The Economic Linkages between Rural Poverty and Land Degradation: Some Evidence from Africa

Posted: 13 Nov 2002

See all articles by Edward B. Barbier

Edward B. Barbier

Colorado State University, Fort Collins - Department of Economics

Abstract

This paper focuses on the potential role of policy in influencing the poverty and land degradation problems facing Africa. This is done through exploring a few case studies, chosen from a broad spectrum of African countries - Sudan, Malawi, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. The first case study examines the comparative returns to the gum Arabic agroforestry system cultivated by poor farmers in Northern Sudan, and the role of policies in influencing these returns. The second explores how erratic agricultural pricing policies in Malawi during the 1980's may have distorted the incentives of poor smallholders to adopt less-erosive crops in their farming systems. The third case study illustrates how inappropriate policies and investments can cause displacement of poorer rural groups from their traditional farming and grazing lands, by examining the loss of a major floodplain due to dam building in northern Nigeria. The final two case studies are concerned with policy "lessons learned". The first looks at the impact of a macro-economic adjustment policy - in this case trade liberalization - on farmers' decisions to expand cultivated area rather than intensify crop production in western Ghana. The final case study examines the role of policy in land management success story in Africa, the Machakos District, Kenya, and explores the critical question of whether this success can be replicated elsewhere in Africa. These case studies serve two important functions. First they demonstrate how policy analysis can be effective in highlighting key dimensions of the poverty-environment linkages underlying land degradation. Second, they illustrate how both "good" and "bad" policies can affect the economic incentives determining poor rural household's decisions to conserve or degrade their land.

JEL Classification: Q10, Q24

Suggested Citation

Barbier, Edward B., The Economic Linkages between Rural Poverty and Land Degradation: Some Evidence from Africa. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment, Vol. 82, pp. 355-370, 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=326800

Edward B. Barbier (Contact Author)

Colorado State University, Fort Collins - Department of Economics ( email )

Fort Collins, CO 80523-1771
United States

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