Do small farmers' achievements contradict the nutrient depletion scenarios for Africa?

Mortimore, Michael
Harris, Frances
Land Use Policy
Publication Year: 
The dominant narrative of soil degradation in sub-Saharan Africa, as expressed in global surveys and policy documents, is compared with long-term data on the productive performance of smallholder farming systems under climatic and demographic stress. Cases at national, district and village/farm scale are considered (Nigeria; Diourbel Region, Senegal; Maradi Department, Niger; the Kano Close-Settled Zone, Nigeria). The dominant narrative is found to fail as a predictor of agricultural performance over the longer term. Instead there is evidence of farmers' achievements in terms of sustained production, and investments in soil fertility maintenance. However at micro-scale, the constraints affecting farmers' investments are apparent. The dominant narrative is deficient as a guide to policy, which needs to go beyond the fertiliser debate to take a broader view of soil fertility in relation to rural livelihoods and a need to facilitate private investment in natural resources.
Name of Journal: 
Land Use Policy
Resource Type: 
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.