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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Africa's Tropical Forests Next in Line As Global Food Demand Grows

At a bare floored restaurant on the edge of the Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon, I asked the owner what there was to eat. She gestured to a poster on the wall. It was an illustrated guide of 44 animal species under threat from poaching and over-hunting, but for the restaurant it served as a menu. Each animal she pointed to was available to order. The Dja, and other forests in Central Africa's Congo Basin, are a breadbasket for millions of people living in the region. At nearly 2 million square kilometres, the area of tropical forest in the Congo Basin is the second largest in the world after the Amazon. Besides supplying bushmeat, these forests provide building materials, medicine, wild fruits, vegetables and spices. They also regulate the local climate and flow of water, play an important role in soil conservation by retaining soil fertility and preventing erosion and cycling nutrients for crops grown under their shaded canopy. These forests are also home to thousands of endemic plant and animal species, including the okapi. While these forests have long been threatened by logging, over-hunting, and small-scale subsistence farming, they remain mostly intact relative to other parts of the tropics like the Brazilian Amazon or Indonesia. But there are rising concerns that trends in rapid deforestation across the Amazon and Southeast Asia could spread to Africa. In particular, some worry that continued demand for commodity crops will lead to large-scale agricultural expansion in Africa where it's estimated, that 50%-67% of the land suitable for agriculture is still forest.To date, agricultural expansion in sub-Saharan Africa has mainly been driven by small-scale subsistence farmers. Yet since 2005, 22.7 million hectares of land in sub-Saharan Africa has been acquired by large-scale landholders. We examined recent trends in domestic and export-oriented agricultural expansion in sub-Saharan Africa. Our aim was to establish whether patterns are changing and to identify countries at risk of expansion into tropical forests.

Source: Allafrica