In Sub-Saharan Africa, 65 percent of arable land suffers from soil degradation. The most extensive data on soils in Africa is grounded in soil mapping done in the 1950s and 1960s—60 to 70 years ago—which suggests that the problem could be even worse than currently known. This destruction is stifling agricultural productivity and income growth while prohibiting the soil from carrying out its climate control functions such as carbon sequestration and water filtration.
This paper diagnoses the challenges faced by governments, international organizations and research institutions in mitigating and reversing the decline of soil quality in Africa. It highlights the dearth of human capital and resources that undermines these efforts and employs the lessons learned towards outlining a framework that is based on global partnership, stronger farmer engagement and robust investment.
The paper argues for a new soil initiative that is organized around workstreams that prioritize establishing soil information systems, understanding the economic costs and consequences of soil degradation, and enhancing human and institutional capacity towards soil science. This multipronged approach will reinvigorate the fight against soil degradation and destruction both globally and on the African continent.