|part because such lands often involve relatively new environmental experiences of which the farmers in question do not have an adequate knowledge. The policy implication here would appear to emphasize less rapid settlement and to encourage extensive means of land use. Interestingly, there remain good agricultural lands in sub-Saharan Africa that are relatively sparsely settled and that are attracting population; such colonization will increase with disease control. Presumably, this movement should be encouraged with emphasis on the development of an infrastructure that facilitates agricultural development, notably roads, and on functioning markets.|
|Isolated areas are high-density, high-intensity locales that have
poorly developed infrastructures and weak markets, in part because of
their geographical setting and, therefore, have weak interregional and international linkages. Policy prescriptions here, presuming no immediate
developments that would alter the isolation, include promoting land-
based capital improvements and land-conservation technologies; preserving access to those lands in which agriculture might extend (e.g.,
wetlands); and encouraging the growth of intraregional markets.|
Finally, it would appear that the principle of comparative advantage, following Lele and Stone ( 1989), is a good one for intervention policy interested in increasing agriculture in general. We differ from these two authors in the emphasis placed on the inherent fertility of land in determining comparative advantage because of the anthropogenic nature of perception of farmland quality and because of the important locational issues discussed.
As many more agricultural districts in Africa approach densities similar to our studies (greater than 200 persons/km2), we can reject with some confidence an expectation of Malthusian collapse. There will be a cushion of intensification, diversification, and dietary change sufficient to provide for the immediate subsistence needs of the greater population, but a better life will not spontaneously follow. Beyond the intensification of agriculture solely from the labor and ingenuity of small farmers, there is need for social relationships that encourage, techniques that make possible, and incentives that reward agrarian-based development.
|Bernstein H., B. Crow, M. Mackintosh, and C. Martin, eds. 1990. The Food Question: Profit versus People? London: Earthscan.|