ASSP / Cattle / Crops / Ethiopia / Irrigation

Cash crops vs cattle pastures: Converting pastoral lands into irrigated croplands in Africa benefits few

ILRI Clippings

Ethiopian rangeland

Ethiopian rangeland (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

‘Cotton, sugar, palm oil… you name it. Most governments in the developing world believe such plantation cash crops must be a better use of land, and must deliver greater economic returns, than cattle pastures. That’s what most of the current land grabs in Africa are about. That’s why the World Bank calls the continent’s millions of square kilometres of unfenced savanna “the world’s last large reserve of underused land”.

‘But are the great grasslands really “underused”? . . .

There have been remarkably few analyses of what economists term the “opportunity costs” of big irrigation schemes. Of how they stack up against the pastoral alternative? So the findings of a new investigation from Ethiopia could, and certainly should, reverberate across Africa.

‘Ethiopia’s government has high ambitions for economic development, but sometimes appears to have less regard for herders. . . .

‘Is this long-standing…

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