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

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora