Thomas Gaiser, Heidi Webber, Bernhard Tischbein, Marc Müller and Frank Ewert
African Journal of Agricultural Research


Farming is the main livelihood activity in semi-arid rural West Africa, involving the largest portion of the population, contributing significantly to the regional economy and intimately intertwined with current environmental problems. Key vulnerabilities of the Sudan Savanna include its ecological fragility, institutional weakness, high levels of poverty and food insecurity, and political and economic instability, now aggravated by climate change. The characterization of current farming and cropping systems in the Sudan Savanna is the key for understanding and proposing meaningful adaptation strategies at the field, farm, local and national levels. This review begins by examining the agroecological (biophysical) profile, detailing climatic, edaphological and hydrological qualities. Next, the main socioeconomic features: demography, culture, and organizational and economic institutions are summarized, followed by a characterization of the main farming and cropping systems and associated management. The paper concludes by offering an outlook on targeted activities, interventions and strategies for cropping and farming systems to cope and adapt to climate change and variability, as well as soil fertility challenges within the current socio-ecological context.