A new report by the Montpellier Panel warns that if more is not done to aid Africa’s ailing soils, the continent’s current food insecurities will plunge into a vicious cycle for generations to come.
The panel is made up of experts from the agricultural, ecological and trade industries from both Africa and Europe, whose recommendations include making land degradation a bigger priority for governments around the world. They noted that restoring and preserving the soil can greatly improve the economy, public health and the environment of the continent.
The severe damage to the African landscape has caused less fertile soils, which in turn means fewer successful crops and greater amounts of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. Food scarcity is already a huge problem across the continent, and as damage to the land increases, the issue can only get worse.
“In Africa, the impacts are substantial where 65% of arable land, 30% of grazing land and 20% of forests are already damaged,” the panel noted, according to the BBC.
Many discussions of solving the issue of food scarcity in the past have centered around agricultural concerns like crops and livestock, but the panel’s report has turned the spotlight on soil. When it comes down to it, soil is the heart of the issue surrounding the major decline in food production in Africa. Without fertile soil, plants won’t grow.
“Enhancing the soil would be the best they can do in this situation,” says Don Saunders of Saunders Landscape Supply. “Using some sort of nutrient rich compost, they will hopefully be able to revive the soil then continue to use good cultivation practices.”
Part of what has contributed to the issue of land degradation is Africa’s growing population and greater temperature extremes. More people means more competition over farm land, and the fluctuating temperatures complicate traditional farming practices.
These issues could be addressed, but not without the proper funding. The Montpellier Panel has called on governments and relief organizations to place more emphasis on Africa’s soil problems and for more publicly funded programs.
The panel’s list of recommendations to address Africa’s severe land degradation includes getting more political and financial support for managing the land, creating incentive programs for preserving the land, and increasing awareness of the devastating effects of land degradation.