Turning the tides of soil degradation in Africa: capturing the reality and exploring opportunities

F.N. Muchena, D.D. Onduru, G.N. Gachini, A. de Jager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Soil degradation means loss of biological and economic productivity of the land. Measurements of land degradation need to take cognizance of land properties (e.g. soil, water and vegetation) as well as productivity indicators. While land degradation in sub-Saharan Africa is a subject of an on-going debate, conflicting perspectives arise about its extent at regional and at lower scales, about methodologies and robustness of indicators and the impacts of past and present degradation on food security, about rural livelihoods in general, and on African posterity. This paper presents evidence of land degradation from selected case studies across East Africa, and analyses them against the robustness of indicators used at regional, national and lower scales in order to unravel the hidden myths and realities of land degradation. The results are corroborated against time-series such as yields of major crops, environmental data (rainfall, soil fertility) and management data. Land degradation assessments need to move away from empty rhetoric to capturing reality by integrating effects of farm management practices and technologies, including their social and institutional dimensions, on soil loss, yields and nutrient budgets. Influencing factors and socio-economic environments surrounding land degradation and the specific environments under which degradation takes place should not be overlooked
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-31
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • monitoring nutrient flows
  • farming systems nutmon
  • sub-saharan africa
  • of-the-art
  • fertility management
  • economic-performance
  • balances
  • productivity
  • kenya
  • agriculture

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