Amazonian Dark Earths in Africa?


This book chapter offers preliminary evidence concerning the existence of dark earth analogues in one part of West Africa and uses this to probe the historical and ecological arguments that have to date been used to draw strong contrasts and distinctions between Amazonian and African agro-ecological practices – contrasts that have to date restricted interest in anthropogenic dark earths to the neotropics.

We begin by outlining why the soils and broader historical ecology of humid West Africa offer broad parallels to Amazonia, and then outline some of the hypotheses forwarded which differentiate the historical agro-ecology of Amazonia from Africa and which restrict the ADE phenomena to Amazonia. We then present preliminary evidence from West Africa of ‘African Dark Earths’, and show why the social and ecological conditions leading to their establishment should force us to question the strong distinctions being made between African and Amazonian conditions.