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Recent changes in cropland area and productivity indicate unsustainable cropland expansion in Malawi

Recent changes in cropland area and productivity indicate unsustainable cropland expansion in Malawi
Recent changes in cropland area and productivity indicate unsustainable cropland expansion in Malawi
Cropland expansion is a common strategy for boosting agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) even though it often leads to economic, environmental, and social trade-offs. Ensuring sustainable cropland use and their management is critical for improving food security and preserving ecosystem services. To develop policies and approaches that support sustainable cropland management at national and sub-national scales, there is a need to understand the spatial distribution of cropland expansion (/loss), and any resultant changes in cropland productivity. This is especially important in SSA countries such as Malawi, where spatially explicit assessments of changes in cropland area and cropland productivity are lacking. To address this gap in Malawi, we used multi-source satellite data and socio-economic data, combined with satellite image classification and trend analysis, firstly to quantify spatial changes in cropland area and productivity, and secondly to evaluate potentially available cropland for future expansion. We found evidence of unsustainable cropland use in Malawi, which was demonstrated by: (a) rapid cropland expansion between 2010 and 2019 (increase 8.5% of land area), characterized by an expansion of crop farming into upland areas which indicate increased land scarcity in Malawi; (b) limited potential for future expansion, as approximately only 5% of the total land remained as potentially available cropland (corresponding to 4671 000 ha); and (c) an overall reduction in cropland productivity and a prevalence of increase in soil erosion. Our findings underscore the urgent need for taking measures to promote sustainable cropland use, including by protecting current cropland from further degradation (e.g. Southern Malawi) and improving cropland use planning (e.g. Northern Malawi).
Malawi, cropland degradation, cropland expansion, land cover changes, land scarcity, potentially available cropland, remote sensing
1748-9326
Li, Chengxiu
adaf46fc-1573-4c50-bd7f-b2e7ed048f7e
Kandel, Matthew
99bc706c-5e04-4a9d-8687-79fca960cd76
Anghileri, Daniela
611ecf6c-55d5-4e63-b051-53e2324a7698
Oloo, Francis
15a0f682-0c52-4259-a4d2-3e8c36072aa2
Kambombe, Oscar
7952a9bb-e358-4a18-8f18-680e35ce6ecd
Polite Chibarabada, Tendai
4f7477b7-64b2-47f5-b6a5-66a9b7c5e5ae
Ngongondo, Cosmo
c5ca5b5c-feff-4d0a-93b9-305ef1c447af
Sheffield, Justin
dd66575b-a4dc-4190-ad95-df2d6aaaaa6b
Dash, Jadunandan
51468afb-3d56-4d3a-aace-736b63e9fac8
Li, Chengxiu
adaf46fc-1573-4c50-bd7f-b2e7ed048f7e
Kandel, Matthew
99bc706c-5e04-4a9d-8687-79fca960cd76
Anghileri, Daniela
611ecf6c-55d5-4e63-b051-53e2324a7698
Oloo, Francis
15a0f682-0c52-4259-a4d2-3e8c36072aa2
Kambombe, Oscar
7952a9bb-e358-4a18-8f18-680e35ce6ecd
Polite Chibarabada, Tendai
4f7477b7-64b2-47f5-b6a5-66a9b7c5e5ae
Ngongondo, Cosmo
c5ca5b5c-feff-4d0a-93b9-305ef1c447af
Sheffield, Justin
dd66575b-a4dc-4190-ad95-df2d6aaaaa6b
Dash, Jadunandan
51468afb-3d56-4d3a-aace-736b63e9fac8

Li, Chengxiu, Kandel, Matthew, Anghileri, Daniela, Oloo, Francis, Kambombe, Oscar, Polite Chibarabada, Tendai, Ngongondo, Cosmo, Sheffield, Justin and Dash, Jadunandan (2021) Recent changes in cropland area and productivity indicate unsustainable cropland expansion in Malawi. Environmental Research Letters, 16 (8), [084052]. (doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ac162a).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Cropland expansion is a common strategy for boosting agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) even though it often leads to economic, environmental, and social trade-offs. Ensuring sustainable cropland use and their management is critical for improving food security and preserving ecosystem services. To develop policies and approaches that support sustainable cropland management at national and sub-national scales, there is a need to understand the spatial distribution of cropland expansion (/loss), and any resultant changes in cropland productivity. This is especially important in SSA countries such as Malawi, where spatially explicit assessments of changes in cropland area and cropland productivity are lacking. To address this gap in Malawi, we used multi-source satellite data and socio-economic data, combined with satellite image classification and trend analysis, firstly to quantify spatial changes in cropland area and productivity, and secondly to evaluate potentially available cropland for future expansion. We found evidence of unsustainable cropland use in Malawi, which was demonstrated by: (a) rapid cropland expansion between 2010 and 2019 (increase 8.5% of land area), characterized by an expansion of crop farming into upland areas which indicate increased land scarcity in Malawi; (b) limited potential for future expansion, as approximately only 5% of the total land remained as potentially available cropland (corresponding to 4671 000 ha); and (c) an overall reduction in cropland productivity and a prevalence of increase in soil erosion. Our findings underscore the urgent need for taking measures to promote sustainable cropland use, including by protecting current cropland from further degradation (e.g. Southern Malawi) and improving cropland use planning (e.g. Northern Malawi).

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e-pub ahead of print date: 20 July 2021
Published date: 5 August 2021
Keywords: Malawi, cropland degradation, cropland expansion, land cover changes, land scarcity, potentially available cropland, remote sensing

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 451028
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/451028
ISSN: 1748-9326
PURE UUID: 83c3d91c-def7-449a-9682-5550400fd659
ORCID for Daniela Anghileri: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-6220-8593
ORCID for Justin Sheffield: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-2400-0630
ORCID for Jadunandan Dash: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-5444-2109

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Date deposited: 03 Sep 2021 16:31
Last modified: 23 Feb 2023 03:16

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Contributors

Author: Chengxiu Li
Author: Matthew Kandel
Author: Francis Oloo
Author: Oscar Kambombe
Author: Tendai Polite Chibarabada
Author: Cosmo Ngongondo
Author: Jadunandan Dash ORCID iD

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