BDL at early stage of plant growth.
Photo: ICRISAT - Niger

23.08.2013

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Not only has soil degradation in Niger been halted thanks to an integrated approach combining water harvesting technologies, the application of organic residues and planting of fruit trees and vegetables. The strategy has also enabled increases in farmers’ income as well as an active involvement of the country’s largely marginalised women in food production through their gaining access to land.

Degraded lateritic soils occupy more than 50 per cent of the land surface of Niger. These laterites, which are rich in clay, are covered with a hard crust which minimises water infiltration and hinders seedling emergence. Consequently, degraded lands are mostly dedicated to grazing and firewood harvesting as their agricultural production potential is negligible. However, the high clay content in lateritic soils offers the advantage of higher Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and water holding capacity compared to those of sandy soils. Therefore, these soils have the potential to re-establish agricultural production if the compacted layer is broken. This is the rationale for the development of the Bio-reclamation of Degraded Lands (BDL) system which enhances the conversion of degraded crusted soils into productive lands. This is achieved by combining indigenous water harvesting technologies (micro-catchments, planting pits and trenches), application of animal and plant residues and plantation of high-value fruit trees and annual indigenous vegetables that are resilient to drought environments.

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