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Wageningen University (2019)

Beyond intensification : landscapes and livelihoods in Mali’s Guinea Savannah

Ollenburger, Mary H.

Titre : Beyond intensification : landscapes and livelihoods in Mali’s Guinea Savannah

Auteur : Ollenburger, Mary H.

Université de soutenance : Wageningen University

Grade : Doctor 2019

Résumé partiel
For more than a decade, sub-Saharan Africa has been the focus of calls for a new Green Revolution. Like its predecessor, the African Green Revolution aims to increase the productivity of smallholder farmers, improving their own food security and income as well as that of the continent as a whole. This is to be done with minimum environmental damage, through “sustainable intensification.” While sustainable intensification has shown potential in places where high population density precludes cropland expansion, evidence of its effectiveness in land-abundant, labor-limited areas is limited. One such land-abundant, labor-limited area is the Guinea Savannah region of West Africa, which the World Bank called a “Sleeping Giant” where agricultural development could drive economic growth both locally and at the national level. Within the Guinea Savannah region, we use southern Mali’s Bougouni district as a case study to explore potential futures for smallholder agriculture in the area.

We explored the history of the area’s agriculture using a panel data set for three villages, as well as remote sensing analysis and census data. Over the period of the panel data (1994-2012), agricultural change was minor. Cultivated area per household was highly correlated with household size and the number of draft animals a household owned. This relationship remained constant over the full period, suggesting little change in labor productivity. Yields of major crops remained stagnant, even as fertilizer input increased. Cropland expansion occurred in parallel with population growth, but up to the present, over half the arable land in the study villages was not cultivated.

Because uncultivated rangeland made up such a large percentage of the land, we characterized the productivity, management and use of these rangelands (Chapter 3). In two villages, we assessed biomass quantity and species composition at 2-month intervals, tracked a sample of village herds, and used remote sensing combined with regression analysis to map the productivity of herbaceous biomass in a woody savannah landscape. We found that rangelands produced a seasonal peak of 2-2.5 t/ha of herbaceous biomass, from a diverse mix of annual and perennial species, notably Andropogon gayanus and A. pseudapricus. Herds covered distances of 10-18 km each day, with distance and location variable based on the season. During most of the year, the forage supply far exceeded the demands of grazing herds, but in the late dry season forage becomes scarce and herders supplement grazing with cut tree fodders, or send herds on transhumance to the south. While rangelands are exploited for a variety of uses, local management has thus far maintained high levels of productivity and biodiversity.

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