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STIAS Lecture Series 2016: Paul Vlek – Land Degradation: A threat to food security in Sub-Saharan Africa

STIAS Public Lectures Series

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Professor Paul Vlek, Former Director of the Centre for Ecology and Management of Natural Resources (ZEF), Emeritus Professor at the University of Bonn and STIAS fellow will present a talk with the title:

 Land Degradation: A threat to food security in Sub-Saharan Africa


It may be reasonable to assume that, when land degradation can be observed from space through declining biomass production, particularly on agricultural land, the underlying degradation processes must indeed be rather severe. Even though the extent of degradation from this assessment appears modest, much more degradation is likely to be on-going without being detectable (yet) with satellites. Moreover, land degradation on agricultural land seems to be taking place in the most productive areas of sub-Saharan Africa, threatening food production in the long run. Finally, this land degradation is happening against a background of increasing population and deteriorating climate conditions in a food insecure part of the world. The effect of atmospheric fertilization from the background of global atmospheric chemistry change likely masks the depiction of land productivity decline from space observation, thus rendering a careful consideration in remote-sensing based land degradation assessment.
This assessment can only be seen as a first approximation, and the maps and assessments made here need further verification in the field. The analysis, in essence, is as good as the underlying databases. However, as better data becomes available the proposed analysis framework allows for easy substitution of this information and rapid generation of a new assessment.


Date    Tuesday 8 March 2016
Time   13:00
Place   JC de Wet lecture hall, Ou Hoofgebou 1023 – Ryneveld St, Stellenbosch University


We look forward to welcoming you at this event – not to be missed!

For more information, contact Felicia McDonald at 021 808 2581 or [email protected]

Paul Vlek retired as Director at the Center for Development Research (ZEF), Department of Ecology and Natural Resources Management and professor at the University of Bonn. Until early 2014 he was seconded as Founding Executive Director to the West African Climate Service Center (WASCAL) established in Burkina Faso and Ghana. Trained as a Tropical Soil Scientist in the Netherlands (1972) he obtained a Ph.D from Colorado State University. He conducts research on the sustainable use of natural resources in the tropics and how this is affected by, or affects development processes. He has published over 200 peer reviewed papers and supervised over 60 Ph.D students that worked in a broad area of expertise in all parts of the tropics.

Prof. Vlek served as professor of Tropical Agronomy at the University of Goettingen (1990 -1998) and founding director of the International Center for Soil Fertility Research (IFDC) in Africa, Togo (1986-1990). While at IFDC he discovered the benefits of preventing nitrogen losses by deep-placement of urea briquettes in flooded rice, a technology applied on 3 million ha of rice cultivation today. In his latest assignment as Executive Director of WASCAL Prof. Vlek established graduate schools of excellence in 10 West African countries to generate the expertise needed to deal with problems related to climate change in the region. He is a fellow of the Academy of Art and Sciences of Northrhine-Westphalia, Germany, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences of India, the Soil Science Society of America and of the American Society of Agronomy, and serves on a number of policy committees and boards in Germany and overseas. He was editor in chief of Nutrient Cycling in Agro-ecosystems for over 20 years. In 2014 he received the GCHERA World Agriculture Prize for his lifetime contribution to education in Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Date and time

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

13:00 – 14:00​

All times are in SAST (UTC+2)


No location.

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