Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crop intensification as a long-term solution to African food shortages

Seed Daily: Farmers in Africa can increase their food production if they avoid over dependence on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and practice agricultural intensification - growing more food on the same amount of land - using natural and resource-conserving approaches such as agroforestry.

According to scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), crop production in Africa is seriously hampered by the degradation of soil fertility, water and biodiversity resources. Currently, yields for important cereals such as maize have stagnated at 1 tone per hectare. Climate change and increasing demand for food, animal fodder and fuel is likely to worsen the situation.

To meet the needs of an ever growing population, scientists say farmers can increase production and conserve natural resources by turning to agricultural intensification through agroforestry, an integrated land use management technique that incorporates trees and shrubs with crops and livestock on farms.

This approach brings ecosystems, livelihoods and agriculture together. Replenishing soils, improving biodiversity and lessening agricultural pollution. It also decreases threats to food security and earned farming incomes - according to Sammy Carsan, a tree domestication scientist with ICRAF and lead author of a recent article on agroforestry and agricultural intensification.

In many parts of Asia, intensification has been achieved through the use of greater inputs such as chemical fertilizers, but it has come at a cost - causing soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and pollution which has impacted on food security and income earned from farming...

A rice farm in Burundi, shot by IRRI Images, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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