, Volume 109, Issue 3-4, pp 455-477,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 08 Mar 2011

Variability of African farming systems from phenological analysis of NDVI time series


Food security exists when people have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food at all times to meet their dietary needs. The natural resource base is one of the many factors affecting food security. Its variability and decline creates problems for local food production. In this study we characterize for sub-Saharan Africa vegetation phenology and assess variability and trends of phenological indicators based on NDVI time series from 1982 to 2006. We focus on cumulated NDVI over the season (cumNDVI) which is a proxy for net primary productivity. Results are aggregated at the level of major farming systems, while determining also spatial variability within farming systems. High temporal variability of cumNDVI occurs in semiarid and subhumid regions. The results show a large area of positive cumNDVI trends between Senegal and South Sudan. These correspond to positive CRU rainfall trends found and relate to recovery after the 1980’s droughts. We find significant negative cumNDVI trends near the south-coast of West Africa (Guinea coast) and in Tanzania. For each farming system, causes of change and variability are discussed based on available literature (Appendix A). Although food security comprises more than the local natural resource base, our results can perform an input for food security analysis by identifying zones of high variability or downward trends. Farming systems are found to be a useful level of analysis. Diversity and trends found within farming system boundaries underline that farming systems are dynamic.

Part of the work was done while A. Vrieling worked at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Ispra (VA), Italy.