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Pauvreté et développement: Théories et données empirique d'Afrique
Is land pressure an obstacle to agricultural productivity increase or not? This question is particularly important in Africa where agriculture occupies more than 60% of the active population. Which theoretical model could explain the situation in this continent? Until now, the influence of increase in land pressure on agricultural productivity and the environment is disputed. On one hand the pessimists, mainly represented by MALTHUS (1798), affirm that land pressure is associated to negative effects on agricultural productivity and leads to famine, environmental degradation and rural exodus. For, the rhythm of increase in food production is arithmetical, while that of population growth is geometric. On the other hand, the optimists, mainly represented by BOSERUP (1970), think that land pressure is an essential factor for technological change and agricultural intensification. For, growth in land pressure imposes systematically to farmer technological change for growing food production. But, although in general the demographic and food evolution in Africa presents a Malthusian trend, like the cases of Yatenga in Burkina Faso, Serer district in Senegal and Adja plateau in Benin Republic, it was even though observed some Boserupian evolutions like the cases of Bamileke district in Cameroon and Machakos district in Kenya. One wonders if it’s still possible to presage in Africa a generalised optimistic evolution of BOSERUP (1970) and in which conditions. In his thesis, sustained in 2008, Dr Emile N. Houngbo, from a temporal analysis of 122 households on the Adja plateau in southern Benin, developed an intermediary theoretical position between MALTHUS theory and that of BOSERUP. In land pressure situation, the farmers’ welfare state is a determinant of agricultural productivity increase and the environment improvement. Land pressure does not induce ipso facto technological change and agricultural productivity growth. The MALTHUS spectrum and the optimistic vision of BOSERUP represent the extreme situations induced by a higher chronic poverty rate in the first case and a lower chronic poverty rate in the second case. In order that the farmers can develop sustainable agriculture through technological change in land pressure situation, it’s necessary to reduce significantly or eradicate chronic poverty among them by facilitating a truly profitable agriculture, and insuring social protection (health, land security, gender discrimination, etc.).