Spatial and temporal dynamics of croplands in expanding West African cities

The rapid expansion of cities in West Africa has implications for urban cropland. This study aimed to assess the dynamics of cropland in West African cities over time and space, to identify key drivers, and to report the effects of changing cropland on farmers and farmers’ resilience strategies. Cities studied were Accra (Ghana), Bamako (Mali), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), and Bamenda (Cameroon). Methodology involved multi-temporal spatial analysis of satellite images and farmer surveys. Results showed that the share of urban land covered by cropland differed in these cities, with higher shares in Accra and Bamenda, which included rainfed cultivation. Over the past 15 years, Accra has lost large shares of its farming areas, both in the inner-urban areas as well as in the fringe, whereas loss in Bamenda has been less substantial. In Ouagadougou and Bamako, where only irrigated sites were captured, cropland has shifted to the fringes but increased overall. Key drivers influencing the direction of change were official support of urban farming (or lack thereof), population pressure, and the availability of public open spaces that are not suitable for construction. In cities with decreasing cropland, implications included diminishing individual farm sizes, intensification of remaining sites, cessation of farming in the city, and the shift to other sites, which—apart from the physical availability of land and related resources—depends on social relations and informal rules.