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'Barren future' for Africa's soil

African farmland, AP
African farmland, AP
Africa's soils are being depleted of nutrients
Africa's farmland is rapidly becoming barren and incapable of sustaining the continent's already hungry population, according to a report.
The report shows that more than 80% of the farmland in Sub-Saharan Africa is plagued by severe degradation.
This is a major cause of poverty and hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in three people is undernourished.
Population growth is leading to the overexploitation of farmland, depleting soil of nutrients, the report says.
Farmers' inability to afford fertiliser is a major contributing factor, it adds. Deforestation, use of marginal lands, and poor agricultural practices also play a role.
The International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC) report tracks soil health on the continent from 1980 to 2004.
'Stagnant productivity'
More than 60% of Africa's population is directly engaged in agriculture; but crop productivity has remained stagnant, while cereal yields in Asia have risen three-fold over the past four decades.
"Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa have traditionally cleared land, grown a few crops, then moved on to clear more land, leaving the land to regain fertility," the authors write in their report.
"But population pressure now forces farmers to grow crop after crop, mining or depleting the soil of nutrients while giving nothing back."
During the 2002-2004 cropping season, about 85% of African farmland had nutrient depletion rates of more than 30kg per hectare yearly.
About 40% of farmland had nutrient depletion rates greater than 60kg per hectare yearly.
Fertiliser costs
In addition to removal by crop harvests, other factors contributing to nutrient depletion include loss of nitrogen and phosphorus through soil erosion by wind and water, and leaching of nitrogen and potassium.
The highest rates of depletion are in Guinea, Congo, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images
Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images
One in three people in Africa is undernourished
Fertiliser use in Africa is the lowest in the world, at less than 10% of the world average. African farmers are put off by high costs, the report says.
It calls for policy and investment strategies to reverse nutrient depletion and restore soil fertility. These include making the use of mineral and organic fertilisers more economically attractive to farmers.
A summit on the issue in June will look at lowering costs, training a rural network of retailers and expand financing for private importers exporters.
The report says increasing productivity on African farms is critical to feeding a population that is expected to grow to 1.8 billion people by 2050.
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North Africa: Physical
Interactive Map
Interactive Map


Map: North Africa: Physical
Map: North Africa: Physical


Photograph of the Nile River Credit: cSteve Vidler/eStock Photo
Photograph of the Nile River Credit: cSteve Vidler/eStock Photo


1 Flowing for 4,132 miles, the Nile is the longest river in the world.


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Map Zone


Place The Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea are major physical features of the region of North Africa.
1.

Identify In which country is the highest elevation located?

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2.

Contrast How does the physical geography of Egypt differ from the physical geography of Tunisia?

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Section 1

Physical Geography

Section 2

History and Culture

Section 3

West Africa Today

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Focus on Reading and Speaking
Focus on Reading and Speaking

Understanding Comparison-Contrast Comparing and contrasting, or looking for similarities and differences, can help you more fully understand the subject you are studying. As you read, look for ways to compare and contrast the information in your text. See the lesson, **Understanding Comparison-Contrast**.
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Giving an Oral Description Storytelling is an important part of West Africa’s history and culture. Storytellers pass along information to the community about events, places, and people. As you read this chapter, imagine that you are a storyteller. You are going to pass on some information about a person who lives, or has lived, in this region. || || external image 1.gif || || West Africa ||

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Holt Geography’s Impact Video
Holt Geography’s Impact Video

Chapter Summary
Chapter Summary

Spanish Chapter Summary
Spanish Chapter Summary

go.hrw.com
go.hrw.com

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West Africa: Political
Interactive Map
Interactive Map

WARM UP QUESTION: WHICH COUNTRIES ARE LANDLOCKED?
Map: West Africa: Political
Map: West Africa: Political



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Map Zone


Regions Seventeen countries make up the region known as West Africa.
1.

Use the Map Which countries in this region are landlocked?

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2.

Interpret What do you notice about the location of most of the capital cities in this region? What is the significance of their locations?

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What You Will Learn…In this chapter you will learn about the 17 countries of West Africa. First, you will learn about the dry plains and major rivers in the region. Then you will learn about West Africa’s history and culture as well as what the countries in the region are like today.|| external image 1.gif ||


Photograph of Dogon cliff dweller Credit: cDavid Else/Lonely Planet Images
Photograph of Dogon cliff dweller Credit: cDavid Else/Lonely Planet Images

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Photograph of West African men in kente cloth Credit: Owen Franken/CORBIS
Photograph of West African men in kente cloth Credit: Owen Franken/CORBIS

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Photograph of Dakar Credit: cDavid Else/Lonely Planet Images
Photograph of Dakar Credit: cDavid Else/Lonely Planet Images

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History People such as the Dogon cliff dwellers have been living in Mali for hundreds of years.
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Culture These men wear kente cloth, a traditional type and pattern of cloth originally from Ghana.
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Geography Many of West Africa’s main cities, such as Dakar, Senegal, are located on the coast.