Friday, November 26, 2010

Saving our forests with fertilizer use

Jim Gockowski presenting the results of a study linking
fertilizer use and deforestation in West Africa

Research carried out among Farmer Field Schools in Ghana has shown that fertilizer use would have averted the clearing of 7 million ha of Guinea forest land in West Africa for crops such as cassava, cocoa and yams in the last 20 years.

This, in turn, would have prevented some 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere valued between US$2.8 billion and US$42 billion. This could have also saved thousands of species in the region from becoming extinct. This was reported by Jim Gockowski, an IITA Agricultural Economist and one of the researchers involved in study, during one of the sessions on Natural Resources Management at R4D Week 2010.

He added that eventhough there was a steady increase in crop production with the use of fertilizers -- with  yields more than doubling when farmers used the recommended amount -- only 4% of the sampled farmers were at that optimal level of fertilizer use.

“Despite the huge loss of forest land, the growth in crop production was insignificant, with cassava increasing only by 0.2%, oil palm by 0.22%, and cocoa by 0.64%,” he said. “We have harmed the environment but we are still way behind our MDG goals because we failed to intensify our agriculture.”

The Guinea forest of West Africa is one of the IUCN's global hotspots covering 1.4% of the earth’s surface and containing 60% of all animal and plant species. It has been heavily deforested by farmer smallholders of cassava, cocoa, and oil palm.

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