Past, present and future perspectives


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Figure 2s.6: Land issues in Africa

The land and its resources are the cornerstones of Africa's culture and development. Pastoralism and subsistence agriculture are the traditional practices but commercial plantation agriculture has been promoted over the past 30 years, particularly in Western and Central Africa, as the foundation of economic growth. However, Africa's soils are not generally suited to cultivation, rainfall is variable in much of Africa and irrigation has been developed in only a few countries. Dependence on agriculture (in particular a narrow range of crops) has therefore had economic and environmental drawbacks.

National development policies and international trade agreements and/or restrictions have also affected agricultural development and natural resource quality. Soils and vegetation are being degraded largely as a result of increasing use of inorganic chemicals, reduction of fallow systems, increased monoculture, and cultivation of marginal areas. In Eastern and Southern Africa conflict between user groups over land and resources is the priority issue, resulting from competition between agriculture, pastoralists, and conservation areas, and from complex and inappropriate land tenure policies.

Desertification is another serious concern in Africa, particularly in the more arid zones where climate variability and poor land management practices combine to threaten the sustained productivity of soil and vegetation.

Land tenure reform, international cooperation, and integration of land resource management with development goals are required. Monitoring of climatic patterns and strategies to alleviate the pressures that economic growth places on terrestrial resources are additional priorities if Africa is to achieve sustainable development and protect its resource base. Figure 2s.6 illustrates the land issues facing Africa.