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Potential treasures lie concealed under the West African savannah in some of the Earth’s poorest countries. Extensive gold fields occur, over hundreds of kilometres, from Senegal to Niger. The rapid rise in precious metal prices over the past five years has prompted hugely intensified mineral exploration. Yet new veins must be found if this African gold rush is to continue.
A new discovery, published in Nature Geoscience , is now shaking up our understanding of the Earth and the prospects for exploration. The research team ( 4), led by an IRD geologist, used innovatory modelling software to take a fresh look at the origins of plate tectonics in the light of the geothermal history of the gold deposits in the West African gold fields. These investigations will lead to better ways of locating the emplacement of veins and their depth. This result is a fundamental one for the science which furthermore offers promising applications for West African countries.
Can weather forecasting help improve crop yields in West Africa? IRD scientists and their research partner( 1), bringing together their experience in studying climate, agronomy and economics, have shown recently that millet producers in Niger could increase their income by up to 30%. They do this despite the fact that they often have no option to use other varieties of that cereal. How? Simply by adjusting their strategies in line with forecasts for coming rainy seasons. Previous research investigations have highlighted the advantage of such predictions, but the true impact of climate forecasts on the agricultural economy remains to be determined.
Improvement of the accuracy of predictions and communicating them to farmers can therefore prove to be a strong boost for agricultural development, even in countries of the Sahel like Niger, where low irregular rainfall lend themselves only to crops giving low profitability. Such advances would make West African farming communities more resistant to food insecurity in the forthcoming years and also reduce the poverty of a many small-scale producers.
Michel Griffon, agronomist and economist, Deputy Director General of the French National Research Agency (ANR), goes over the causes of the food crisis. He suggests a set of measures to meet the food security challenges and gives a broad outline of the types of agriculture that should be made priorities in the developing countries.