Failure to tackle land degradation will exacerbate Africa’s food security worries, the report warns
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Neglecting the health of Africa’s soil will lock the continent into a cycle of food insecurity for generations to come, a report has warned.
The publication by the Montpellier Panel said the problem needed to be given a higher priority by aid donors.
It added that soil degradation was also hampering economic development, costing the continent’s farmers billions of dollars in lost income.
The study has been published ahead of the 2015 international year of soils.
The Montpellier Panel – made up of agricultural, trade and ecology experts from Europe and Africa – warned that land degradation reduced soil fertility, leading to lower crop yields and increased greenhouse gas emissions.
“In Africa, the impacts are substantial where 65% of arable land, 30% of grazing land and 20% of forests are already damaged,” it observed.
Panel chairman Sir Prof Gordon Conway, from Imperial College London, told BBC News: “We spend a lot of time talking about crops and we spend a lot of time talking about livestock. We have big debates about all kinds of agriculture, yet we tend to ignore that it all depends on soils.”
He added that recent measurements had shown that soil degradation levels across the continent were very high.
“Serious land degradation [accounts for] about a quarter of land area of sub-Saharan Africa – it is a vast area,” he said.
“There are about 180 million people who are living on land that is in some way or another degraded. It is really very severe.”