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Livestock, Land use and Agricultural Intensification in Sub-Saharan Africa

Research reports

This paper focuses on extracts from a recent comparative analysis of livestock and land use surveys across a range of agro-climatic conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, based on information from systematic low level aerial reconnaissance and complementary ground studies in Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan and Tchad, between 1980 and 1993. Results indicate a highly significant relationship between livestock biomass and the intensity of land use, and suggest that cultivation and human habitation are the best predictors of livestock distribution.

These findings are consistent with expectations of the Boserup hypothesis, and are indicative of the `autonomous intensification' of agricultural production associated with the growth of human population, through closer interaction between livestock and arable farmers. The autonomous control of tsetse and trypanosomiasis is a further consequence of the environmental impact of human population growth, which has favoured the southward dispersal and year-round presence of cattle in the Nigerian sub-humid zone. This in turn has created circumstances which have favoured the spread of animal traction and livestock fattening, which are themselves indicative of the intensification process.

David Bourn and William Wint