Questions of Imbalance: Agronomic Science and Sustainability Assessment in Dryland West Africa

  • Matthew D. Turner
Chapter

Abstract

Nutrient budgeting has become a common tool to assess the sustainability of African agriculture, calculated by subtracting estimates of flows of nutrients out from the flows coming in. More negative budgets for a field, village territory, county, country, or region are seen as evidence for unsustainable “nutrient mining” leading to land degradation. This chapter places this approach within the traditions of agronomic science of dryland Africa. A basic limitation of this tradition is its recurrent attempts to avoid engaging seriously with the dynamics and heterogeneities of farmers’ practices. This chapter concludes by presenting a critical physical geographical alternative that seeks to understand how social and biophysical landscapes are co-produced involving high rates of soil sampling and analysis; interviews of farmers about the management history of sampled fields; and assessment of field managers’ access to productive resources (land, labor, livestock).

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew D. Turner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA

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