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10.11.2009 - Article
Combating hunger and poverty without depleting Earth’s resources

Africa Factbook 2009 measures countries’ Ecological Footprints

Africa has enormous amounts of natural resources, yet suffers disproportionately from hunger, poverty and disease. While most African countries have small Ecological Footprints, growing populations mean their footprints too will become larger. If Africa is to make long-term advances in human development, it will need to find approaches that work with Earth’s ecological limitations. This is a key finding of the Africa Factbook 2009, produced by the Global Footprint Network with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Between 1961 and 2005 Africa’s population grew from 287 to 902 million. At the same time available renewable food, fibre and timber resources (known as biocapacity) per person decreased by 67 percent. While this development is not specific to Africa, this global trend takes a harder toll on the continent, whose countries contain 12 percent of the world’s biocapacity and whose people suffer most, when demand on natural resources exceeds nature’s ability to renew these resources.

The Africa Factbook 2009 provides research on the Ecological Footprints of 24 countries, allowing readers to compare consumption of natural resources with a country’s capacity to regenerate these resources. The Ecological Footprint provides a measure of humanity’s demand on nature. It tracks how much land and water area a human population requires to produce the resource it consumes and to absorb its wastes, using technology.

Ecological deficits and resource conflicts

“Development that ignores the limits of our natural resources ultimately ends up imposing disproportionate costs on the most vulnerable,” says Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel. “Africa is a region where ecological deficits can translate most directly into resource conflicts and shortages of food, fuel and other basic necessities for survival.”

The Global Footprint Network, established 2003 in California, is a global think tank whose programmes aim to influence decision-makers at all levels and which propagates the use of the Ecological Footprint as a tool. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has a long-standing relationship with the Network. The Africa Factbook 2009 builds on previous research publications supported by the SDC.

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