AFRICA ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK
Past, present and future perspectives

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

Land development for crop cultivation increased rapidly between 1970 and 1985 (from 18 million ha to 21 million ha), but then the rate of expansion slowed, until 1999, when the total cultivated area was 21.5 million ha (FAOSTAT 2001). The period of rapid increase must have come as a result of the boom in export crop prices, especially from coffee and cocoa sales, followed by the economic crises of the 1990s, during which land use for export cash crops decreased. Over the same period, the extent of permanent pasture has shown little change, and it stands at approximately 80 million ha (FAOSTAT 2001).

Absolute production for crops has increased steadily over the past 30 years, but crop production per capita has declined, due to population growth rates exceeding food production capacity (see Figure 2f.14) (FAOSTAT 2001). Interestingly, absolute livestock production indices for the sub-region have increased quite significantly, but livestock production per capita has remained relatively constant (see Figure 2f.15) (FAOSTAT 2001).

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Figure 2f.14: Crop production indices for Central Africa, 1970-2000 (total and per capita)

Source: compiled from FAOSTAT 2001

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Figure 2f.15: Livestock production indices for Central Africa, 1970-2000 (total and per capita)

Source: compiled from FAOSTAT 2001

As a result of declining yields and civil wars, calorie intake in Cameroon, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo in 1999 was lower than in 1970. For the other countries, it had improved, but was still, on average, just 2 292 cal/capita/day (FAOSTAT 2001). To compensate for this, many countries have imported large amounts of cereals and, during times of drought, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad have requested food aid. The Democratic Republic of Congo is normally an importer of cereals but, in 1998, livestock production suffered from the civil strife (more so than crop production), and food production shortfalls were estimated at 118 000 tonnes. Due to the disruption of trading activities, particularly in Brazzaville, commercial food imports were reduced, and 46 000 tonnes of cereal were required to meet the population's needs. A variety of coping mechanisms were enacted, including increasing effort in alternative food production areas (fishing and hunting, and short-cycle crops), as well as food aid for vulnerable groups (FAO/GIEWS 1998).