Soil health crisis threatens Africa’s food supply

I was searching through the topics on newscientist.com and found this article named: “Soil health crisis threatens Africa’s food supply.” We all know that Africa is constantly being reconized as being a country that is always searching for food to feed hunger and prevent poverty. Never really thinking to deeply about this subject, I never would have thought that the soil could be the source of the problems. But that idea being thrown at me it became totally obvious that soil can be the biggest source of hunger. Due the high population combined with the limited access of fertilizers that are a huge catalyst for growth threaten the future of farming in Africa. Without enough fertilizer to sustain the land, levels of nutrients in the soil rapidly decline. Growers must then clear and cultivate new land at the expense of wildlife and forests. New studies show the highlights of Africa’s  “soil health crisis”, revealing that three-quarters of its farmlands are severely degraded. I can’t help but to think that this is  partially due to the specific climate of Africa  but also the misunderstanding and lack of knowledge on how to treat the soil resonsibly.

The politicians and researchers behind the report stress that urgent changes are necessary to improve food security in the continent, particularly in sub-Saharan countries. Agriculture is the main source of income for two-thirds of Africa’s population, according to the document from the International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC), a nonprofit organisation based in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, US.

Farmers in sub-Saharan countries traditionally grew crops on cleared land for only a brief period before moving on to new areas, allowing the land to regain fertility. But population pressure now forces the farmers to grow crop after crop in the same area. This causes their land to become degraded, making more and more land infertile for agricultural use.

The study found some of the greatest levels of soil depletion in densely populated areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi, Namibia and Angola. The report also notes that agriculture, along with other factors such as deforestation, contributes to soil erosion, and predicts that if erosion continues unabated yields of some crops could plummet by 17-30% by 2020.

“Africa loses an estimated $4 billion of soil nutrients yearly, severely eroding its ability to feed itself,” said Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo. African farmers should take immediate steps to reduce land degradation due to agriculture, says Firmino Mucavele. “In Africa the environment is being damaged because we are not using the appropriate level and quality of fertilizers, and we are extracting more from our soil than what we’re putting back,” says Mucavele.

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