A new programme to boost soil productivity and reduce soil degradation for greater food and nutrition security in Africa named Afrisoils was launched by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and its Global Soil Partnership in June 2018.
The programme aims to increase soil productivity in 47 African countries by 30 per cent, and reduce soil degradation by 25 per cent in the next ten years.
Africa is the second driest continent, with nearly half of its surface made up of desert, and 40 per cent of it affected by desertification. About 65 per cent of the continent's farm land is affected by erosion-induced losses of topsoil and soil nutrients.
In many African countries, no policies are in place to regulate soil, and they lack the capacity, knowledge and experience to plan and implement sustainable soil management programmes. If soils are severely damaged or lost, they are very difficult and costly to restore and rehabilitate. Moreover, less than half of Africa's land is suitable for agriculture, and of this, only 16 per cent is of high quality.
Faced with these challenges, despite progress in improving agriculture, Africa as a whole remains largely food insecure, directly affecting 70 per cent of its population who rely on the little available land to grow food and make a living.
The Afrisoils programme aims to promote sustainable soil management by building farmers’ capacities and supporting the creation of legislation and policy guidelines for sustainable soil management.
Further, by leaving crop residues and composts, the programme aims to increase the organic carbon and organic matter of soils, which is essential to their fertility. Therefore, crop rotation and diversification as well as using natural fertilisers are vital.
The Afrisoils programme also takes a look at Agroforestry. It seeks to promote climate-smart agroforestry practices and curb deforestation. Moreover, the programme aims to establish and/or equip soil testing laboratories and support national extension services through the Soil Doctors Programme.
Vol. 47 Nr. 3/2013: Soil - a resource under threat