Africa’s damaged soils are a major obstacle to reaching food security and development goals in the region, says Montpellier Panel report featured at the launch on soils report in Africa the past june 10, 2015.
The report, No Ordinary Matter: conserving, restoring and enhancing Africa’s soils urges donors and governments to take immediate action to reverse land degradation, which currently affects up to 65 per cent of African soils. It argues that soil’s contribution to alleviating many of Africa’s most pressing challenges, from food security to climate change mitigation, has been overlooked.
The Montpellier Panel, convened by the advocacy group Agriculture for Impact, calls for integrated soil and sustainable land management to become a global priority. Ousmane Badiane, IFPRI’s Africa Director and Montpellier Panel Member, brings together a group of distinguished experts to address the challenges faced by land and soil degradation in the Sahel, a region continuously tested by drought and other climatic extremes.
In sub-Saharan Africa an estimated 180 million people are affected by land degradation, while the economic loss is estimated at USD 68 billion per year. Land degradation ‘hotspots’ where the land is severely degraded affect 26% of the region.
“The burdens caused by Africa’s damaged soils are disproportionately carried by the continent’s resource-poor farmers,” comments Professor Sir Gordon Conway, Director of Agriculture for Impact and Chair of the Montpellier Panel.
“Problems such as fragile land security and limited access to financial resources prompt these farmers to forgo better land management practices that would lead to long-term gains for soil health on the continent, in favour of more affordable or less labour-intensive uses of resources which inevitably exacerbate the issue,” Conway adds.
In West Africa, more than one-third of the land area in countries such as Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone are degraded. In countries such as Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria, where the percentages of land area affected may be lower, the number of people affected is extremely high – more than 17million people in Nigeria are estimated to be impacted by degraded land.
“Africa has a great opportunity that the other continents do not have: the majority of vulnerable populations has access to the land. As a result, land becomes the main leverage in Africa to reduce and eradicate poverty“says Ousmane Badiane, Director for Africa at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Dr Dogo SECK, Permanent Secretary of Minister of Agriculture and Rural Equipment opened the conference alongside Professor Sir Gordon Conway and Ousmane NDIAYE, Senegalese Association for the Promotion of Small Development Projects (ASPRODEB) and Mr. Mamadou Bara GUEYE, IED Africa Director to highlight the 2015 UN International Year of Soils and discuss how these challenges can be addressed in West Africa, and what lessons the region may offer its neighbors.
Traditional farming practices in Africa are under threat from urbanisation, population increases, greater farming intensity and the impacts of climate change, yet few of Africa’s smallholder farmers have thus far been equipped to adopt modern practices to address the increasingly neglected state of the continent’s soils.
Agriculture’s ability to catalyse rural development and eradicate poverty has been widely cited, with the World Bank claiming GDP growth from agriculture in Africa approximately 11 times more effective for reducing poverty than growth coming from any other sector.
About the Montpellier Panel:
The Montpellier Panel is a group of European and African experts from the fields of agriculture, trade ecology and global development. The panel is chaired by Professor Sir Gordon Conway, Director of Agriculture for Impact, an advocacy initiative which convenes the group. Since March 2010, the Panel has worked together to make recommendations to enable better European government support of national and regional agricultural development and food security priorities in sub-Saharan Africa.
Find the report here