caused changes in attitudes and overall changes in lifestyles that are not as sustainable as some traditional African ones. Increased dependence on Western or imported clothes, food, and drink results in loss of income and foreign exchange needed for development. The importation and use of excessive amounts of certain pesticides, chemicals, and inappropriate technologies result in damage to the environment. Some technologies, such as agricultural and forest logging machinery, can do serious damage to the soil and vegetation. The emergence of a global culture has adverse effects on the attitude of the youth towards traditional African culture and sense of standards. In African culture, work is appreciated and a farmer has status depending on his productivity. With modernization, farmers have lower status irrespective of their productivity. As a result of modernization, indigenous knowledge is not appreciated or utilized, yet, without a good understanding, knowledge, and appreciation of indigenous knowledge, traditional resource management strategies, and technologies, African research and development activities cannot develop production systems for the location-specific conditions in Africa. Exposure to the media has significant effects on Africans and not only causes the development of unsustainable attitudes and habits but also causes acculturation stresses.

Agriculture, livestock production, and other driving forces

Modernization has been given detailed treatment here because it has an all-pervading influence on all human sectoral development activities, attitudes, value systems, and way of life. The other driving forces are only briefly addressed because they are covered in greater detail elsewhere in this volume. A summary of the environmental impacts of these driving forces is presented in table 7.3. Reference to this indicates that population is a major driving force because its rapid growth exerts considerable pressure on resources, renders sustainable traditional farming systems outmoded and unsustainable, and contributes to the adverse effects of urbanization, scarcity-triggered deforestation, fuelwood management, etc.

At the same time, such forces as commercialization of agricultural production, related market forces, and, more recently, measures necessitated by structural adjustment (SAP) often also cause exploitative damage to the environment and the resource base.

Levels of environmental effects of human activities and sustainability concerns

The environmental impacts of development activities occur at the local, national, regional, and global levels. Concern about them also occurs at all levels but the magnitude of the adverse effects of certain activities may be more seriously felt at one level than at the others. Similarly, measures to be taken in dealing with the problems caused by adverse environmental impacts may be more effective if taken at one level than at another.

Table 7.3 Major driving forces and some of their main environmental impacts

Driving forces Some of the main environmental impacts
1. Agriculture, livestock production, fishing and hunting Under high population pressure and intensification of farming, traditional farming systems become out moded, causing land degradation including erosion.
  Increasing livestock numbers beyond carrying capacity also cause land degradation.
  Cash cropping can result in excessive deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and environmental pollution.
  Mechanical clearing and excessive tillage cause land degradation and erosion.
  Land degradation causes expansion of farming and grazing often into more marginal areas, resulting in more deforestation and land degradation.
  Deforestation and damage to vegetation cover in farming and grazing, in addition to unregulated fishing and hunting, result in rapid loss of biodiversity.
  Burning of vegetation in farming and pasture management produces greenhouse gases, which pollute the air, smoke, and suspended particulate matter.
  Ruminants produce methane, which pollutes the atmosphere.
  Intensification of farming without adequate fertilizer/manure application causes land degradation, while excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides also causes environmental pollution.
  Soil erosion and excessive runoff cause siltation of streams and rivers, with adverse effects on aquatic resources.
2. Population growth Rapid growth intensifies pressures on resources, resulting in excessive deforestation and environmenal degradation because sustainable traditional farming systems cannot cope.
  Population growth drastically reduces available land per capita, resulting in removal of all natural vegetation and loss of biodiversity of plants, animals, and micro-organisms. This either eliminates national parks and reserves or causes sharp declines in areas available.
  High population pressure on forestry and fishery resources also causes serious loss of biodiversity.
  Population concentration generates enormous amounts of waste, which pollutes the environment, while concentrations of livestock also degrade the environment.
3. Industrialization Some industrial technologies and processes cause atmospheric pollution, with greenhouse gases, acidrain, and loading of the air with suspended particulate matter.
  Undegraded plastic products produced by industry constitute a major environmental hazard.
  Industry produces enormous quantities of solid and liquid waste in addition to toxic chemicals, which pollute the environment. Some of these hazardous wastes in developed countries are transported to Africa.
  Industrial accidents (such as the one that occurred in Bhopal in India) endanger life and property in addition to destroying the environment.
4. Urbanization Urbanization causes climatic, hydrological, geomorphological, vegetational, and environmental quality changes.
  The production of large amounts of liquid and solid waste, in addition to contaminants, causes pollution of land, water bodies, and atmosphere.
  Urban transport produces greenhouse gases and smog.
  Urbanization increases flooding and lowers water quality and hydrological amenities.
  Urbanization increases crime rates and drug traffficking and breeds slums.
5. Fuelwood and energy management Over 80% of the energy in Sub-Saharan Africa comes from fuelwood and biomass.
  The collection of fuelwood and charcoal to satisfy this demand results in rapid rates of deforestation, which exacerbate the environmental degradation caused by forest clearing for agriculture, pastures, ranges, and other land uses.
  The making of charcoal and burning of fuelwood produce greenhouse gases and particulates that pollute the atmosphere and contribute to climate change and ozone depletion.
  The building of large dams for hydroelectric power results in eutrophication. Sedimentation behind dams for irrigation increases the incidence of parasitic waterborne diseases such as bilharzia, aquatic weed problems, etc.
6. Poverty and affluence The poor have limited access to resources and wreak havoc by exploiting the environment to the extent that there is rapid irreversible degradation.
  The poor, who cannot purchase inputs for farming, mine the soil, thereby causing land degradation.
  The poor cannot afford to provide sanitation services, with the result that land, water, and atmosphere are polluted.
  Affluence causes people to destroy the environment through the excessive use of chemicals and pesticides and the maintenance of unsustainable livelihoods.
7. Other miscellaneous activities and phenomena Examples of miscellaneous factors that also have adverse impacts on the environment include greed,
  excessive consumption patterns, war and social conflicts, etc., which result in environmental degradation and damage to life and property.

Local impacts

Certain effects of human or development activities may be highly localized. For example, if a whole tree falls in a tropical forest it knocks down or carries with it broken branches of surrounding vegetation or lianas and may smash and kill several small seedlings, herbs, and shrubs that are in its way. Within the damaged area, called the chablise, some light is allowed into the canopy. Within a short time most of the non-woody and succulent material decomposes and releases nutrients to the soil, from where they are recycled in a more or less closed cycle. Within a few years the chablise is covered by vegetation and there is no movement of materials outside the ecosystem. Similarly, a small clearing in the forest for shifting cultivation may have only a limited localized effect and even the gases produced in the slash and burn clearing do not travel very far away since the volume of the gases produced may be very small.

National and regional impacts

Most environmental effects that might attract attention or have impacts at the national level start in a small way locally and then gather momentum to become important at both national and international levels. For example, many river basins cut across several countries. According to UNEP (1992), the proportion of river basins in Africa that are international, out of a total of 56 river basins, is 26 per cent, compared with 22 per cent in Europe, 19 per cent in Asia, 17 per cent in South America, and 16 per cent in North and Central America. It is obvious that in such river basins as in the Niger and the Nile, development activities and natural disasters such as floods upstream may have trans-boundary effects along the river basin. Although small isolated forest fires have only local effects in Africa, during the dry season north or south of the equator fires in hundreds of small clearings produce smoke and gases that combine to contribute a considerable amount of greenhouse gases, which in turn gather momentum to have regional impacts. When they join jet streams in the upper atmosphere they may have global effects. It is obvious from this example that some of the environmental impacts, whether local or regional, are related to time. For example, whereas Africa's contribution to the global load of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases constituted less than 100 million tonnes in 1900, by 1980 the CO2 released by burning fuelwood and by deforestation, which minimizes the sink capacity for CO2, amounted to about 700 million tonnes per year (see fig. 7.3).

The activities and impacts of tropical deforestation also occur at different levels. In fact, Wood (1990) observes that "at the local level deforestation primarily affects shifting cultivators and a growing population of rural peasants" but "the same problem multiplied over thousands of locations and combined with extensive logging can exacerbate the global issue of accelerated build-up of carbon dioxide." Wood (1990) likens the environmental politics of deforestation, consisting of four expanding layers of eco-political interaction at local, national, multilateral, and global levels, to the four sides of an upside-down pyramid (fig. 7.4). Each of the sides of this "upside down pyramid" -number of actors; number of political jurisdictions; complexity of ecological cause and effect relationships; and institutional obstacles to enforcement -represents an attribute of the deforestation problem that is compounded as it moves up the hierarchy. Thus deforestation not only becomes more complex ecologically as it moves from the local level to the global but also becomes more intransigent politically.

Fig. 7.3 Annual carbon release for the biomass system of the world's four major regions, 1900-1980 (Note: Whereas Africa's CO2 emissions from petroleum fuels in the 1980s were low - 0.25 tons/capita, equivalent to 8% of the figure for the United Kingdom - its CO2 emissions due to deforestation were about 700 million tons, or 1.5 tons/capita, at a time when such emissions were negligible or negative for European countries. Source: G. Leach, Agroforestry and the way out for Africa, in M. Suliman, ea., The Greenhouse Effect and Its Impact on Africa, London: Institute for African Alternatives, 1990)

A peculiar kind of trans-boundary environmental impact involves locally generated toxic waste in developed countries, which is transported across the seas to be deposited at minimum cost in some developing countries. This made it a global problem and the United Nations had to step in and formulate a convention to deal with such wastes.

Problem of transmission of cultural behaviour and standards at the international or global level

An aspect of modernization that could have very adverse effects on sustainability is the globalization of culture and economy that has exposed Africans and some indigenous peoples to advertisements via global television, video, radio, newspapers, and other media. Not only is it possible to advertise by television and radio, but fashion shows and behaviour patterns of people in Europe and America are projected to Africans in their own bedrooms, thereby making them interested in the material luxury consumption propensities of the North.

Fig. 7.4 Hierarchy of eco-political interactions in tropical deforestation (Source: Wood 1990)

Not only fashion but also criminal acts and lifestyles that are by no means sustainable are being "marketed" through the media. There is no doubt that the lack of strong cultural discipline in Africa as compared with Asia is one of the reasons that the level of savings in Africa is much lower than that in Asia. Although we have considered environmental impacts that start locally and gather momentum at the regional level to become global and affect millions of people physically, there is also a situation where people's attitudes and cultures are altered at the global level, and whereas certain global conventions have been passed to combat the former situation, it is not so easy to inculcate sustainable lifestyles or attitudes in the face of market forces and the globalization of culture that have become or are fast becoming deeply entrenched.

Constraints on sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Constraints on sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa are legion. Some are general and others are sectoral or specific. Some are local while others are national or regional. It must also be admitted that, prior to the adoption of the current sustainable development paradigm, Sub-Saharan Africa lagged behind other regions in food security, standard of living, and various aspects of development. Consequently, the adoption of a new development paradigm that places more emphasis on environmental resource conservation does not eliminate the existing constraints on development. Rather it requires more interdisciplinary or systems approaches, greater sensitivity to environment in policies, strategies, planning, and execution of development programmes, and stringency in defining the characteristics and nature of technologies that can be used to ensure the maintenance of environmental quality and the conservation of natural capital stock, which is imperative for sustainable development.

General constraints

The general constraints on sustainable development are political, socio-economic, and technological in nature.

Political constraints

THE COLONIAL LEGACY. At the time when explorers established contact with Africa and pushed further inland and developed a lucrative trade in spices, ivory, and forest products in exchange for alcohol and various manufactured goods, the prevailing development ideology in Europe was based on the Old Testament idea expressed in Genesis that God gave man "dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." Consequently, it was generally believed that humans had the right to exploit the natural resources of Africa and other parts of the world as desired. No serious effort was made to conserve natural resources until late in the eighteenth century when it was observed that with the extinction of the dodo in Mauritius it became necessary for measures to be taken to ensure the survival of diverse species of organisms through the establishment of reserves. The establishment of colonial spheres of influence and the arrival of Christianity, which in some areas preceded colonial administrations, dealt a death blow to the appreciation of even ecologically sound sustainable traditional or indigenous resource management strategies, practices, systems, attitudes, and behaviour patterns in African culture. This was most pronounced where these practices were applied as taboos associated with traditional African religion. It is not surprising, therefore, that taboos dealing with hunting and fishing were abolished outright and in agriculture such practices as intercropping were regarded as primitive. With colonialism came changes in the African perspective of looking at things, Westernization, and the propensity for consumption patterns of a more materialistic kind that are satisfied only with imports of food and manufactured goods, leading to increasing dependence on the developed countries.

POLITICAL INSTABILITY. NO sustainable development can be achieved in Sub-Saharan Africa with the kind of endemic political instability that has been the order of the day since independence in the 1960s. The instability is not unrelated to the artificial boundaries cutting across ethnic groups or groupings of incompatible people in the same country. Although inter-tribal wars were in existence before colonial administrations were established, there are indications that Europeans actually encouraged inter-tribal conflicts that supplied captives or prisoners to be sold in the slave trade. Moreover, the divide-andrule policies prior to independence often led to incompatibilities and unequal development among different areas or peoples lumped together in the same country. Coups and frequent changes in government have resulted in inconsistencies in policies and development programmes and a lack of continuity in development activities, all of which are incompatible with sustainable development. Figure 7.5 shows the extent of political instability in African countries, as indicated by the numbers of military regimes, by civil strife, and by stages in the democratization process.

CORRUPTION AND DEFICIENCIES IN GOVERNANCE. It has been indicated earlier that one aspect of modernization is the collusion between the elite or politicians in power in African countries with businessmen or agents of the former colonial powers and, in fact, other countries to ensure that certain development activities are executed in ways that are of mutual benefit to the individuals or businesses involved, often to the detriment of the common people in the African countries concerned. It is also well known that, while some African countries are unable to allocate funds to vital development projects, some of the politicians are busy stashing millions of dollars of ill-gotten money in Swiss banks or in investments in property in foreign countries. Related problems are a lack of accountability, waste, and a lack of grass-roots democratic institutions and participation in decision making. In the past, more emphasis was given to top-down approaches to extension work and development programme execution. It is only recently that emphasis is being given to bottom-up participatory approaches.

Fig. 7.5 Stage of democratization, civil stability, and economic status of African countries, October 1992 (Source: L 'Express, Paris, 8 October 1992))

DEFICIENCIES IN PLANNING. Sustainable development necessitates the adoption of holistic or systems approaches, which call for multidisciplinary interaction involving all relevant disciplines and ministries simultaneously working together in the planning process in an integrated manner. In sustainable development, environmental concerns are best integrated into the programme at the planning stage, when measures are taken to ensure the compatibility of all sectoral plans and the integration of environmental and developmental concerns at all stages. This necessitates special training and orientation of all concerned.

INAPPROPRIATE POLICIES AND STRATEGIES. Concern about the environment must be embodied in development policies and strategies. In other words, policies must be formulated in relation to the objectives to be achieved, and the strategies to be adopted must aim at a range of alternative strategy options that ensure conservation of resources and as far as possible enhancement of the quality of the resource base.

DEFICIENCIES IN LEGAL AND LEGISLATIVE SUPPORT OF DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES. There is need for economic incentives and legal and legislative instruments as a back-up for development projects in which maintenance of environmental quality and the conservation of resources are given high priority. Without such instruments, it would be difficult to ensure the achievement of resource conservation and environmental quality and to take the necessary measures to enforce compliance. In developing such legal and legislative instruments, it would be necessary to develop appropriate guidelines based on ecological and economic principles.

LACK OF EFFECTIVE REGIONAL INTEGRATION AND COLLABORATION ;IN DEVELOPMENT. Since the 1960s when many African countries became independent, all regional R&D organizations such as the CCTA (Commission for Technical Cooperation in Africa), EAFFRO (East African Freshwater Fisheries Research Organization), and related inter-territorial research organizations have broken down. Yet, with the small size of many countries, the limited resources available, the potentialities for sharing information, and experience and participation in R&D activities of mutual interest, there is no reason why African countries should be more strongly linked to their former colonial masters than to their African neighbours. This is the case not only in trade but sometimes also in the sharing and exchange of information on natural resources management and utilization. Even political and economic organizations such as OAU (Organization of African Unity), ECA (Economic Commission for Africa), and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) rarely function as well as intended.

Socio-economic constraints

Socio-economic constraints on sustainable development include deficiencies in education and training, the lack of an effective campaign of public enlightenment and orientation, poverty, unfavourable economic conditions, and limitations in financial support.

Doubts continue to be expressed about the relevance of African education at all levels to the requirements of human resource and institutional capacity-building for innovative R&D in African countries. Sustainable development calls for environmental education at all levels and the development of appropriate curricula in science and technology embodying various aspects of natural resources conservation and management. The recommended ratio of 60:40 of students in science and technology to arts and humanities, respectively, in African schools and universities is rarely achieved at all levels in any African country. There are also deficiencies in the education of women, with the number of women at all levels far below the number of men, especially in the sciences.

With the change in development paradigm, there is a need for a public enlightenment campaign aimed at creating better awareness about sustainable development, what it is, what it entails, and the role of the masses in ushering it in sooner rather than later in Africa. Special training courses need to be developed in environmental monitoring, resources inventorying, and environmental impact assessment.

The prevailing poverty and adverse economic conditions in African countries owing to heavy debt burdens, unfavourable economic effects of structural adjustment, and two decades of continuing decline in commodity prices have left African countries with limited funds to maintain adequate levels of relevant R&D activities, to purchase, repair, and replace scientific equipment, as well as to acquire journals and literature in relevant scientific disciplines.

Technological constraints

Development involves the application of science and appropriate technologies to the conservation, management, processing, and rational utilization of natural resources. Since most African countries have neither the critical mass of trained personnel in many fields and at different levels, nor the institutional capacity for the generation and adaptation of technologies in order to make them appropriate for executing development programmes, self-reliance and success in development have eluded them. In the past, many development projects have been either disappointing or total failures owing to attempts at horizontal transfer of technologies and use of inappropriate technologies in location-specific situations. Moreover, because sustainability was not an explicit objective of development projects, no serious effort was made to choose and develop technologies that ensure economic viability, ecological soundness, and cultural acceptability.

Specific or sectoral constraints

In addition to the above general constraints on sustainable development, there are sectoral constraints on agriculture, including forestry and fisheries, industrial development, and mining.

Constraints on agriculture

The major constraints on sustainable agricultural production in tropical Africa are physico-chemical, biological, and socio-economic in nature. They are listed in table 7.4.

Constraints on industrial development

Constraints here are of three types, namely: environmental and natural resource constraints, technical and technological constraints, and socio-economic constraints.

The environmental and natural resource constraints include: high levels of environmental pollution and an inability or lack of means

Table 7.4 Constraints on agricultural production in tropical Africa

Physical constraints
Unfavourable climatic conditions include:
- rainfall that is unreliable in onset, duration, and intensity
- unpredictable periods of drought, floods, and environmental stresses
- reduced effective rainfall on sandy soils and steep slopes
- high soil temperature for some crops and biological processes (N-fixation)
- high rates of decomposition and low level of organic matter
- cloudiness and reduced photosynthetic efficiency
Most soils of the humid and subhumid tropics
- are intensely weathered, sandy, and low in clay
- have very low cation exchange capacity (CEC) and thus also less active colloidal complex
- have very low inherent fertility (except on hydromorphic and young volcanic soils)
- have very high acidity and sometimes high surface temperatures
- are extremely subject to multiple nutrient deficiencies and toxicities under continuous cultivation
- have very high P-fixation
- are extremely leached, and thus at high risk of erosion under prevailing rainstorms
- have serious salinity problems under poor irrigation management
Biological constraints
- unimproved crops and livestock
- low yields and low potential
- susceptibility to disease and pests
- high incidence of disease, pests, and weeds owing to environment that favours these phenomena
- drastic environmental changes, brought about by human activities that have adverse effects on ecological equilibrium
Socio-economic constraints
- small farm size, more drastically reduced by population pressure
- unfavourable land tenure systems, often resulting in fragmentation of holdings
- shortage of labour
- lack of credit and low income
- poor marketing facilities and pricing structure
- high cost and extreme scarcity of inputs
- poor extension services
- illiteracy and superstition, which sometimes hamper adoption process
- poor transportation
- inappropriateness of inputs
- lack of package approach to technology, development, and use

Source: Okigbo (1982).

for enforcing safety standards; dependence on imports for a substantial proportion of raw materials and equipment needed in industries; and limited allocation of resources for the conservation of natural capital stock and environmental protection.

Technological and technical constraints include: dependence on imported equipment, which often does not meet safety standards in the originating countries; lack of adequate capabilities for the maintenance and repair of equipment; deficiencies in human resources development, experience, and training; and limited research in promoting energy efficiency and the use of alternative energy resources.

Socio-economic constraints consist of: a lack of clear-cut industrial policies and strategies for sustainable development; high priority given to heavy industries at the expense of agricultural and light industries based on available renewable natural resources; high priority given to the achievement of rapid economic growth at the expense of environmental quality; limitations in industrial managerial experience; inability to monitor, control, and enforce environmental safety standards, and deficiencies in legal and economic instruments to support these; use of subsidies to promote practices that are environmentally degrading; the existence of poverty among large segments of the population, with markedly unequal distributions of wealth; and deficiencies in legal provisions for the protection of workers and for ensuring a safe and healthy work environment.

Constraints on mineral industry development

Constraints on sustainable development in the mining industry, as in industry, consist of environmental and resource constraints, technological and technical constraints, and socio-economic constraints.

Environmental and natural resource constraints consist of: a lack of adequate environmental safeguards to minimize environmental damage and degradation, especially in several sectoral development activities including road construction and open-cast mining; the fact that mining activities and practices sometimes cause gullies and considerable damage to the landscape and surrounding useful land; deficiencies in laws and regulations concerning the safety and protection of workers; considerable amounts of sediments and waste released into rivers and streams where they pollute the environment; limited provision for environmental rehabilitation of mined sites.

Technical and technological constraints may arise because mining, except for semi-precious stones, is often under the monopolistic control of multinational companies that conduct very little research and training in the host countries. The main constraints include: a lack of improved technologies for small-scale mining; limited endogenous capabilities for exploration and mining R&D activities; the monopolization by multinationals of information on reserves and characteristics of mineral resources; limited research on the rehabilitation and afforestation of mined sites; limited capabilities for attaining a reasonable level of minerals-based manufacturing to ensure the realization of the benefits of the value-added.

Socio-economic constraints include: deficiencies in policies that give multinationals control of relevant information on mineral resources; limited capabilities in mineral resource economics and the ecological economics of mineral resources; deficiencies in legal instruments; deficiencies in policy research; a lack of provision for the effective monitoring of environmental impact and the enforcement of regulations; frequent fluctuations in commodity market prices; and the social problems of female-headed households resulting from the migration of men to mines in southern Africa.


Sustainable development in Africa can be achieved only where appropriate policies, strategies, and priorities in research and development are carefully chosen and adhered to with the continuous commitment and allocation of resources and the creation of an enabling environment by governments. The elements of necessary ingredients for such sustainable development are briefly summarized below.

The adoption of a holistic or systems approach in planning, policies, and R&D

Sustainable development applies to the conservation, management, and rational utilization of natural resources in such a way as to maintain the integrity of each ecosystem, support all life, ensure no loss in biodiversity, and prevent environmental degradation. This calls for compatibility in sectoral development programmes in such a way that activities in any one sector do not have adverse environmental impacts, which would make it difficult to achieve the desired sustainable management of resources in any other sector now and in the future. For this to be successful it must involve the interaction of relevant disciplines in the planning and policy formulation stages, and in all stages of research and development (R&D) activities at local, national, regional, and global levels.

Conservation and development

There is need in all countries to adopt an environmental perspective in the management of natural resources in development programmes so as to ensure that conservation goes hand in hand with development in order to enhance sustainability. Conservation is defined as "the rational use of the earth's resources to achieve the highest quality of living for mankind" (UNESCO/FAO 1968), with the additional qualification that the quality of life also should apply to humans and to other organisms since this is the way to ensure conservation of biodiversity. When environmental quality is good for the survival of humans and other organisms then it is obvious that the environment is being given the due consideration it deserves in development if the earth is to function largely as a self-regulating planet.


Sustainable development calls for the adoption of a holistic and integrated approach in natural resource management. Opportunities for this exist in the following situations:

Land use

The adoption of an integrated land-use plan in which integrated watersheds as units for planning and development are a component entails the development of a master plan that provides for all the competing multiple land-use options, ranging from land for wildlife reserves and forest plantations to land for mining and human settlement, at least at national and regional levels.

Traditional and modern systems and technology

The integration of traditional, modern, and emerging resource management systems and technologies is one way of ensuring the relevance of technologies to the farmer's needs and circumstances, thereby facilitating rapid and widespread adoption. It involves the integration of desirable compatible elements of the different technologies in order to achieve sustainability. This approach also ensures that systems of production and their component technologies are ecologically sound, economically viable, and culturally acceptable.

Cropping systems and animal production systems

The integration of production systems involving, for example, the integration of arable (field) crop production with agro-forestry species in hedgerows and sometimes also with livestock into agrisilvopastoral systems can achieve a wider spectrum of objectives than can any of the systems alone.

Pest and disease management systems

Reliance on environment-polluting pesticides and chemical control in pest management can be minimized by mixing different strategies that interact synergistically to produce the desired effects. The combination of compatible chemical, biological, physical, and/or cultural methods in the control of pests and diseases aims to reduce reliance on any one method that, when used alone, may have adverse environmental effects - e.g. using a resistant variety and a few sprays of dilute chemical pesticide, instead of high concentrations and several sprays of more pesticides, which causes environmental pollution.

Species of crops and/or animals

Growing different species of crops or using different species of animals can ensure higher and more stable yields over time than growing only one commodity.

Alternative energy systems

It is necessary to develop alternative energy systems because reliance on fuelwood as the main energy source will not only lead to depletion of fuelwood resources and deforestation but also cause erosion and desertification.

Monitoring of resources and environment

For sustainable development to succeed, there must be monitoring of the status of various natural resources and analyses of the data in order to predict the likely consequences of environmental change in the future. Related to this is the inventorying of natural resources so as to determine changes in biodiversity causes and remedial measures.

Regulatory and guidance measures

Monitoring provides the basis for legislation and enforcement measures for protecting the environment. The results can also be used to guide actions to be taken or to enforce related laws and regulations.

Education, training, and orientation priorities

The existing educational curriculum needs to be modified so as to facilitate the provision of environmental education at different levels and the provision of training in environmental monitoring and assessment, in addition to orientation of the public so as to enhance popular participation in sustainable development projects. Any effort aimed at combating the development of inappropriate attitudes or standards as a result of the influence of the media can best be achieved through the educational system, formally or informally.

Other strategies

The above strategies are by no means exhaustive. It would be necessary to take appropriate measures to see that there are in place policies, strategies, technologies, systems, and other actions that are needed for combating or eliminating any of the constraints identified above.


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