Each year nearly 3.9 million hectares of cultivated land is expanded in Africa, comparable to the 1.5 million hectares per year in South America. An increase that is mainly at the expense of forests and natural vegetation.
Growing food needs are the main cause which have led to this strong increase in cultivated areas in recent years in Africa. This is horrible news for the environment and the climate.
For the experts, this represents a major challenge for ensuring food security on the African continent while preserving its forests and natural environments.
The need for new arable land by 2050 on the continent is estimated at around 120 million hectares according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Much of this land will become pastures created for the increased demand in dairy products and meat, which further reinforce climate change with CO2 emitting livestock.
Based on satellite data from the Landsa food program, which had a study published in the journal Nature, revealed that in twenty years, “Africa has extended its cultivated areas by more than a third, thus representing 52% of the increase seen globally.
Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Zambia are a small group of countries where the rise has been particularly rapid. For example, “Côte d’Ivoire which has lost nearly 90% of its forest in 60 years”, underlines a researcher from the Farm foundation.
“The increase in cultivated areas is even greater if we include orchards and shrubby plants such as cocoa, coffee and oil palm, which represents a formidable challenge for the preservation of ecosystems and the fight against climate change”, continues the researcher.
Higher yields and “ecological intensification of African agriculture” would be part of the solutions needed to meet the joint challenges of climate change and biodiversity protection, while improving farmers’ incomes, experts recommend.
However, it is important to find solutions on several levers in order to avoid an ecological catastrophe: such as the transformation of agricultural production systems, the modification of eating habits and the reduction of agricultural losses and waste.
As we all know, forests remain an important natural carbon sink essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. During its growth, a tree absorbs CO2 which it transforms through the process of photosynthesis, conserving carbon and releasing oxygen.