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New Agriculturist: News brief - Agricultural intensification needed to save forests in West Africa
 
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Agricultural intensification needed to save forests in West Africa

Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon account for 70 per cent of the global supply of cocoa (© IITA)
Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon account for 70 per cent of the global supply of cocoa
© IITA

The expansion of low-input smallscale cocoa, cassava and oil palm farming in West Africa has resulted in widespread deforestation, according to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Researchers claim that by intensifying fertiliser and agrochemical use and improving crop husbandry, roughly 2 million hectares of tropical forest could have been saved from clearance.

To improve food security, protect biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions, the authors have suggested that REDD (Reducing Emissions from Forest Degradation and Deforestation) funds should be used to promote agricultural intensification and fertiliser usage. "There is a risk that REDD interventions are only implemented within the forestry sector, while extensive low input agriculture, the fundamental driver of deforestation in the region and the root cause of most rural poverty, gets neglected," explains Jim Gockowski from IITA.

Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon account for 70 per cent of the global supply of cocoa, which is also a source of livelihood for 2 million households. Between 1987 and 2007, cocoa production in the Guinean Rainforest region doubled, but most of this increased production was as a result of clearing forest areas. "The limited use of fertilizer may have been logical in 1960, when West African populations were only 25 per cent of today's levels and forestland was still relatively abundant," Gockowski adds. "That choice is no longer tenable in a context where only 15 to 20 per cent of the Guinean Rainforest remains."

Date published: April 2011

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