AFRICA ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK
Past, present and future perspectives

EXTENT AND PRODUCTIVITY OF CULTIVATION
AND LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

Absolute productivity over the past 30 years has increased for both crops and livestock; however, the gains in cultivated area and productivity have been outweighed by rapid population growth and, hence, increased demands on food supply

In response to growing domestic populations in Africa, and to policies directed at economic growth through agricultural export, the extent of land under cultivation has risen steadily from 166 million ha in 1970 to 202 million ha in 1999. The area of land under permanent pasture increased rapidly during the latter half of the 1980s, and then declined sharply to 892 million hectares in 1999 (approximately the same as in 1970) (FAOSTAT 2001).

Absolute productivity over the past 30 years has also increased for both crops and livestock (see Figure 2f.2 and Figure 2f.3). However, the gains in cultivated area and productivity have been outweighed by rapid population growth and, hence, increased demands on food supply. For example, despite increases in crop production of 2.3 per cent in 1998 and 2.1 per cent in 1999, population growth averaged 2.5 per cent and, therefore, per capita crop production declined (FAO 2001c). Average per capita arable land which is actually cultivated has also fallen, as a result of population growth, from 0.5 ha/capita in 1965 to 0.3 ha/capita in 1990 (Cleaver and Schreiber 1994).

Limited economic growth, and myriad land tenure policies and management practices (including the increasingly widespread poverty and marginalization of subsistence farmers) have also contributed to limited gains in nutritional status, and to increasing dependence on food aid. Although average per capita daily calorie consumption has increased slightly, the number of undernourished people in Africa has doubled since 1970 (FAO 2000a). The region is a net importer of cereal crops for domestic consumption, and the ratio of imports to exports is escalating. Recurrent drought has resulted in crop failures and an inability to accumulate food reserves, and civil wars have restricted food distribution. Consequently, over the past 30 years, millions of people have faced food shortages. In 2000, these totalled 28 million in sub-Saharan Africa, in at least 16 countries (FAO 2001d).

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Figure 2f.2: Crop production indices for Africa, 1970-2000 (total and per capita)

Source: compiled from FAOSTAT 2001

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Figure 2f.3: Livestock production indices for Africa, 1970-2000 (total and per capita)

Source: compiled from FAOSTAT 2001