Ecological engineering for sustainable agriculture in arid and semiarid West african regions

Issue 11 60 pp. • Published in April 2018

Author(s): Bied-Charreton Marc, Chotte Jean-Luc, Masse Dominique , Requier-Desjardins Mélanie, Scopel Éric

Over the past 10 years, the French Scientific Committee on Desertification has conducted a series of reviews and published many reports on topics that have  seldom been investigated but are essential for the development of dryland areas— the contribution of direct-seeding mulch-based cropping systems, why we should  invest in arid areas, restoring natural capital, pastoralism in dryland areas, and  carbon in dryland soils. The Committee has played a pioneering role in these  initiatives by dealing with cross-cutting issues focused on combating desertification  and soil degradation, in addition to biodiversity preservation and the adaptation of  farming systems to climate change.

This Dossier looks at potential contributions of ecological engineering to the  management of agrosilvopastoral systems in sub-Saharan dryland areas, while  helping to describe and define appropriate agroecological practices. Based on the  authors’ and contributors’ experience, West Africa is focused on to illustrate the  ecological intensification approach to agricultural production in the broad sense,  which also takes livestock and forest production into account. Examples from non- African tropical dryland areas worldwide are also discussed to illustrate the potential  of agroecological engineering in this climate setting.

The aim here is not to discuss all agricultural development related issues but rather  to focus specifically on different examples we think are relevant to this ecological engineering approach. After reviewing a few key features of agriculture in dryland,  arid and semiarid areas, examples of biological or ecological processes that could be adjusted to the benefit of agrosilvopastoral systems are covered. These examples  address different key factors with regard to ecosystem functioning, including biodiversity, material and energy flows, and landscape ecology. The Dossier ends  with a review of these so-called agroecological practices in the agricultural  development socioeconomic context of arid and semiarid regions of West Africa. It  was, of course, not possible to thoroughly assess all of the parameters. Essential  issues such as land security with regard to restored plots, agricultural price stability  and learning and support problems are thus not covered. It is essential that these  ecological engineering techniques benefit family farms, which predominate in dryland regions.

This Dossier is being published at a time when international bodies are strongly  encouraged to focus on halting biodiversity loss, storing more carbon and restoring land to hamper its degradation. The authors warrant praise for so clearly presenting  sometimes complex, but inherently sustainable techniques.

    Bied-Charreton Marc

    Bied-Charreton Marc

    Professor Emeritus, UVSQ (France)

    Chotte Jean-Luc

    Chotte Jean-Luc

    Soil ecology–microbial diversity, IRD (France)

    Masse Dominique

    Masse Dominique

    Agronomy ecology, IRD (France)

    Requier-Desjardins Mélanie

    Requier-Desjardins Mélanie

    Trainer and researcher, social sciences, IAMM-CIHEAM

    Scopel Éric

    Scopel Éric

    Ecological engineering, CIRAD (France)


    L’ingénierie écologique

    Fiche du CSFD 11  •  2015

    L’ingénierie écologique

    pour une agriculture durable dans les zones arides et semi-arides d’Afrique de l’Ouest

Support

Editing, production and distribution of Les dossiers thématiques du CSFD are fully supported by this Committee thanks to the support of relevant French Ministries and AFD (French Development Agency).

  • Ministère de l'Education nationale, de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche
  • Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Développement international
  • Ministère de la Transition écologique et solidaire
  • Agence Française de Développement (AFD)

Opinions

The opinions expressed in these reports are endorsed by the Committee.

Contact

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Dossiers

thématiques du CSFD

Mankind is now confronted with an issue of worldwide concern, i.e. desertification, which is both a natural phenomenon and a process induced by human activities. Our planet and natural ecosystems have never been so degraded by our presence. Long considered as a local problem, desertification is now a global issue of concern to all of us, including scientists, decision makers, citizens from both developed and developing countries. Within this setting, it is urgent to boost the awareness of civil society to convince it to get involved. People must first be given the elements necessary to better understand the desertification phenomenon and the concerns. Everyone should have access to relevant scientific knowledge in a readily understandable language and format.

Within this scope, the French Scientific Committee on Desertification (CSFD) has decided to launch a series entitled Les dossiers thématiques du CSFD, which is designed to provide sound scientific information on desertification, its implications and stakes. This series is intended for policy makers and advisers from developed and developing countries, in addition to the general public and scientific journalists involved in development and the environment. It also aims at providing teachers, trainers and trainees with additional information on various associated disciplinary fields. Lastly, it endeavours to help disseminate knowledge on the combat against desertification, land degradation, and poverty to stakeholders such as representatives of professional, nongovernmental, and international solidarity organisations.

These Dossiers are devoted to different themes such as global public goods, remote sensing, wind erosion, agroecology, pastoralism, etc, in order to take stock of current knowledge on these various subjects. The goal is also to outline debates around new ideas and concepts, including controversial issues; to expound widely used methodologies and results derived from a number of projects; and lastly to supply operational and academic references, addresses and useful websites. These Dossiers are to be broadly circulated, especially within the countries most affected by desertification, by email, through our website, and in print. Your feedback and suggestions will be much appreciated!

Scientific editing and iconography: Isabelle Amsallem, Agropolis Productions
Design and production: Olivier Piau, Agropolis Productions