Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
growing urban areas in the local economy, and keeps the cost of living down for both the
urban and rural areas. Regions with high population growth will need to continually increase
local production to keep up with the demand for food. Without appropriate investment in
agricultural seeds and inputs, the region will need to continue to grow its imports to maintain
consumption (Bumb et al ., 2012).
Exploring the impact of climate variability on food prices in West Africa
An example of the impact of food price seasonality on household food security and nutrition
outcomes can be found in West Africa. West Africa is one of the least developed regions,
characterized by high levels of poverty, large land-locked countries with poor infrastructure
development and a high proportion of the economy derived from agricultural activities. The
region is ideal for exploring how climate variability affects food prices, since food is most
often sourced locally, the region has poorly developed infrastructure and production is affected
by recurring droughts. Francophone West Africa states include Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte
d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Of these, the Sahelian states of
Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have the poorest access to global markets, have low, erratic
rainfall and fragile soils (Heaps et al ., 1999). These three countries also have some of the
lowest per capita incomes, ranked 199th, 212th and 220th out of the world's 226 countries
for Burkina, Mali and Niger respectively (IndexMundi, 2012).
Reliance on agriculture as a primary source of both income and food has led to a funda-
mental vulnerability of farming households to seasonal and interannual rainfall deficits ( Plate
14 ). Cash income is therefore important because food grown in areas with adequate rainfall
can generally be purchased even if grain cannot be grown locally in some years (Mishra et al .,
2008; Rojas, 2007; Zaal et al ., 2004). The impact of changes in food production and food
prices on human health and food security depends entirely on the level of development and
government support for the poorest segments of the population.
Rural households in most of the Sahel grow sorghum and millet on their farms and sell
grain in order to obtain cash for household needs (Jayne and Minot, 1989). Cereal produc-
Reliance on agriculture as a primary source of both income and food has led to a funda-
. Cereal produc-
tion in West Africa has increased by 4.4 percent per year from 1980 to 2009, a growth rate
that is only marginally above the population growth rate. About two-thirds of this growth
was from expanding cropped area, with the rest from increased yields (Bumb et al ., 2012).
Farmers typically sell a portion of their crop on the market directly after the harvest when
the price is low, save a portion for consumption and purchase food from the market as their
own supplies diminish later in the year, usually at a higher price. These transactions occur
within five kilometers of the household's land because transportation is both expensive and
unreliable and food marketing only marginally profitable in small volumes (Platteau, 1996;
Zant, 2013).
A key reason for these low increases in yields over the past three decades is the lack of use
of chemical fertilizer and other modern inputs, which boost yields in other regions. Agricul-
ture in West Africa grew at half the rate it would need to over the past ten years for achieve-
ment of the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger and poverty by 2015. Bumb
et al . (2012) describe the challenges that smallholder farmers in the region have in accessing
modern agricultural technology, including high yielding seeds, fertilizers, water harvesting
and improved agronomic practices. Yields for most crops have the potential to double with
greater intensification of inputs (Nin-Pratt et al ., 2011). Only 25 percent of all planted area
(Jayne and Minot, 1989). Cereal produc-
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