Soil protection and rehabilitation for food security
Title: 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 and Madagascar
Lead executing agency: Different in each country; generally the Ministry of Agriculture
Overall term: 11/2014 to 06/2022
Soil is a non-renewable and non-replicable resource. Overexploitation and inappropriate use of soil result in nutrient depletion, soil erosion and other forms of degradation. Climate change also exacerbates these effects, particularly during events of extreme weather, such as droughts or heavy rainfalls in some regions of the world. Every year around six million hectares of soil are destroyed 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 remaining arable and grazing land.
These developments have immediate consequences, in particular for smallholders in developing countries, because soil degradation has direct impacts not only on their incomes but also on their diets. A decade ago, a family might have been able to cultivate three hectares of cassava, but today the usable area will have shrunk by half – and with it the size and quality of the harvest.
Yet in many countries, too little attention is given to the issue of soil protection. Political and administrative institutions often do not tackle the topic in an appropriate way. Furthermore, there is a lack of economic incentives as well as general awareness for firms and small-scale farmers to manage the soil sustainably – that is, in an environmentally responsible manner that allows the soil to maintain and pursue its natural functions. 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. In consequence, the smallholders lack either the knowledge or the money – and sometimes both – to apply soil-protection and rehabilitation methods in their small-scale enterprises. Agricultural extension services – which exist in many developing countries - are poorly equipped, and those responsible for advising and assisting do not have sufficient training to build and strengthen knowledge and skills on soil rehabilitation and conservation.
Furthermore, 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 in most contexts, 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 soils are implemented and shared in six partner countries.
The programme works in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Madagascar. It coordinates its activities locally with the relevant ministries. To accelerate its success, the programme is linked in each country 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 concerned smallholder farmers, who represent the main target group. Moreover, other players from the private sector, civil society and government offices are also involved in the measures. Some services are supplied by consulting firms as well as national and international non-governmental organisations. Activities are formulated on a participatory basis, which means the target group is involved in the planning as well as in the 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. The academic and research communities have key roles here through accompanying the research carried out within the programme.
At the political level, the programme advises the partner governments on improving the political and institutional framework conditions related to soil protection and rehabilitation. Incentives need to be created for small-scale farmers and enterprises to use the soil in more sustainable ways. The programme supports national and international events during which all relevant stakeholders gather, to foster knowledge exchange and spread the ideas and lessons learned.