Organic or inorganic agriculture: the environmental costs and imperatives for African agriculture.
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Unprecedented population growth accompanied by sustained high consumption of goods and services, the pursuit of economic growth and affluence at the expense of environment, high levels of urbanization, as well as the increasing demands for trade and globalization are some of the underlying factors impacting African agricultural production today. As a result, there is degradation of the land, atmosphere, and water resources arising from the increased use of the pesticides, nitrates, livestock waste and antibiotics, fossil fuels, nitrous oxide, ammonia and methane. Overuse of natural resources contribute to depletion of ground water, loss of wild foods and habitats, and the displacement and extinction of traditional varieties and breeds. Furthermore, new health hazards and deteriorating conditions for farmers and farm workers in agro-chemical and food processing industries as well as inhumane conditions for livestock are envisaged. Major culprits are urban consumers with no alternatives to these contaminated farm produce. There is therefore the need for new approaches to agricultural production with minimal environmental impacts, which is referred to as "alternative agriculture" or, "eco-agriculture". This article elaborates on the current agricultural practices, environmental costs of modern-day agriculture, and what can be done to ensure sustainability of the African agricultural systems. The article argues that despite the high population growth rates, sustainable food production could be improved by ensuring that the opportunities presented by urban agriculture are well developed and utilized, using suitable agricultural practices. The article is based on literature review and contributes to policies on environment and agriculture.