Western Africa

Soil scientists harmonize positions on sustainable soil management

To mark 2015 as the International Year of Soils declared by the United Nations, a consultative meeting of the African Soil Partnership (AfSP) was held at Elmina, Ghana, 20–22 May. Scientists and representatives from 35 countries across sub-Saharan Africa set out and fine-tuned their positions on a five-year regional strategy for achieving food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation through sustainable soil management initiatives. The secretariat for the AfSP is held within the FAO Africa regional office in Ghana.

AfSP is part of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) instituted by FAO in 2011 to coordinate and create a unified and recognizable voice for soils and to avoid the fragmentation of efforts and waste of resources. This partnership ensures that healthy soils are maintained as required for feeding the increasing world population and meeting the needs for biomass (energy), fiber, fodder, and other products. It focuses on these five action pillars.

1. Promote sustainable management of soil resources for soil protection, conservation, and sustainable productivity

2. Encourage investment, technical cooperation, policy, education awareness, and extension in soil

3. Promote targeted soil research and development focusing on identified gaps and priorities and synergies with related productive, environmental, and social development actions

4. Enhance the quantity and quality of soil data and information: data collection (generation), analysis, validation, reporting, monitoring, and integration with other disciplines

5. Harmonize methods, measurements, and indicators for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources 

During the consultative meeting, discussions centered upon options for improving the performance of African soils for food and nutrition security in the region. The process will help to develop an implementation plan for each of the five action pillars of the GSP and, based on these implementation plans, a consolidated effort will be made to raise funds to enable these plans to be executed.

Following these discussions, implementation strategies compatible with the peculiar needs of the sub- Saharan African region were drafted, drawing experiences from the ideas developed by the GSP forum.

Dr Jeroen Huising, IITA’s soil scientist, together with other participants, resolved during the meeting to advocate the protection and conservation of good soils, restoration and rehabilitation of degraded soils, promotion of sustainable resource management at all levels and in all land-use types with a focus on nutrient balance, soil conservation measures, and increases in organic matter and carbon stocks. They also developed action plans to achieve these resolutions and consolidated the AfSP by establishing a Steering Committee, in which IITA is represented. These positions are contained in the Elmina communiqué.

The identified challenges in the key sectors will receive urgent attention through this new collaboration. For IITA this is a good partnership to shape its collaboration with national institutions in Africa as far as the sustainable management of soil resources is concerned.

It is expected that this will directly contribute to achieving food and nutrition security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, provision of various ecosystem services, and sustainable economic development in sub-Saharan Africa.

Soil scientists and representatives from 35 countries attended the workshop.

Soil scientists and representatives from 35 countries attended the workshop.

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