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The State of Soil Degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Baselines, Trajectories, and Solutions

Author

Listed:
  • Katherine Tully

    () (Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, MD 20742, USA
    Agriculture and Food Security Center, Earth Institute at Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA)

  • Clare Sullivan

    () (Agriculture and Food Security Center, Earth Institute at Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA)

  • Ray Weil

    () (Department of Environmental Science and Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, MD 20742, USA)

  • Pedro Sanchez

    () (Agriculture and Food Security Center, Earth Institute at Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA)

Abstract

The primary cause of soil degradation in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is expansion and intensification of agriculture in efforts to feed its growing population. Effective solutions will support resilient systems, and must cut across agricultural, environmental, and socioeconomic objectives. While many studies compare and contrast the effects of different management practices on soil properties, soil degradation can only be evaluated within a specific temporal and spatial context using multiple indicators. The extent and rate of soil degradation in SSA is still under debate as there are no reliable data, just gross estimates. Nevertheless, certain soils are losing their ability to provide food and essential ecosystem services, and we know that soil fertility depletion is the primary cause. We synthesize data from studies that examined degradation in SSA at broad spatial and temporal scales and quantified multiple soil degradation indicators, and we found clear indications of degradation across multiple indicators. However, different indicators have different trajectories—pH and cation exchange capacity tend to decline linearly, and soil organic carbon and yields non-linearly. Future research should focus on how soil degradation in SSA leads to changes in ecosystem services, and how to manage these soils now and in the future.

Suggested Citation

  • Katherine Tully & Clare Sullivan & Ray Weil & Pedro Sanchez, 2015. "The State of Soil Degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Baselines, Trajectories, and Solutions," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(6), pages 1-30, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:7:y:2015:i:6:p:6523-6552:d:50150
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Pedro Sanchez & Glenn Denning & Generose Nziguheba, 2009. "The African Green Revolution moves forward," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 1(1), pages 37-44, February.
    2. Barrett, C. B. & Reardon, T. & Webb, P., 2001. "Nonfarm income diversification and household livelihood strategies in rural Africa: concepts, dynamics, and policy implications," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 315-331, August.
    3. Astatke, Abiye & Jabbar, Mohammad A. & Tanner, Douglas, 2003. "Participatory conservation tillage research: an experience with minimum tillage on an Ethiopian highland Vertisol," Research Reports 182996, International Livestock Research Institute.
    4. Enfors, Elin & Barron, Jennie & Makurira, Hodson & Rockström, Johan & Tumbo, Siza, 2011. "Yield and soil system changes from conservation tillage in dryland farming: A case study from North Eastern Tanzania," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 98(11), pages 1687-1695, September.
    5. Hoddinott, John & Haddad, Lawrence, 1995. "Does Female Income Share Influence Household Expenditures? Evidence from Cote d'Ivoire," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 57(1), pages 77-96, February.
    6. van Asten, P. J. A. & Barbiero, L. & Wopereis, M. C. S. & Maeght, J. L. & van der Zee, S. E. A. T. M., 2003. "Actual and potential salt-related soil degradation in an irrigated rice scheme in the Sahelian zone of Mauritania," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 13-32, April.
    7. Scherr, Sara J., 1995. "Economic factors in farmer adoption of agroforestry: Patterns observed in Western Kenya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 787-804, May.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:wdevel:v:105:y:2018:i:c:p:367-382 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Tiziano Gomiero, 2016. "Soil Degradation, Land Scarcity and Food Security: Reviewing a Complex Challenge," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(3), pages 1-41, March.
    3. Berazneva, Julia & McBride, Linden & Sheahan, Megan & Guerena, David, 2016. "Perceived, measured, and estimated soil fertility in east Africa: Implications for farmers and researchers," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Boston, Massachusetts 235466, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    4. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:3:p:281:d:66100 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:6:p:1804-:d:149769 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:4:p:906-:d:137333 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Andreas Gerber, 2016. "Short-Term Success versus Long-Term Failure: A Simulation-Based Approach for Understanding the Potential of Zambia’s Fertilizer Subsidy Program in Enhancing Maize Availability," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(10), pages 1-17, October.
    8. Douglas L. Karlen & Charles W. Rice, 2015. "Soil Degradation: Will Humankind Ever Learn?," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(9), pages 1-12, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    soil degradation; sub-Saharan Africa; baselines; indicators; sustainability; resilience;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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