By Wole Fatunbi Ph.D.
The 5th of December is the 2021 World Soil Day, this year’s theme is “Halt Soil Salinization and Boost Soil Productivity”. In Africa, 50% of the irrigated lands have different levels of salinization problems, although only 6% of our agricultural lands are irrigated. Notwithstanding the growth in demand for food and fiber, and increase in intensification models; Africa must prepare to prevent salinization by using appropriate irrigation techniques.
In Africa, Our Soil is Our life. It is the richest resource we own; it is our primary production asset. A household with land can never be labeled as poor because its land could be made to produce sustenance and wealth for the household. The Soil is a bundle of life; a teaspoon contains trillions of individual microbial lives amidst organic and mineral matter. Our Soil is the purifier of our environment, the source and sink of numerous soil nutrients. It is one resource we will use to sink carbon and limit the destruction of climate change, an affliction we are suffering from when others are the cause.
It is noteworthy that 60% of the available arable land in the world is in Africa. I guessed that this is one positive thing about Africa, one resource our continent could be proud of holding in trust for the world to feed its teeming population. It then can position Africa and its posterity for health and wealth. Alas! While the world looks on, the most treasured asset of Africa is getting lost to land degradation! The frightening statistics indicated that erosion takes away 50 million tons of topsoil per year. Fertility degradation from nutrient mining makes 27% of the arable Soil infertile and largely unproductive.
Africa needs to wake up to this reality and salvage itself from the upcoming food slavery by halting its land degradation. Africa leaders cannot afford to play the politics of silence to this menace; neither can the farmers nor other land users lend an unconcerned posture. Our platform is collapsing, and we are the only one that can mend it and mend it well.
The first step to managing Africa soil is to accept the fact that our soils are inherently fragile and must be handled carefully to sustain long-term food and fiber production. Current land-use practices have shown that the majority in Africa are oblivious of this scientific truth and its long-term implication on the overall wellbeing of our society. We urgently need coherent policies and guidelines on land use and management of the different landscapes. We need to recommend and enforce the best practices in land clearing and tillage practices for agriculture at all levels. Land capability assessment needs to be done, to prevent farming on marginal soils or the use of fertile soils for other construction purposes; both are counterproductive.
Africa needs to rise to this challenge and develop an Africa-owned and Africa-driven approach to solve this problem. At the instance of the Africa Union Commission, FARA is working with all stakeholders in Africa agriculture to develop the Soil Initiative for Africa (SIA) to address land degradation in Africa. The SIA will engage all in co-creation and implementation of the solutions. It will give attention to the development of appropriate policies and institutional frameworks to stop the pace of soil degradation at all levels of governance and societal order in Africa. It will scale up existing technologies as well as facilitate the development of new technologies to respond to emerging issues. The capacity issues will be addressed headlong using holistic approaches. The quagmire of the soil information system will be addressed by building on all existing systems and ensuring that Africa owns an upgradable system that meets the needs of all using the best ICT facilities. Effective soil knowledge management will be developed including a dashboard that informs necessary actions. The SIA will embrace all production systems ranging from the agroecology social movement to the integrated soil fertility management and the conventional practices using mineral fertilizer.
The cooperation of all is needed to ensure the success of the soil Initiative for Africa. Let’s pull together and deliver together to halt the degradation and start the restoration of the already degraded Africa soil.
Get More information on the Soil Initiative for Africa https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OFelUgEY6c1008LO4lID5V3eCBrz-XyM/view?usp=sharing
Wole Fatunbi is the Senior Technical Cluster leader in FARA
And the Innovation systems specialist.