The spatial analysis of agricultural development is the necessary precondition for research in the rural landscape and for rural planning. Basic data emerging from field investigation and a systematic interpretation of aerial photographs have resulted in a series of thematic maps of Southern Nigeria and parts of Western Cameroon. This comprehensive research work has been organized within the framework of the Afrika-Kartenwerk of the German Research Society.
In this paper our recently published population map of the scale of 1:1 million and the map of rural settlement patterns form the basis for some rather general estimates of agricultural potential. Exact spatial information of simple but non the less most important regional processes, like migration, are caused by population pressure. Not bare statistical figures but their transformation by cartographic means forms a fundament for area studies and hypothetical prospects for regional planning as well as for regional analysis.
By larger scale observations agricultural carrying capacity, evaluation of rural potential, migration dynamics and changes of land-use systems have to be analyzed. This calls for meticulous studies of individual areas. The first of three such case studies stresses the process of intensification of land utilization near the Nsukka-Escarpment. Linear settlement patterns and chains of regular individually owned stripfields can be seen as inprints of a dynamic transformation within the cultural landscape. Reception of new agricultural technology has been a way for emigrant farmers to exploit traditionally sparsely utilized zones with rich soils, which had been less attractive, because they were hard to cultivate with the hoe.
The second case deals with the well known migratory and agro-economic links between the overpopulated food crop belt of Northern Yoruba Savannah Country and the cocoabelt in the rain forest about 100 km further south.
In Central Iboland rural overpopulation of more than 1000 persons per km2 and land shortage theoretically could be diminished by opening up uninhabited areas of the Niger flood-plain and the delta for modern agricultural exploitation. But not only the physical obstacles such as there are poor soils, very high rainfall and seasonal floods within the Niger low lands are hindering rural colonization. Social and political factors, like ethnic traditions and historic barriers still seem to be very perserverant. All this hardly allows strangers to get hold of unused land, to exploit valuable natural resources or to introduce modern agricultural technology. But generally speaking, population pressure as well as higher demand for social services and better incomes result in changes in the traditional land-use systems. The impact of growing urban or industrial economic spheres on agriculture acts as accelerating factor in this development. A paradise-landscape for Africa where optimal utilization of all physical resources under best socio-economic conditions may be practiced and where more than ten times of the present population of Africa could exist, as CAROL puts it in one of his scenarios (1973 and 1975), seems to be quite unrealistic and really never will be desirable.