The sub-Saharan Africa region recorded the fastest conversion of forest land to agriculture in the past 20 years. The region also has the widest yield gap and together with Latin America and Caribbean has the largest unused arable land. However, there are wide variations across countries and this offers valuable lessons on the drivers of agricultural intensification and land use dynamics. This study shows only few countries experienced a decrease in cropland extent. Additionally, few countries with low agricultural potential have shown higher actual maize yield while others with high potential have shown lower actual yield.
Poverty in densely populated rural areas is associated with greater cropland expansion. Agricultural exports, agricultural potential and land tenure security all reduce cropland extent. Access to markets increases cropland expansion suggesting that high returns and high demand for agricultural products in high market access could lead to severe deforestation. The results have important implications on the policies which should be used to enhance agricultural intensification while protecting forests and other natural resources which could be compromised with cropland expansion. The results also have important implications on strategies for exploiting the region’s large potential to produce its food for the rest of the world. The multiple factors with significant impacts on cropland extent also underscore the complex crop intensification and land conversion relationship, which require an equally complex approach to achieve sustainable agricultural intensification.
Nkonya, E.; Koo, J.; Kato, E.; Zhe Guo. Trends and patterns of land use change and international aid in sub-Saharan Africa. UNU-WIDER, Helsinki, Finland (2013) 35 pp. ISBN 978-92-9230-687-8 [WIDER Working Paper No. 2013/110]