Does protected cultivation have a place in sub-Saharan Africa?
A review of the transfer of protected cultivation methods into the region raises questions about performance, profitability, and environmental impact.
Vegetable production in sub-Saharan Africa faces numerous agronomic constraints that will have to be overcome to feed the increasing population and to fight malnutrition. Technology transfer and the adoption of low-tech protected cultivation techniques affordable for smallholders are believed to be able to meet this challenge.
Protected cultivation techniques aim to control the crop environment through the use of soil covers and/or plant covers to manage pests and climatic conditions. Although protected cultivation techniques may increase the yield and quality of vegetable crops and extend their production periods worldwide, the transfer of these techniques in sub-Saharan Africa raises questions about their performance, profitability, and environmental impact.
Are low-tech protected cultivation techniques adapted to the sustainable production of vegetables by smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa? To answer this question, a team of researchers from the World Vegetable Center, CIRAD, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), L’Institut Sénégalais de Recherche Agricole (ISRA), and Campus Agro-environnemental Caraïbe reviewed the agronomic, economic, and environmental performance of low-tech protected cultivation techniques in sub-Saharan Africa as reported in the literature.
Major conclusions from the review are (1) low-tech protected cultivation techniques are not suitable in all climatic conditions in sub-Saharan Africa and need to be combined with other methods to ensure adequate pest control; (2) the profitability of protected cultivation techniques relies on the capacity to offset increased production costs by higher yields and higher selling prices to be obtained with off-season and/or higher quality products; (3) breaking with existing cropping systems, the lack of technical support and skills, and the limited access to investment funding are major obstacles to the adoption of protected cultivation techniques by smallholders; and (4) life cycle assessments conducted in northern countries suggested that more efficient use of agricultural inputs would offset the negative impacts of protected cultivation techniques if they are properly managed, but further studies are required to be sure these results can be extrapolated to the sub-Saharan Africa context.
Nordey T, Basset-Mens C, de Bon H, Martin T, Déletré E, Simon S, Parrot L, Despretz H, Huat J, Biard Y, Dubois T, Malézieux E. 2017. Protected cultivation of vegetable crops in sub-Saharan Africa: limits and prospects for smallholders. A review. AGRONOMY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 37:53. DOI: 10.1007/s13593-017-0460-8.