Sustainable Agriculture In The West African Savannah: Considerations For Modern Crop Promotion In Traditional Farming Systems
Free (open access)
B. Polidoro & E. H. Franz
Sustainable agriculture techniques in West Africa are largely based on the planting of modern crop varieties of nitrogen-fixing legumes to improve soil fertility and increase harvest yields for the subsistence or smallholder farmer. In the northern savannah of Togo, native crop varieties, or landraces, of intercropped sorghum and cowpea were grown in a demonstration field for comparison with internationally promoted monocropped soybean and the cover crop mucuna. After two growing seasons, no significant changes in soil chemistry were observed. However, harvested yields of the native crops were double those of the promoted modern crops. Several biological and practical reasons account for the failure of soybeans or mucuna to improve soil fertility over the two-year period. Similarly, the genetic and cultural benefits of traditionally intercropped sorghum and cowpea may further hinder local farmer adoption of soybean or mucuna. These observations suggest that the widespread promotion of soybean and mucuna to improve soil fertility may not be appropriate within the context of specific environmental conditions and cultural practices. Sustainable agriculture initiatives might be better achieved if based on increased research of native crops, trees and forages for use within tailored ‘in situ’ soil conservation projects that incorporate indigenous farmer knowledge and local cultural values. For this aim, appropriate sustainable agriculture projects require adaptive interdisciplinary approaches that integrate farmer participation with both socioeconomic and biophysical research. Keywords: soil fertility, harvest yield, landraces, West Africa, nitrogen fixation, cover crops, indigenous knowledge, sustainable agriculture.
soil fertility, harvest yield, landraces, West Africa, nitrogen fixation, cover crops, indigenous knowledge, sustainable agriculture.