Promoting more sustainable land use in the semi-arid tropics through improved market infrastructure: A Malian case study
This paper is concerned with the extent to which semi-arid regions should remain involved in food production. Current low-input farming practices in these drier areas have pushed cultivation onto the marginal lands, threatening the sustainability of their already fragile ecosystems. With higher productive zones available, such as the Sikasso region of Mali, increased food flows into the semi-arid areas could be used to relieve land pressure. Central to this question is the priority that farmers place on satisfying subsistence food needs with on-farm production, a strategy that avoids risk from high market prices should drought conditions ensue. To determine the feasibility of increased food flows, a farm model was developed that detailed the additional risk farmers would need to incur if they increased their reliance on food markets. The model included an environmental subcomponent (EPIC) to estimate the degradation costs from continued expansion onto marginal areas. Policies to improve market infrastructure resulted in a significant decrease in the use of marginal lands. The modeling activities suggest a reduced, but more sustainable, role for food production for the semi-arid areas.