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Soil Degradation and Loss of

Nutrients in Soils in Africa
-Lesego N. Olefhile
05.01.2002

General
• Continent has been occupied by humans
much longer than other continents
• Human activity and it’s repercussions
• Bedrock mainly granite and gneiss
• Low fertility
• Rocks oldest in the world
• Low clay-easy to work & easy to lose
•Intro’ & Overview
• What is SD
• Types
• Causes
• Impact/Effects of SD
• Control & Prevention (Solutions)
• Comments

What is Soil Degradation
• Soil Degradation is a Reduction in the Soils
Ability to Produce
• Qualitatively & quantitatively
• Results in decreased food production
• Declining yields
• Increasing levels of poverty

What is SD (Cont’)
• Slight Degradation
• 10% Yield Potential Reduction
• Moderate Degradation
• 10-50 % YPR
• Severe Degradation
• >50 % YPR

Types or Mechanisms of SD
• Water Erosion
• Wind Erosion
• Chemical degradation
• Physical degradation

Chem. and Phy. Degradation
• Chemical Degradation
• Leaching – loss of soil nutrients
• Salinization – dry lands –minerals
accumulation on the surface - caliches
• Physical Degradation
• Waterlogged

Mechanisms of SD (conti’)

Wind & Water Erosion
• Erosion is the major cause of soil
degradation
• Water erosion more severe (vol. & land
area)
• Major concern in Southern Africa
Causes of SE
• Monoculture
• Common practice in Africa
• Deforestation -Fuel
• -Building materials
• 37 million ha of forest disappearing each yr (FAO,
1986)
• Marginal lands farming- pop. Increase
• Hillsides
• Malawi 12% slope land cultivated (FAO)

Causes of SE (cont’)
Row cropping
• Crop removal
• Overgrazing
• Accounts for about half of the soil
degradation in Africa-(FAO)
• Tilling or plowing
• All lead to Soil Degradation

SE in Africa
• Most erosion occurs in
• Liberia, Guinea,Ghana, Nigeria,
Zaire,Ethiopia, Senegal, Niger, The
Sudan,Somalia and Sierra Leone
• -FAO
• Ethiopia – 1,900 T of soil lost annually from
the highlands -UN
Causes of Soil Degradation
• Deforestation
• Exceeds planting by 30:1 in most parts of
Africa
• Overexploitation
• Overgrazing
• Agric activities (other)
• Industrialization

SD vs desertification
• Desertification= degradation of land in dry areas
of the world due to misuse or overuse
• Advanced Soil Degradation
• Destroys soil’s capacity to support livestock or grow
crops
• 24 million tones of top soil every yr over the world
• Costs Africa about US$9 billion per year (UN)
• Not the spread of existing deserts!!

Loss of nutrients
• Loss of top soil
• Loss of soil minerals
• Many areas in Africa losing about 50 tones
of soil/ha/yr
• Equivalent to loss of 20,2 & 41 billion tones of
N,P & K respectively per yr.

• -UNEP
Impact of Soil Degradation
• Decline in soil fertility
• Decline in biomass produced
• Decrease in food production
• Starvation & Poverty
• By 2025 Africa ‘ll feed only 40% of it’s pop (FAO)
• > ¼ of Africa becoming useless for cultivation
due to SD.
• -UNEP
Solutions
• Implementation of Govt. Policies
• -Soil erosion prevention schemes
• Precision Ag???
• Advanced farming methods
• - conservation tillage
• GLASOD - Global Assessment of Soil
Degradation –estimates extent & severity
of SD.-sponsored by UNEP & ISRIC



Setbacks (developing countries)
• $$$
• Skilled manpower(lack of)
• Tradition & culture


Comments &/or Questions
• Is there a direct link between erosion and
soil degradation???
• Can degraded soils be restored to full
function?
• Lightly and mod. Degraded soils NOT severely
Degraded soils!!