SUB-REGIONAL SECTIONS

WESTERN AFRICA

Figure 8: State of aridity in Western Africa As shown in Figure 8, about 70 per cent of Western Africa, covering mainly the Sahelian zone, is semi-arid to desert (CILSS 2005). The sub-region is experiencing an increase in land degradation caused by salinity, erosion and the loss of soil fertility.

OVERVIEW OF LAND RESOURCES

The total land area of the sub-region is 607.84 million ha (FAO 2005). Arable land, permanent pasture and protected areas are shown in Table 11.

Table 11: Arable land and permanent pasture
Country Land area (1 000 ha) Arable land (1 000 ha) Permanent pasture (1 000 ha)
  1990 2003 1990 2003 1990 2003
Benin 11 062 11 062 1 615 2 650 550 550
Burkina Faso 27 360 27 360 3 520 4 840 6 000 6 000
Cape Verde 403 403 41 46 25 25
Côte d’Ivoire 31 800 31 800 2 430 3 300 13 000 13 000
Gambia 1 000 1 000 182 315 450 459
Ghana 22 754 22 754 2 700 4 185 8 405 8 350
Guinea 24 572 24 572 728 1 100 10 788 10 700
Guinea-Bissau 2 812 2 812 300 300 1 080 1 080
Liberia 9 632 9 632 400 382 1 993 2 000
Mali 122 019 122 019 2 053 4 660 30 000 30 000
Mauritania 102 522 102 522 400 488 39 250 39 250
Niger 126 670 126 670 11 036 14 483 22 000 24 000
Nigeria 91 077 91 077 29 539 30 500 40 000 39 200
Senegal 19 253 19 253 2 325 2 460 5 744 5 650
Sierra Leone 7 162 7 162 486 570 2 204 2 200
Togo 5 439 5 439 2 100 2 510 1 000 1 000
Total 605 537 605 537 59 855 72 789 182 489 183 464

Source: FAOSTAT 2005

ENDOWMENTS AND OPPORTUNITIES

West Africa is projected to grow 4.5 per cent in 2005, with 8 of the 15 countries expected to record improvements over those achieved in 2004. These are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Senegal (ECA 2005). Land resources are the primary driver of this growth. Factors behind this growth include agricultural growth in Benin, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo; donor support for Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone; expansion in mining in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ghana, Mali and Sierra Leone; foreign investment inflows to Cape Verde and Liberia (in response to anticipated improvement in political stability); and growth in tourism in Cape Verde and Gambia (ECA 2005).

Agriculture is the main source of revenue of almost 60 per cent of the population. The main subsistence and cash crops are maize, rice, coffee, cotton, cocoa, palm oil and fruits. Agricultural income represents an important part of GDP.

In the Sahelian zone, semi-nomadic and domestic livestock production are important activities. However, the long duration of the dry season compels breeders to move their cattle towards the south. This happens in Senegal, Niger, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

Regionally, oil has been an important stimulant of growth. The full potential of this for Western Africa is not known. Benin, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo are all believed to have some oil deposits. Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa and the eleventh largest in the world, In 2004, Nigeria’s production averaged 2.5 million barrels per day (bbl/d) and it plans to increase this to 3 million bbl/d in 2006 and to 4 million bbl/d by 2010 (Energy Information Administration 2005b).

Mining, including for gold, phosphates, iron, uranium and diamonds, offers opportunities for development.

CHALLENGES FACED IN REALIZING OPPORTUNITIES FOR DEVELOPMENT

Land degradation is the main threat to the opportunities of land for sustainable development. There are several reasons for land degradation in Western Africa: overexploitation, bush fires, and population pressure associated with high population growth rates, to name but few. Land degradation can also be attributed to repeated periods of drought. The immediate effects of the degradation process are erosion, loss in soil fertility, reduction of biodiversity and biomass productivity, and impoverishment of the population.

In the Sahel, overgrazing is another threat to opportunities as it emphasizes land degradation.