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An ecological framework for regional agricultural development planning in west africa. Yirenkyi, Emmanuel Ayeh

Abstract

Agricultural development involves the large scale economic production of plant and animal crops through modification and exploitation of ecosystems. Since crop species themselves are integral parts of the ecosystemic complex, any effort to raise the productivity of tropical agriculture must acknowledge ecological constraints as well as the opportunities for improved production. In the tropics this fundamental principle has been overlooked in the reduction of diversity of the ecosystem through monoculture of a very few export crops. In addition to reducing ecosystemic stability this has led to reduced production of basic food staples. The rich fauna is being replaced by domestic cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry. Monoculture has led to the adoption techniques requiring a large energy subsidy, i.e. selective breeding programmes, fertilization, mechanization and irrigation. Although the approach has proved conceptually sound in temperate regions and results in some practical benefits in the tropics, it has had a disastrous impact on the socio-economic stability of the traditional society. Undernourishment, poverty and the social unrest which have characterised Ghana in recent past are inevitable consequences of the mismanagement of agriculture. The underlying hypothesis of the study is that the development of tropical agriculture within an ecologically sound framework is a fundamental pre-requisite to modernizing the system, to increasing productivity and to providing a sound basis for agricultural development planning in West Africa. Properly implemented it would safeguard the future of tropical agriculture and the environment. This study is based on an examination of available literature, information from a mailed questionnaire and personal familiarity with the study area. Since most of the data refer to Ghana, I have focussed on the Ghanaian situation while drawing on experience from elsewhere. An ecological approach to tropical agricultural development is described, followed by a comparative study of systems of production in the tropical and temperate zones. This permits an assessment of the impact of the "Green Revolution" on tropical agrarian systems and reforms. The consequences of mismanagement of tropical agricultural development are assessed with respect to socio-economic and political difficulties. Most of the source data support the hypothesis. Suggestions are made to redress the underlying causes of low tropical agricultural production. It is the conclusion of this thesis that tropical agriculture can be best developed by recognising the nature of tropical ecosystems.

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