Intensification scenarios in south-western Niger: Implications for revisiting fertilizer policy
In semi-arid south-western Niger, external fertilizer inputs are a complement of livestock-mediated nutrient transfers for maintaining soil fertility. This paper discusses scenarios of intensification for different farm household types in an area representative of the wetter parts of semi-arid Sahel. Twenty-five-year projections suggest that soil fertility may not always or irreversibly deteriorate under intensification, and that nitrogen is the main external input required. Owning animals allows some households to achieve food security and maintain soil fertility by capturing and mobilizing soil nutrients. Intensification will bring various benefits to livelihoods, but these will be unevenly distributed. The results of this paper should caution scientists and policy-makers against the often heard warning of inevitable losses in soil fertility in the Sahel associated with intensive technologies, and against extrapolating conclusions attained at specific locations or social groups. Endogenous coping strategies based on using local inputs can also be effective and should be explored in addition to a continued attention for the need for more targeted uses of external inputs.
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