AFRICA ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK
Past, present and future perspectives

EXTENT AND PRODUCTIVITY OF CULTIVATION AND LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS IN NORTHERN AFRICA

The total area under cultivation in the sub-region has grown from approximately 35 million ha in 1970 to more than 45 million ha in 1999 (FAOSTAT 2001). Sudan has witnessed the most dramatic expansion (from 11 million ha in 1970 to 17 million ha in 2000), although there are still large areas of land with potential for cultivation, which have not yet been exploited (FAOSTAT 2001). For other countries, most or all arable land is under cultivation, due to significant technological and engineering developments. These include: the construction of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River in Egypt; the Al-Salam canal development, which diverts water from the Nile River to Sinai, Egypt; and the great covered human-made river in Libya (Hegazy 1999). In other countries, the potential for expansion has been limited by: availability of water resources; inequity of land resource distribution; availability of capital investment; human resources; supply of energy; and prevailing soil characteristics.

The percentage of cultivated land that is irrigated has also expanded considerably over the past 30 years, from 6 million ha in 1970 to nearly 8 million ha in 1999 (FAOSTAT 2001). Irrigated area as a percentage of agricultural area varies from 100 per cent in Egypt to about 15 per cent in Morocco and Sudan, where rainfed agriculture is more reliable (FAOSTAT 2001). This expansion has been outstripped by population growth, however, as shown by declining area of cultivated land per capita, which fell from 0.59 ha/capita in 1970 to 0.33 ha/capita in 1990 (calculated from FAOSTAT 2001). Total crop and livestock production has also increased over the past decade but, again, the rapid increase in population has resulted in a net decline in per capita production, as shown in Figure 2f.6 and Figure 2f.7 (FAOSTAT 2001).

Intensification and expansion of food production have contributed to food self-sufficiency and food security in the sub-region. However, imports far exceed exports, and the gap between imports and exports is growing (Miladi 1999). Northern Africa has high selfsufficiency in vegetables, fruits and tuber crops (more than 97 per cent) but, for sugar, cereals and plant oils, self-sufficiency rates are 33.2 per cent, 57.3 per cent and 62.7 per cent respectively (Arab League 1999).

Click to enlarge

Figure 2f.6: Crop production indices for Northern Africa, 1970-2000 (total and per capita)

Source: compiled from FAOSTAT 2001

Click to enlarge

Figure 2f.7: Livestock production indices for Northern Africa, 1970-2000 (total and per capita)

Source: compiled from FAOSTAT 2001