1. Indigenous soil and water conservation in Africa.
Gatekeeper Series Nr. 27; Int. Inst. for Environment and Development
(IIED), London, 1991, 32 pp.; price £2.50 inc. p and p
The objective of this paper is to assess the current knowledge of indigenous Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) in Africa and to identify research needs and policy requirements in the field of African indigenous SWC.
Many parts of Africa are experiencing annual population growth rates between 2 and 4%, degradation of the natural resource base, recurrent droughts and a growing dependence on food aid as well as the import of cereals to cover food deficits. During the last two decades increasing financial outlays for agricultural research in Africa have neither produced significant breakthroughs nor led to agricultural growth.
Numerous reports have warned against the disastrous effects of increasing erosion, land degradation, desertification, mismanagement of natural resources due to increasing demographic pressure, and as a result, soil conservation emerged as a central concern in East Africa.
In many African countries considerable efforts have been made during and since colonial times to conserve soil and water resources. Yet most soil and water conservation projects in sub-Saharan Africa have failed. A major argument is that what has been constructed - often at great expense - has seldom been maintained by the "benficiaries".
The most important reasons for these failures in African soil and water conservation (SWC) include a dominant top-down approach, the use of techniques which are complicated to design and expensive to maintain both in terms of labour and capital, and therefore are not replicable by farmers, a neglect of farmer training, a heavy reliance on machinery for the construction of conservation works and an indiscriminate use of food-for-work.
Partly as a reaction to the disappointing results of integrated rural development programmes (IRDP's) with their strong emphasis on "transfer of technology", the 1980's have seen a growing awareness of the importance of indigenous environmental knowledge.
As part of this trend, the awareness of the importance of indigenous SWC techniques has also increased.
Three major issues are explored in this paper:
- The first demonstrates that despite a growing awareness of its importance, African indigenous SWC continues to be neglected.
SWC and of others improving the efficiency of indigenous SWC techniques.
Concluding, the author states amongst other that slowly but surely, a certain consensus is emerging that indigenous SWC techniques could be used and have a role to play. This trend reflects a feeling of disappointment with or even despair about the failure to narrow the gap between food needs and food production in Africa and the inability to create conditions for sustainable rural development.
A marriage between indigenous and modern techniques may be required to increase the technical efficiency (coping with degradation) as well as the returns to labour (higher incomes).
Indigenous SWC techniques are not well known and require some research.
Experiments should be designed to improve their technical efficiency, and several techniques should be tested at village level and evaluated by technicians and villagers. It may take 3-5 years before the best and most acceptable technical package is identified, hence tangible results can rarely be obtained before 5-10 years have elapsed. It is essential that donor agencies and governments accept these time frames for projects.
1254 92 - 13/52
Erosion and desertification control
Latin America, Ecuador, proceedings, workshop, DESFIL, USAID, sustainability, slopes, agriculture, methods, strategic planning institutions, incentives, DESFIL, USAID
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