Cash crops vs cattle pastures: Converting pastoral lands into irrigated croplands in Africa benefits few

ILRI Clippings

Ethiopian rangeland

Ethiopian rangeland (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

‘Cotton, sugar, palm oil… you name it. Most governments in the developing world believe such plantation cash crops must be a better use of land, and must deliver greater economic returns, than cattle pastures. That’s what most of the current land grabs in Africa are about. That’s why the World Bank calls the continent’s millions of square kilometres of unfenced savanna “the world’s last large reserve of underused land”.

‘But are the great grasslands really “underused”? . . .

There have been remarkably few analyses of what economists term the “opportunity costs” of big irrigation schemes. Of how they stack up against the pastoral alternative? So the findings of a new investigation from Ethiopia could, and certainly should, reverberate across Africa.

‘Ethiopia’s government has high ambitions for economic development, but sometimes appears to have less regard for herders. . . .

‘Is this long-standing…

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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5 Responses to Cash crops vs cattle pastures: Converting pastoral lands into irrigated croplands in Africa benefits few

  1. have you seen this?

    certainly doesn’t seem intuitive…

    there is so much contradictory information out there it gets hugely distressing, really. How do proceed when no one agrees?

    • argylesock says:

      Yes I did see it in fact. I referred to it on this blog on 7th April (after ILRI highlighted it) and again on 10th April when our fellow blogger Janina at Food (Policy) for Thought added more information.

      Do you really think that there’s no agreement about this? Maybe I’m missing something but I’m inclined to believe Prof Savory.

      • no…there is absolutely no agreement…I come at this from a diet and nutrition standpoint where everyone makes their arguments based on their dietary ideology…you most likely frequent different circles…I don’t have the cognitive ability at this time to do scientific research in original materials and really it’s not where I feel my talents lie in any case. I do tend to sense that this is the right way to go as well, but I’m well aware I’m not well-enough informed to know that for sure. The fact is human beings are by nature ideological and there are smart people with scientific arguments making contradictory arguments with data interpreted in such a way that supports whatever the heck they want to say.

        sorry if that’s rather rambling and awkward. I’ve not slept but I think I’m being clear.

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