Understanding the African Soil: The Biggest Step in Sustainable Soil Management

By: Wole Fatunbi

Senior Technical Cluster Leader and Innovation Systems Specialist, FARA

Whenever the proper knowledge is not communicated or ignored, abuse is inevitable. This statement resonates accurately with the state of African soil, which is currently suffering from rapid degradation. Most soil users are under the illusion that Africa has the most significant proportion of arable soil in the world and that these soils are available for agricultural purposes. As true as this may sound, African soils are fragile and must be used carefully to sustain production. Available assessment reports showed that the most considerable portion of African soil is old and inherently low in fertility due to the predominance of low-activity clay minerals. It, therefore, poses a danger that requires good management practice and external investment to keep the soils productive. The African soils also have low organic matter content compared to other locations of the world; the O-horizon is always very shallow in most soils. The implications are the kind of tillage practices that is relevant to keep the soil productive and management practices that are required to optimise the organic matter content of the soil.

Figure 1: suggests that Africa needs to prioritise managing its soil to achieve a win of sustainable agricultural productivity and curtailing the effects of climate change

All users of soils in Africa must be informed of the facts about the structure and function of our soil. All need to know that the carbon chemistry of the soil is vital to the health of the soil and the delivery of agricultural productivity and ecological functions. Soil is the source and sink of the plant nutrient, and its health is contingent on the delivery of its function. The soil carbon chemistry is core to resolving climate change, which is humanity’s most urgent challenge.

The Africa Union Commission is currently Developing the African Fertilizer and Soil Health Action plan (AFSH) and the Soil Initiative for Africa (SIA), to be launched at the upcoming Africa Fertilizer summit slated for June 2023 in Dakar. The Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Action plan will provide a 10-year guide on actions to ensure integrated soil fertility maintenance, including the correct use of fertiliser to ensure soil health in Africa. In turn, the soil initiative for Africa will serve as a practical initiative to develop an African system for soil management and implement actions at the continental, sub-regional, and country levels. With this proactive response from all stakeholders, it is becoming clear that Africa will manage its soil sufficiently well.

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