Challenging the paradigm of soil degradation: a case-study in southeastern Senegal

Authors: Stephen Wood*, The Nature Conservancy
Topics: Soils, Africa, Development
Keywords: soil, degradation, agriculture, Senegal, Africa
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Calvert Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Soil degradation in Africa needs to be reversed to achieve the food security needs across the continent. Or, so often argue international entities like the FAO, CGIAR centers, development banks, national governments, and scientists. Political ecologists starting with Blaikie have strongly challenged the simplistic narrative of soil degradation in Africa. If the narrative is wrong, then why does it persist? In this talk, I will argue—using data on soil chemistry and biology from southeastern Senegal—that the narrative persists because of a confusion between low nutrient status and the longer-term, unobserved process of degradation. I will draw on soil science to explain the particularities of tropical soils and why they seem degraded. I will put forth a framework for how soil science can more constructively engage with how to make recommendations for agricultural practices on low-nutrient soils.

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