West Africa Farming Systems and its Natural Resources Utilization.3 min read

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West Africa which lies closely to the atlantics has unique raining seasons which split the ecological bands of the region into the Sahel which borders the deserts, savanna grasslands and the rain forest which gives rise to the mangrove swamps within the coastal region.
 As we move from the north to south of West Africa there is an abrupt decline in the amount of annual rainfall. Grains like guinea corn and millet are planted and harvested much easier in the north as they need just a little amount of rainfall to grow and ripe. Staple crop like rice which needs much water to thrive is favored to grow in the southern regions which are characterized by heavy down pour year round. Other cash crops like yam, cassava and maize also thrives in the eastern region which experience a double peak rainfall period. Typically, farmers in most of the West African countries have been able to innovatively manage the complex ecological terrain by employing the intercropping farming system to obtain significant consistent yields in view of the uncertain climatic conditions and little or no availability of the required labor.

Farming activities widely varies from the mainly male farming regions of Niger where most of the exhaustive labor is done by men to the primarily female farming regions of Cameroon where the women are responsible for the intermittent labour that follows. However, majority of these regions lies basically between these two extremes.  The coastal lines of most West African countries are beehives of fishing activities because of the vast surrounding water bodies. The major source of livelihood for most people residing within this region is fishing while the sea food generates the much needed income for the families up keeps. Some of the largest sea ports found in West Africa include Apapa port in Lagos Nigeria, Abijan port in Ivory Coast, Takoradi port in Ghana, Dakar port in Senegal, Lome port in Togo and Cotonou port in Benin.
Farmers in West Africa (Tribute: The Herald Nigeria)
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West Africa is also home to hundreds of natural resources. Some of these natural resources include ivory, timber, crude oil and rubber. Ivory, timber and rubber are major natural export that brings huge revenue to countries like Ivory Coast and Ghana while crude oil is a major foreign exchange earner for country like Nigeria.  Cash crops like groundnuts, palm oil and Cocoa are also top source of revenue for most West African countries.
Pastoral farming and raring of livestock for commercial purpose is predominantly practiced in the north. Countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Gambia, and Nigeria have played a crucial role in livestock production. Livestock products like meat, leather and skin are among some of the top foreign exchange commodities.

Do you know?
That shifting cultivation was used as the first farming system to replace early gathering and hunting by the people of West Africa? Today, the farming system in West Africa varies and has no generalized classification accepted by the region? However, for simplicity sake the farming system in this region are classified into the traditional and the modern farming systems. The pastoral farming and nomadic herding are examples of farming systems that falls under the traditional type while terrace and intensive farming system are examples of modern type.