News / Africa

Dwindling West African Rainforest Threatens Long-Term Food Security

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

In West Africa, the Guinean Rainforest is rapidly disappearing. A new study says increased production of cocoa, cassava and oil palm has meant more land is being cleared for agriculture. This could have major long-term consequences for climate change and food security.

Since the days of independence, West Africa has done a pretty good job of feeding itself. But scientist James Gockowski said that success has come at a terrible price – the loss of vast areas of rainforest.

Guinean Rainforest
Guinean Rainforest

Gockowski, who’s lived in the region for 30 years, has written a new report on the Guinean Rainforest for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the Center for International Forestry Research.

“The forest, for all intents and purposes, is gone outside of the protected areas. And what’s in its place is a mosaic of agricultural land uses and bush fallow land – land that is brought into production every four or five years on kind of a rotational basis,” he said.

Gone forever

It’s estimated only 15 to 20 percent of the rainforest that once stretched across coastal West Africa is still standing. And most of that is in protected areas, such as parks and forest reserves. The loss, he said, has meant biodiversity extinction.

“Mainly with species that really were unknown to science, still waiting to be discovered. These are mainly insect species and microbial species. But, as well, there are things like the forest hippo, pigmy hippo of West Africa. There are about five primate species that are on the most endangered primate species list,” he said.

One primate that has become extinct is Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus Monkey. It hasn’t been sighted since the late 1970s and was declared extinct in 2000.

Gockowski said we’ll never know how many cures for diseases have disappeared along with the forest.

Climate and environment

“This amount of deforestation can influence local hydrological cycles and influence the climate at a local level. But it is also impacting climate at the global level because several gigatons of carbon are in the atmosphere now that used to be in the rainforests of West Africa,” he said.

A gigaton equals one billion tons.

Often forest land is cleared through burning. The ash that’s left contains high levels of nutrients that feed crops and bring good harvests. The problem is those nutrients are depleted over time or simply washed away. The current solution is to simply burn down more forest.

“It’s been an exploitation of the natural capital, the natural resources, with very little substitution of modern agricultural science in the form of fertilizers, improved varieties, improved cultural practices, etc.,” said Gockowski.

Using those techniques, he says, would mean greater food production on existing land, with little need for further deforestation. He says that will be necessary with a projected doubling of the population in 40 years.

“These are some serious issues that really require joint decision making between ministries of the environment, agriculture, cocoa regulatory authorities and ministries of finance or commerce,” he said.

The study says cocoa production in West Africa’s Guinean Rainforest doubled between 1987 and 2007. But most of that increase was gained by clearing large areas of forest.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More