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Sahelian Droughts

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Sahelian Droughts

Sahelian Droughts: A Partial Agronomic Solution
Nova | English | 2017 | ISBN-10: 1536104299 | 216 pages | PDF | 3.53 mb

by Anthony E. Hall (Author)

The Sahelian zone stretches across Africa fromSenegal and Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east passing through Mali,Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. The Sahelis adjacent to the southern boundary of the Sahara desert and the agricultureusually is limited by droughts. Since1970 the droughts have been even more extreme and major food crops producedlittle food and there was little forage for livestock in many years. Millions of people living in the Sahel havesuffered from famine and hundreds of thousands of people have died. As of 1974, it was estimated that thelivestock population had decreased by about 80 %. In the early 1970's while working as anAgronomist and Professor at the University of California, Riverside andconducting collaborative research in Senegal, Dr. Hall designed a partialagronomic solution to these droughts. Inimplementing this solution he collaborated with African students and scientiststo breed cowpea varieties that could withstand these droughts and provide foodfor people and forage for livestock.Early-flowering cowpea varieties with resistance to drought and variouspests and diseases were bred by research in California, Senegal, Sudan andGhana. Cowpea varieties were released inSenegal, Sudan and Ghana that have produced significant amounts of food inyears when traditional cowpea varieties and other staple food crops haveproduced little food. Enhanced cowpeabreeding and agronomy programs now are being conducted by African scientists inSenegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Sudan as aconsequence of this project, national cowpea research programs and variousinternational cowpea development projects.

Review
I strongly recommend this delightful short book which is about more good things than its title suggests. For the author, Professor Anthony Hall, this is a memoir. It recounts his career in agricultural science, unfolding both in the developed and developing worlds, the latter involving sub Saharan Africa and especially the Sahel (in this the title does not err). It is about cowpea, a rain-fed crop unknown to many but a vital source of protein in West Africa especially the drier Sahel region, and regularly grown under irrigation as a speciality food crop in California, where it is known as "black eye pea". It is also about the wisdom garnered in a lifetime working in these places. This begins with being a field officer in the colonial service in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in the early 1960's, and is followed by many years as scientist and professor at the University of California (Riverside) and researcher in the California Agricultural Experiment Station. Since 1976 Professor Hall combined his California responsibilities with numerous visits to the Sahel to participate in agricultural development projects, in particular ones involving breeding better cowpeas. And the breeding was successful, both in California and in the Sahel, a story which is not well known, for cowpea (at about 6 million tonnes p.a. globally) is a minor African crop compared to the world staples, like rice, wheat, corn and soybean. This book puts cowpea on the map, and hopefully sets the scene for further progress in productivity of this crop, one of growing importance in feeding very poor people, at least in West Africa. Many important lessons for those seriously interested in agricultural development in poor African nations are revealed, and there also are some sound lessons for US agricultural universities and agricultural aid projects. Progress requires persistence, enabling policies, broad engagement of local scientists, farmers and NGOs, while lifting yields needs both improved crop management as well as breeding of better cultivars. In the northern hemisphere at least, these dual research activities are embraced by the title word "agronomic", but as is evident in the book, breeding is the special activity demanding dedicated scientists and long term support. Nor is producing the improved variety enough, much attention to seed systems is essential for success as the book describes. The major role played by US universities in training African scientists is very evident throughout, as is the importance for these scientists of follow up when they return home. The USAID system of funding projects which link US universities with appropriate skills to developing country agricultural problems as in the Bean/Cowpea Collaborative Research Support Program in which Hall participated has been a generally very successful model, especially when the crop of interest is common to the University and the development target. But Hall argues that it needs agricultural scientists who can be rewarded in the system as generalists, skilled in building the multidisciplinary teams needed to usefully apply the basic research tools which University science tends to be preoccupied with these days. A book with so much wisdom about agricultural development should attract a wide audience, "people who are interested in agriculture, rural development in poor countries, Africa and science" as the author states. I concur, but would add that young people from both the developed and developing worlds, seeking to work in the important area of world food security, should get inspiration and guidance from this book, for although many of the tools of the twenty first century may be different, the underlying issues have not changed much, especially in the Sahel.

Dr. Tony Fischer
FAIA (Fellow of the Australian Institute of Agriculture)
FTSE (Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering)
Fellow Crop Science Society of America
Honorary Fellow CSIRO, Canberra, Australia

Eminent University of California crop scientist Professor Anthony Hall's 'Sahelian Droughts, a Partial Agronomic Solution' takes the reader on an enjoyable, decades-long personal journey to improve food security and rural livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa. Along the way, he faces diverse challenges and strives to apply scientific principles and practical approaches to develop workable solutions to declining productivity in the region. He provides vivid descriptions of the people populating the Sahel region of subSaharan Africa, where most of the story unfolds, and describes the soil and water limitations that frame their lives and livelihood opportunities in a rich but non-technical manner suitable for generalists.
This book details the evolution of Professor Hall's thinking as he encounters new experiences Unfortunately, there has been little progress in implementing the solutions proposed to date, even though as the book points out, these issues were recognized more than 30 years ago, including an unsustainable population growth rate. We can hope that policy makers will take the evidence and advice presented in this book under consideration.
One of the brilliant aspects of the book are the way the author relates key insights to specific personal experiences from the field, lending unique power to them. I am, and I believe many readers will be, thankful to the author for taking the time to share, in an engaging style, these powerful experiences and learnings.
Other great things about the book are its conversational style that is crisp and clear such that principles of biology and physics, plant breeding and agronomy, are conveyed through clear English, allowing non-experts in these fields to grasp its logic and content. Interwoven are the social and political aspects that affect the research and technology adoption agenda, and thus food security in this part of the world.
Beyond the specific solutions it presents to help boost livelihoods in the Sahel, its uplifting personal accounts of scientific discovery, by the author himself and his colleagues, offer a window into the crop scientists world that will hopefully stimulate young scientists to take up 'old' as well as emerging challenges such as climate change, with the foresight, logic and rigor of the author. Many of the experiences illustrate how 'development aid' works (or does not work well) in Africa. Thus, this volume is an important and engaging book that I would also recommend for development practitioners and policy makers, as well as researchers who care about the fate of this fragile region and its people
.
Dr. Jeff Ehlers ,
Program Officer,
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Series:
Environmental Remediation Technologies, Regulations and Safety

About the Author
Dr. Anthony E. Hall is an Emeritus Professor who retired in 2003. For 32 years he held a joint appointment as a Professor of Plant Physiology at the University of California, Riverside and as a Crop Ecologist in the California Agricultural Experiment Station. He collaborated with African colleagues in education and the development and extension of improved cowpea varieties and management methods, breeding seven cowpea varieties. He received the USDA Secretary's Honor Award in 2001 and the USAID/BIFAD Chair's Award for Scientific Excellence in 2000. In 1993 he was elected a Fellow in the Crop Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy. He wrote " Sahelian Droughts: A Partial Agronomic Solution" in 2017 and "Crop Responses to Environment" in 2001 and he was the co-editor of four scientific books. He was the author or co-author of of 173 scientific journal articles, chapters and reviews. In recent years he has advised agencies of the United Nations and various foundations concerning the types of agricultural research needed to promote rural development in Africa.