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Innovative agronomic practices for sustainable intensification in sub-Saharan Africa. A review

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Africa’s need to double food production and feed the burgeoning human population, without compromising its natural resource base, has raised the momentum for sustainable agricultural intensification on the continent. Many studies describe agronomic practices that can increase productivity on existing agricultural land without damaging the environment and without increasing the agricultural carbon footprint. However, there is limited information on specific practices with the greatest potential to contribute to sustainable intensification on smallholder farms in sub-Saharan Africa, while simultaneously keeping the carbon footprint low. The objectives of this review were to (1) identify good agronomic practices with potential for contributing to sustainable intensification across sub-Saharan Africa, (2) synthesize available information on benefits and synergies from these technologies, and (3) discuss bottlenecks in their adoption in order to obtain insights that inform the formulation of supportive policies. Agroforestry, cereal-legume intercropping, conservation agriculture, doubled-up legume cropping, fertilizer micro-dosing, planting basins, and push-pull technology were identified as key agronomic innovations widely promoted in sub-Saharan Africa. We show that these innovations can build synergies and increase resource use efficiency while reducing agricultural carbon footprint. We outline the benefits, trade-offs, and limitations of these practices and discuss their potential role in strengthening food sovereignty and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

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