Improved productivity through sustainable land use management practices in Africa

Although Africa is home to about 60 percent of the world’s available arable land, many African countries are among the most food insecure regions of the world.

Food insecurity is one of burning issues related to climatic change attracting debate all over the world. Achieving food security through proper land use management has been recognised by Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations. Food and Agriculture Organization maintains that the adoption of sustainable land-use and land management practices will ensure effective usage of land resources and solving problem of food insecurity in Africa.

Although Africa is home to about 60 percent of the world’s available arable land, many African countries are among the most food insecure regions of the world. Again low agricultural productivity is affecting many African countries due to unsustainable land use practices among small holder farmers.

According to the second edition of the Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa (2016), about 153 million people representing about 26 per cent of the population, suffered from severe food insecurity in 2014/15 in Sub-Saharan Africa.

  Situation in Rwanda

According to National Institute of Statistics Rwanda 2009, agriculture is considered as a backbone of Rwanda supporting 82% of the country’s population. Agriculture has great potential to contribute towards economic growth of Rwanda.  Any effect on agriculture sector has a negative impact on the whole economy.

In the second half of 2016 Rwanda’s economy suffered a harsh slowdown resulting in a growth rate of 6% in 2017 year and 4.2% growth in the first quarter of this 2018. The slowdown was due to supply shocks that followed a drought and weak prices for Rwandan exports throughout 2016.

High population pressure in Rwanda is making issue of food security very serious requiring proper agricultural land use management. To feed the growing population, exploitation of all agricultural resources for sustainable agriculture and soil fertility improvement are the most important interventions to rely on.

Some of issues affecting agriculture in Rwanda are low productivity, land degradation and declining agricultural yields. This declining agricultural yields and increasing levels of land degradation is more common among smallholder farmers as they cultivate over marginal lands.

The Government of Rwanda is recently concentrated more on sustainable land management practices for ensuring food security. The Government had made big investments in major projects and programmes for improved land management: Land Husbandry, Hillside Irrigation Project (LWH), Rural Sector Support Program (RSSP), Kirehe community-based Watershed management Project (KWAMP) etc.

An example of sustainable land management practices in Rwanda is Rulindo District which is a model for a more integrated way of supporting local development and sustainable intensification of agriculture.

In future proper land use management, interventions are likely to yield sustained positive results as a solution to food insecurity.

African Situation

According to a study, around 874 million hectares of Africa’s land is considered suitable for agricultural production but about 83% of this has serious fertility limitations. The impacts vary a lot from region to region. Worst affected is sub-Saharan Africa. Poor land management practices are resulting in land degradation and low agricultural productivity.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is among the most severely land degraded regions of the  world. In Sub-Saharan Africa, livelihoods of the majority of the rural poor heavily depend on land resources leading to over usage causing land degradation.

According to a report published in 2015 by Montpellier Panel – an eminent group of agriculture, ecology and trade experts from Africa and Europe –about 65 percent of Africa’s arable land is too damaged to sustain viable food production. The Montpellier Panel recommended that African governments and donors invest in land and soil management to encourage adequate management of farmland.

Recommendations

Globally, the Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations targets food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture as key elements for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Sustainable land management practices will help in addressing the issue of land degradation in Africa. Sustainable land management is also a necessary building block for sustainable agricultural development.

Sustainable land management combines technologies, policies, and activities aimed at integrating socio-economic principles with environmental concerns so as to simultaneously maintain or enhance production, reduce the level of production risk, protect the potential of natural resources and prevent  soil and water degradation.

 

The writer is an economist and consultant based in Kigali.

 

 

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