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The Consequences of Structural Adjustment and Debt for Desertification and Food Security in Africa - A Literature Review and Discussion

IJED, Vol. 3 No. 4, (2001)

Africa is facing declining per capita agricultural output. Food imports to Sub-Saharan Africa rose from US$1.1 billion in 1970 to US$ 5.3 billion in 1985 contributing to raising external debt from US$5.4 billion to US$58.8 billion during the same time period. In 1998, external debt stood at US$230 billion. Since the 1980’s global recession and introduction of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), Africa’s debt burden has grown from 30% of GNP to currently over a 100%.
The links between the supra-national/national economic policies, and the natural resource base of implementing countries have not sufficiently been made in past policy formulation. This paper discusses the possible effects of higher scale macro-economic policies on land use decisions (on the farm) that ultimately affect land degradation and desertification. To what extent macro-economic policy, namely SAPs, have been complimentary to the goals of Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) National Action Programmes are explored.
Various long and short-term scenarios of the micro-level effects of SAPs and their resultant debt are discussed. Effects on terms of trade, yields, and on farmers’ decisions on whether to sustainable intensifying or extensifying land-use are presented within an overall framework of assessing multiple-scale effects of economic policy on land degradation and desertification. The paper argues that multidisciplinary and multi-scale land degradation problems should be addressed through inter-institutional cooperation and by systematically combining natural and social science in research and policy formulation to tackle land degradation leading desertification in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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