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

The problem

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

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

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

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

Box 11-1 Kenya: The Nexus Synergies at Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendations for action

To correct the current disastrous trends, a set of mutually reinforcing actions need to be undertaken by governments and external aid agendas. One of the most important will be to promote demand for smaller families and for family planning (FP) services. This needs to be effected through determined action in several areas—notably expanding primary and secondary education for females, reducing infant mortality, and providing culturally sensitive FP advice and services .Field surveys to identify the determinants of fertility and attitudes to family planning will be essential. Population programs are being prepared in about half of the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Political commitment will be necessary to implement them. In establishing FP programs that emphasis increased supply, priority should be given to countries where demand for fewer children is emerging—as a consequence of increasing population density on cultivated land, improving female education, declining infant mortality rates, Improved food security, and better conservation of environmental resources. Where these factors are not present, demand for children will remain strong and will blunt the effectiveness of programs oriented towards increasing the supply and accessibility of FP services

Where AIDS is a serious concern, even the absence of the elements that appear to spur the onset of the demographic transition, high priority must be placed on providing appropriate information and education regarding the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases as well as on supplying condoms though all available channels, such as schools, health facilities, traditional health providers, FP programs, pharmacies, and NGOs.

Strong efforts are also needed to create farmer demand for environmentally sustainable agricultural technology Means to accomplish this include expansion of appropriate research and extension to farmers, the elimination of open access to land resources, and agricultural policy that makes agricultural intensification profitable (and reduces the relative profitability of shifting cultivation). The priority development of rural roads and markets in areas designated for agricultural development will be important in this regard. Agricultural research systems must be developed to supply the appropriate technology The elaboration of Frameworks for Action under the auspices of the Special Program for African Agricultural Research (SPAAR) merits strong support, as do related efforts to improve others agricultural support services such as extension. The problem is not so much funding, but organization and management.

Agricultural services and education must serve women as much as men—to improve women's farming practices, raise their productivity and incomes, and stimulate reduced demand for children Successful introduction of agroforestry and fuelwood production on farms would significantly reduce women's work burden in fuelwood gathering Introduction of appropriate transport improvements and stoves that save both filer and time would also help. Improving rural water supply will save women's time .It will also reduce infant mortality, thus reducing the demand for more children. Success in these areas will free more of women's time for family management, agricultural production, and other economic activities.

Measure necessary to create a market for fuelwood should be pursued .Fuelwood prices should reflect the scarcity value and replanting costs of trees Higher prices would stimulate farmers and entrepreneurs to plant trees .This will require land tenure reform to eliminate open access to free fuelwood by farmers and entrepreneurs. It wilI also require extension advice to farmers on agroforestry and fuelwood plantations. Eliminating price and taxation disincentives to the marketing of kerosene and other replacement fuels would stimulate the substitution of such fuels for woodfuels over time, particularly in urban areas.

The rate of degradation and destruction or forests and wildlands can be reduced by determined pursuit of agricultural intensification. This needs to be promoted through the measures indicated above, the elination of openaccess land tenure situations, keeping infrastructure out of environmentally sensitive areas, and more effective regulation and taxation of logging.

In each country, Environmental Action Plans should be prepared, and they should focus heavily on agricultural and demographic causes of environmental degradation in rural areas. A key instrument to be used in preparing solutions will be land use plans. These define the use, given various demands, to which various types of land are to be put (forest, protected areas, agriculture, settlements, infrastructure, and so forth). A meaningful National Environmental Action Plan should be based on careful analyses of the issues discussed here and should incorporate an action plan for governments, affected communities, and external aid agencies to address these issues and the linkages and synergies among them. In most cases, the action plan will consist of: changes to agricultural research, extension, and investment policy; increased focus on creating demand for family planning services and increased resources for population policy; greater emphasis on fuelwood and industrial forestry plantations and private tree farming,- greater sensitivity to the environmental impact of all investments; more investment in natural resource conservation and protection; and land tenure reform The needs of women must be addressed far more effectively, notably in the areas of agricultural development, natural resource management, and education.

Infrastructure development in rural areas, particularly roads and water supply, is important for agricultural development and for focusing population settlement outside of environmentally sensitive areas Keeping infrastructure out of environmentally fragile areas is an important tool for safeguarding their integrity. Developing infrastructure in rural areas and in secondary towns merits considerably higher priority than it has received in most countries in the past Infrastructure development should be in response to demand. This is likely to result in smaller-scale investment—rather than in major engineering efforts, which have characterized much government and aid agency spending to date Responsiveness to demand will be stimulated by more community and local control over design and siting, by the use of local contractors and by funding of facilities built and maintained by the user communities themselves.

Urban areas represent outlets for population increases, markets for agricultural products and fuelwood, sources of manufactured inputs and consumer goods for farmers, and centers for the provision of education health' and other services. Urban development needs to be one component of land use plans. Further, urban policy should be developed in part as a function of likely growth of the urban population, linkages between urban and rural product and labor markets, communications needs in rural areas, and environmental constraints. Generally, policies that promote development of secondary cities and rural towns, rather than of a few megacities, will be far more conducive to efficient, equitable and sustainable rural development. This requires spatially welldistributed public investment that is not biased in favor of a few major cities —i.e. sound and substantial investment in infrastructure throughout each country (rather than concentration in megacities). It further requires functioning markets and market-based pricing for petroleum and other energy sources, avoidance of transport monopolies to increase the likelihood that the entire country is adequately served by private transport providers, promotion (through industrial extension, investment codes, credit facilities) of small and medium enterprises located in secondary cities and rural towns, and decentralization of political decisionmaking outside capital areas to facilitate greater responsiveness to demand. These are not only crucial elements of sound urbanization policy, but are important for rural development because well-functioning secondary towns and cities are more likely to provide services and markets for rural areas than are distant megacities, which tend to be heavily oriented to overseas suppliers.

Local communities need to be empowered to participate in all of the above. Without participation, people will not demand smaller families, sustainable agricultural technologies, road maintenance, or forest conservabor. Participation is more likely to result in development initiatives that respond to felt needs rather than to short-term political imperatives and expediencies. People should become managers of actions conceived in partnership with governments.

Multisectoral and cross-sectoral analysis is needed to resolve agricultural population, settlement, and environmental problems—because of the important linkages and synergies between them. Environmental protection will be very difficult to achieve if present rates of population growth continue. Population growth is unlikely to decelerate unless agriculture, and the economies dependent on agriculture, grow more rapidly. Agriculture will be increasingly constrained by rapid population growth .Settlement and urban development policies are important factors influencing population growth and movement, agriculture, and environmental resource use. In this regard, the analysis suggests that spatial planning is desirable and that action plans covering the various sectors should be integrated at the regional level.

In particular, land use plans should be developed with a spatial and regional focus. These should identify conservation areas, logging areas, farming areas, and locations for settlement and infrastructure development. Appropriate farming technologies vary from one microagroclimatic zone to the next. Infrastructure development location-specific. Land tenure systems, fuelwood problems, gender responsibilities in farming, and cultural facto-:x affecting attitudes towards human fertility vary among regions, and often from place to place, within the same country. There is therefore merit to developing integrated action plans for regions within countries. Such plans would address the wide range of issues and concerns applicable within that region—including appropriate land uses; demographic trends; likely migration patterns; natural resource management; the development of transport and other infrastructure; agricultural technology; land tenure reform and land ownership; fuelwood demand and supply; forestry development and utilization; and likely development of markets, towns, and cities.

Far greater community involvement in the preparation and the execution of these location-specific plans will be essential. Communities and individuals must be given ownership of natural resources as an incentive for them to manage and conserve these resources. Better planning, particularly spatial planning community and individual ownership of assets, and community management of implementation are the main directions in which donors and governments must move.

Because such multisectoral action plans will be complex and difficult to implement, they should in most cases not be implemented through integrated multicomponent projects. Conservation and land use plans specified by location would be one cluster of projects. Appropriate agricultural technology for each microregion could be developed and extended through national research and extension programs, with regional implementing divisions. Regionally specific land tenure reform could be implemented under national tenure reform programs. Family planning programs adapted to particular communities would be implemented through national population and family planning programs. Urban and infrastructure development will constitute separate projects. But there needs to be a sensible fit between these separate projects and investments, given the synergies and complementarities between them.

Several other important recommendations emerge from this study concerning analytical work that should precede the formulation of action plants and, particularly, of developmental interventions—be they investment projects or institutional and policy reforms:

· Far greater attention needs to be paid to the social organization of production and consumption, of decisiomaking and resource allocation, of access to resources and services. These systems and structures can be very complex and often differ substantially among communities (and certainly among countries) throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

· This implies the need to use relevant units of analysis. The casual and often indiscriminate use, for example, of the "household," the "family," and the "family farm" may not be appropriate if these terms are simply assumed to convey concepts of social and economic arrangements familiar to 20th-century industrialized economies Most African societies are characterized by complex systems of resource-allocation and

· Fooling arrangements for both production and consumption purposes, based on lineage, kinship, gender, and age-groups—often with multiple overlaps. It is imperative to be cognizant of, and sensitive to, these arrangements and to analyze the impact of development interventions on individuals in this context.

Gender issues are critical, especially in terms of gender-specific divisions of responsibilities, tasks, and budgets, as well as in terms of access to resources, information, and markets. Interventions and incentives do not necessarily work in the same direction or with the same intensity for men and women.

More input is needed from sociologists and anthropologists to understand socioeconornic systems and relationships. Social scientists should collaborate closely with agricultural scientists and economists in researching farming systems, cultures, and socioeconomic institutions into which new varieties and technologies are to be introduced. Agriculturists and economists in turn should receive special training to raise their awareness of these issues. Local expertise needs to be much more drawn upon to improve our understanding of how things operate, why they operate this way, and what may work under these conditions.

· It is extremely important to take into account the risk perception of the local people—their absolute requirement for ensuring survival in the short term even under worst case scenarios.

Status of implementation

The above recommendations are broad and need to be adapted to the special circumstances of each country. In some countries, these ideas are already being pursued, with varying degrees of success.

· Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are pursuing macroeconomic and agricultural policy reform programs designed in part to improve the profitability of agriculture; this will stimulate the needed agricultural intensification. Other countries do not yet pursue policies that would make agriculture profitable. Also, many donor countries maintain a combination of import barriers and agricultural subsidies to assist their own farmers, and this harms African producers of these commodities. These policies need to be changed.

· An increasing number of countries in Sub-Saharam Africa are developing Environmental Action Plans. For these countries, implementation is the watchword. In the others, the process should be launched. Donor support should be intensified.

· Agricultural research and extension systems in a number of countries are slowly shifting to a greater focus on "sustainable" agricultural technology and responsiveness to varying farmer demand. Collaborating within SPAAR, countries in the Sahel and SADC regions are planning the improvement of their agricultural research systems. Others should follow suit, and donors should collaborate in implementing SPAAR'S "Frameworks for Action.''

· At least four Sub-Saharan African countries (Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius, and Zimbabwe) have, with considerable effort, succeeded in bringing down fertility rates. Much more needs to be done here as in all SSA countries, but these four provide relatively successful models. Several other countries are developing promising population and family planning programs. Genuine and sustained political commitment will be essential. Donor support should be channeled through the ongoing African Population Action Plans.

Improved health programs to address the AIDS problem, including health education and the distribution of condoms, are starting up in several countries.

· The empowerment of local communities to manage development in each of the above areas is now beginning to be accepted in some countries; it requires much more effort.

· Weak and eroding land tenure security, inappropriate fuelwood pricing, and feeble rural infrastructure programs are major weak points almost everywhere.

· In many countries, major deficiencies remain to be addressed in rural health care and education (and particularly female education), rural infrastructure, participation of local communities in development efforts, forest and conservation policy, sound urbanization policy, and effective family planning programs.

Several countries are already pursuing many or the policies and approaches suggested here. They are capitalizing on the positive synergies between agricultural growth and productivity gains, environmental resource protection and reduction in human fertility rates and achieving measurable improvements in the welfare of rural people. Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Mauritius are examples. They strongly suggest that the type of measures recommended here are likely to be effective. Others, such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda, are moving in the right direction.

Issues and follow-up

Many of the issues touched upon here require more focused and detailed research and analysis" Among them are the following:

· There is a need for further research to ascertain the relative importance of the various factors that influence human fertility decisions and trends Gender-specific analysis is particularly essential in this area

· The expected impact of AIDS on population growth has been incorporated in the most recent population projections used here. However, given the difficulty of predicting its impact, the possible margin of error is considerable More research is needed Should AIDS turn out to have even more devastating impact on demographics than currently anticipated, improved health care, FP services, and education focused on preventing sexually transmitted diseases and increasing the use of condoms could become the single most important intervention to be undertaken in Sub-Saharan Africa.

· More analysis is needed concerning the productivity potential of the environmentally benign and "sustainable" agricultural technologies identified. The environmental effects of "green revolution" technologies also need careful study.

Work is needed to determine and test the degree to which communities and community groups will be conservation-minded if and when natural resource rnanagement is turned over to them by governments.

· Urbanization and the urban-rural link are important determinants of key aspects of the agriculture-population environment nexus More research is required in this direction.

· There is some argument with the contention of this study that, although multisector planning is necessary, multicestoral projects to implement such plans generally be undesirable. Some writers suggest that regional development plans could in many cases be implemented in an integrated fashion.Although this makes conceptual sense, the disappointing past experience with integrated rural development projects suggests that such programs are too complex to be managed as integrated wholes. How best to implement integrated location-specific plans through manageable components remains an issue to be explored.

· The equity impact of these recommendations needs further scrutiny. Reducing open access to land, expanding the areas under protection, and raising the price of woodfuels will have negative effects on some of the poor However, improved agricultural technology,successful family planning,better access to rural health and education facilities and services rural infrastructure,and sound urban development will have positive impact on the poor.

The follow-up to this study includes the preparation of country-specific population, agriculture, and environment nexus studies m Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya's Mathakos District,Nigeria, and the Sahelian countries as a group. These studies will help firm up the analytical framework and will be instrumental m adapting the analysis to the situation of specific countries. Reversing the Spiral was the most important input for a revised agricultural development strategy for SubSaharan Africa recently prepared by the World Bank's Africa Region (Cleaver 1993) Follow-up also includes widespread incorporation of nexus issues in Environmental Action Plans and in investment project. Concurrent monitoring is under way regarding the progress of preparation and implementation of National Environmental Action Plans and of national population programs. The institutional locus for the former is the :Club of Dublin, "comprising representatives of African governments and donor agencies The institutional arrangement for deepening population agenda for SSA and for monitoring its progress is the African Population Advisory Committee, with similar membership. It is hoped that a similar African Agricultural Advisori Committee, managed by prominent Africans, will also be established