Low-input farming for cocoa, cassava and oil palm has resulted in widespread deforestation and degredation of West Africa's tropical forest area, according to a new study by researchers at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). The study was published online this week in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Management.
Cocoa production in West Africa is an important commercial sector and a source of livelihoods for about two million households in the region. For the last 20 years Côte d'Ivoire has been the largest producer both in terms of output and numbers of producers, followed by Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon with these four countries now accounting for 70% of global cocoa supply.
According to the study, cocoa production in West Africa's Guinean Rainforest region doubled between 1987 and 2007, but most of this increase was fueled by clearing forest areas resulting in large losses of biodiversity and high carbon emissions.
The Guinean Rainforest (GRF) of West Africa, identified over 20 years ago as a global biodiversity hotspot, had reduced to 113,000 km2 at the start of the new millennium, which was 18% of its original area, according to the report. The principal driver of this environmental change has been the expansion of low-input smallholder agriculture that depends on environmentally destructive practices like slash-and-burn and land clearing.
Researchers at IITA found that increasing fertilizer use on cocoa-timber farms would have spared roughly 2 million hectares of tropical forest from being cleared or severely degraded. On average, farmers are using less than 4kg of total nutrients per hectare in the region.
The study suggests that farmers could have achieved the same outputs without rampant deforestation through the intensified use of fertilizer and agrochemicals coupled with improved crop husbandry. According to IITA, by doing so farmers would have doubled their incomes and helped to avoid deforestation and degradation on 2.1 million hectares and in the process, this would have generated a value of over 1,600 million dollars on 1.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions that would not have come from deforestation.
The findings should be taken into consideration in discussions around efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation, say researchers. Instead of considering complicated strategies involving monetary or in-kind transfers to farmers or communities for altering their land use behavior, REDD funds could be used to incentivize and promote agricultural intensification efforts that would lead to higher rural incomes, greater food security, and avoided emissions through the achievement of higher agricultural yields.
"The limited use of fertilizer may have been logical in 1960, when West African populations were only 25% of today's levels and forestland was still relatively abundant. That choice is no longer tenable in a context where only 15 to 20 percent of the GRF remains," said Gockowski.
"There are no longer any frontier forests in West Africa for future generations to exploit," he said. Strategies to reduce deforestation and conserve biodiversity in West Africa must focus on transforming agricultural practices from traditional to modern science based methods.
"Fertilizers for forest" technology to sustainably intensify production is available and has achieved impressive cocoa yield increases on a limited scale in parts of the GRF.
According to the authors, funding support for reducing carbon emissions due to deforestation and degradation (REDD) to mitigate climate change as discussed in the Copenhagen Accord offers the potential of significant new public resources for needed investments in agricultural research and extension and market infrastructure to support the transformation of traditional agriculture in West Africa. The value of avoided CO2 emissions are conservatively estimated at $565 per hectare for achieving the envisaged doubling of yields. A significant proportion of REDD+ funding should be used to increase the adoption and level of fertilizer use in a "fertilizers for forest" mitigation program.
"There is a risk that REDD interventions are only implemented within the forestry sector, while extensive low input agriculture, the fundamental driver of deforestation in the region and the root cause of most rural poverty, gets neglected. This would be a mistake," said Gockowski.
About IITA (www.iita.org)
Africa has complex problems that plague agriculture and people's lives. We develop agricultural solutions with our partners to tackle hunger and poverty. Our award-winning research for development (R4D) is based on focused, authoritative thinking anchored on the development needs of sub-Saharan Africa. We work with partners in Africa and beyond to reduce producer and consumer risks, enhance crop quality and productivity, and generate wealth from agriculture. IITA is an international nonprofit R4D organization established in 1967, governed by a Board of Trustees, and supported primarily by the CGIAR.
Jeff Haskins | EurekAlert!
The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons
The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...
Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences