Soil protection and rehabilitation for food security

Project description

Title: Programme "Soil protection and rehabilitation for food security"
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Supraregional: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Kenya
Lead executing agency: Different in each country; generally the ministries of agriculture
Overall term: 2014 to 2017

Special initiative One World, No Hunger. A young man uses a watering can to water a field. (Photo: Klaus Wohlmann) © GIZ


Soil is a non-renewable and non-replicable resource. Overuse and inappropriate use of soil result in nutrient depletion, erosion and other forms of degradation. Climate change exacerbates these effects, for example through periods of drought and increased heavy rainfall in some regions of the world. Every year around six million hectares of soil are destroyed in this way worldwide, which corresponds to an area roughly twice the size of Belgium. Soil productivity declines, reducing the area available for agricultural use. At the same time, however, the number of people who have to be fed is rising. This places enormous pressure on the arable and grazing land still available.

These developments have immediate consequences, in particular for smallholders in developing countries, because soil degradation impacts directly on their income and diet. A decade ago, a family might have been able to cultivate three hectares of cassava, but today the usable area will have shrunk to half that – and with it the size of the harvest.

Yet in many countries too little attention is given to the issue of soil protection. Political institutions often do not tackle the topic on a sufficient scale. Furthermore, there is a lack of economic incentives for firms and small-scale farmers to use the soil sustainably – that is, in an environmentally friendly manner that conserves it. There are already many good practical examples of sustainable land use, which draw on tried-and-tested technologies. Unfortunately it is difficult to disseminate them. And so the smallholders lack either the knowledge or the money – and sometimes both – to apply soil-conserving cultivation methods in their small-scale enterprises. Agricultural extension services – which exist in many developing countries – are poorly equipped, and those responsible for providing advice often do not have enough training to spread knowledge about soil rehabilitation and conservation.

Access to agricultural supplies is an additional problem in many rural areas. In many cases high levels of investment are required to make the soil usable again. Yet for the most part, neither the farmers and agricultural enterprises nor their governments have the necessary financial resources available.


Sustainable approaches to promoting soil protection and rehabilitation of degraded soil are shared and implemented in five partner countries.


The programme works in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India and Kenya, and coordinates its activities locally with the ministries responsible. To accelerate its success, in each country the programme is linked in with existing bilateral programmes run by German development cooperation actors.

The programme promotes a sustainable approach to land use. This approach is largely based on the active participation and involvement of the smallholders concerned, who represent the main target group. But other players from the private sector, civil society and government offices are also involved in the measures. Some of the services are supplied by the consulting sector or national and international non-governmental organisations. Activities are run on a participatory basis, which means the target group is involved in planning and implementation. The objective is to directly strengthen the smallholders’ capacity to help themselves. This is achieved by giving the farmers support in applying proven soil protection practices.

Non-governmental players form an important part of the technical knowledge networks, which are also promoted by the programme. Their experts contribute relevant knowledge. Here a key role is played above all by the academic and research community and accompanying research carried out within the  programme.

At the political level the programme advises the partner governments on improving the general political conditions. The governments have to create incentives for farmers and smaller enterprises to use the soil in more sustainable ways. To support these national activities, the programme organises international forums that encourage the participants to share lessons learned.

The consulting firm GOPA supports the implementation of the project.