Environment, vol. 37, issue 4 (1995) pp. 4-9, 31-5
Countries in sub-Saharan Africa are doing some rethinking, after decades of development that have resulted in continued poverty, international indebtedness, environmental degradation, and inappropriate Western models. Technological innovations, institutional developments, and family planning are key inputs. Development should shift to a focus on elimination of widespread poverty. Past development strategies in an African context of ample resources have harmed the environment without improving the average person's standard of living. Knowledge about Africa's environment and environmental degradation is inadequate. Recent studies have found, contrary to popular belief, that small shareholders made considerable investments in resource-based capital, which protected their farms from major environmental deterioration and negative impacts of intensification. In Nigeria field studies found that rising demand for fuelwood did not lead to greater deforestation or desertification. Severe degradation has occurred in places where density of population is greater than 500 persons per sq. km, where the land is physically or biologically vulnerable, and where socioeconomic conditions interfere with application of conservation measures. Reduced well-being and reduced food capacity is attributed to land tenure arrangements, misguided macroeconomic policies, and inadequate infrastructure. The issues of development, environment, and population are complex. Sustainable development is possible with appropriate investment priorities that will provide needed infrastructure, services, and education. Urban areas need safe water, solid waste disposal, and spatial planning to relieve congested spaces. Rural areas should focus on health education and basic sanitation. Regulatory measures and conservation measures are also important. Institutional development that promotes democracy, expands individual property rights, and increases the knowledge base offers the most hope for alleviating poverty and protecting the environment.
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