Food Forward SOS: Save Our Soil

Rethinking Agriculture: Soil Health for Sustainable Farming in Africa

May 02, 2024 | Source: Heinrich Böll Stiftung | by Harun Warui , Lena Luig and Keren Ben-Zeev

Agricultural sustainability hinges on soil health. This article outlines the crucial role of soil health in agricultural sustainability by exploring the interconnected roles of agroecological practices, soil microorganisms and soil organic matter.

Agroecological practices, such as crop rotation, intercropping, agroforestry and cover cropping, build soil structure, water retention and soil fertility, and reduce the incidence of pests and disease pathogens. In addition, they importantly build soil organic matter and microorganisms. Soil microorganisms enhance soil fertility and plant nutrition uptake, which, in turn, is augmented by soil organic matter, thereby creating a symbiotic relationship that promotes overall soil health and productivity. The interconnectedness of these aspects of soil health create more resilient and productive agricultural systems. However, soil health is under threat by the over dependency on synthetic inputs and other conventional agricultural practices such as intensive tillage.

Policy interventions play a critical role in countering the over promotion of synthetic fertilizers and dispelling misconceptions about agroecology in Africa. Strengthening farmer capacities in soil health management and investing in research and innovation are essential for transitioning to sustainable agricultural systems. Emphasizing soil health as a fundamental pillar of agricultural sustainability is important to mitigate environmental degradation and ensure food security in the face of climate change.