The Impact of Human Activities on Agricultural Ecosystems in the Tropics: Implications for Global Warming

By Wirimayi Gatsi and Washington Muzari.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The paper reviews and analyzes agricultural resource problems and management strategies in the tropics, as identified and recommended by ecologists, soil and land management specialists, biological and chemical scientists, meteorologists, and conservationists. The rapid increase in atmospheric concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane and dinitrogen oxide since about 1850 has been partly due to inappropriate agricultural management practices. If the concentrations are not controlled or reduced, they could lead to significant global warming and climate change.


The application of appropriate agricultural conservation methods will result in the enhancement of tropical ecosystems as sinks of atmospheric carbon, reduction in the rates of emission of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases from these ecosystems to the atmosphere, and the realization of certain ecologically beneficial processes such as the sequestration of carbon in tropical soils which will help reduce atmospheric carbon levels.

Sustainable and productive measures to control or reduce greenhouse gas emissions from tropical agricultural ecosystems into the atmosphere were also discussed in this paper. They include the restoration of organic matter to the soil through additions of crop residue mulch, farmyard manure, compost, etc. to the soil; growing leguminous and cover crops; addition of plant nutrients through chemical fertilizers and organic amendments; and use of less intensive tillage practices. In tropical grazing systems, introduction of exotic pasture species, especially legumes, have enhanced pasture productivity of grasslands and often resulted in increased organic carbon in the soil. In addition, improved pasture productivity through fertilizer inputs, renovation, reducing stocking rates, and eliminating or reducing the incidence and frequency of veld fires are necessary for increasing organic carbon in the soil. Poverty reduction should also be a critical component of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support mitigation of climate change.

Keywords: Human Activities, Climate Change, Global Warming, Tropics, Agricultural Ecosystems

International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.161-172. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 608.850KB).

Wirimayi Gatsi

Lecturer, Department of Agricultural Engineering, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe

The co-author is a graduate in Agricultural Engineering (1988, USSR). He has lectured in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Harare Polytechnic (1989-2003), where he taught Applied Mechanics, Fluid Mechanics, Engineering Thermodynamics, and Engineering Science. He is currently lecturing at Chinhoyi University of Technology since 2003. He is lecturing in Agricultural Machinery Management, Repair and Maintenance of Agricultural Machinery and Agricultural Tractors. Research interests include Climate Change; Design and Development of a Low-Cost Feed Mixer; Technology Development and Its Impacts on Agricultural Productivity in Zimbabwe’s Smallholder Sector; and Perceptions of Smallholder Farmers on the Use of Herbicides and Pesticides.

Washington Muzari

Lecturer, Department of Agricultural Engineering, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe

The co-author is a holder of a BSc (Honours) Degree in Agricultural Economics (1988) and an MPhil Degree in Agricultural Economics (1998) from the University of Zimbabwe. He has wide ranging experience in agricultural, economic and rural development research. He has worked as Economic Investigator at SADC/ICRISAT; Research Fellow at Ifo Institute; Economist at SAFER; Research Associate for the State University of New York/ USAID; Senior Research Fellow at WWF/ SARPO; Team Leader at EU/ GOM; Consultant at DANIDA; Research Consultant for EU; Team Leader at UNICEF; Consultant at World Vision; Projects Manager at JIMAT; and Agricultural Economist in the Ministry of Agriculture. He is currently Lecturer in the School of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Chinhoyi University of Technology where he teaches Agricultural Economics, Farm Management, Systems Analysis in Agriculture, and Farm Production Planning and Control. His research interests are: The Impacts of Anthropogenic Perturbations on Global Climate Change; Alternative Strategies for Poverty Reduction and Food and Nutrition Security Among Smallholders; Smallholder Irrigation Systems Development; Options for Sustainable Drought Management and Mitigation Strategies in Rural Areas; Rural Small Scale Industrial Development; and Technology Adoption and Its Impact on Agricultural Productivity Among Smallholder Farmers.

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