Managing the Soils of Sub-Saharan Africa

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Science  29 May 1987:
Vol. 236, Issue 4805, pp. 1069-1076
DOI: 10.1126/science.236.4805.1069


Many constraints to intensive food-crop production in tropical Africa are related to tropical soils. Improved technologies are available for different ecological regions. Important technological innovations include manual land clearing, mulch farming, conservation tillage and tiedridges, agroforestry, cover crops, mixed- and relay-cropping, and early sowing for improved and sustained productivity. Irrigation, animal traction or draft animals, and the use of chemical fertilizers are also important. Much of the agrarian stagnation in Africa is caused by neglect and misuse of the most basic of all resources, the soil. In fact, the root cause of the perpetual famine can be traced to the misuse of soil and water resources and issues related to their misuse. Substantial increases in food production are possible if the proven technologies can be effectively transferred and implemented. Priorities lie in both short-term development projects and in initiating long-term research to understand soil and water resources and how to manage them. The agrarian research must address the issue of improving the welfare of resource-poor farmers.