The economics of soil productivity in sub-Saharan Africa

The economics of soil productivity in sub-Saharan Africa

New accounting methods to justify soil investments

This study examines the current and potential role of economics in soil productivity in sub-Saharan Africa. After examining the status of soil productivity and the contribution of conventional economic analyses approaches to address key issues, it considers more innovative approaches that enable economics to play a greater role in the planning and evaluation of soil productivity enhancing measures at farm, national and global level.

The study highlights how economics can respond to this challenge through the application of fresh concepts (e.g. natural capital) and specific techniques (e.g. multi-criteria analysis, green accounting).

Argues that:

  • the question of whether improved practices pay from the farmers' viewpoint is too general. Prices, agro-ecological conditions, macro-economic policies and underlying institutions will determine the answer on a site-specific basis. Regardless of farm level financial analyses, measures to address soil productivity problems can have economic benefits at the national level and even beyond, at the global level.
  • While assessing farm-level and national financial incentives should be a key focus, economic analysis at the national level can further understanding of the problem, raise awareness among decision-makers, and aid in monitoring changes in welfare as the situation either improves or deteriorates.
  • Though well-advanced in theory, non-market valuation techniques and methods for incorporating depletion effects into standard CBA lag behind in practice. MCA and similar project evaluation techniques could extend this standard framework to include other objectives that decision-makers and farmers consider in making choices about soil management, and thereby improve assessments of project viability. Moreover, economics can assist with the development of sustainability indicators at the farm, village and national levels and it has an important contribution to make through green accounting.

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