Land Resources

Sustainable Land Management Measures

Poor and inappropriate land management is the main cause of physical, chemical and biological degradation of cultivated land, pasture, rangeland and forest land. In many countries, especially in sub Saharan Africa, there is continuous stress on the limited land resources since up to 80% of the population depend on natural resources for their livelihood. Increasing pressure on resources, particularly in vulnerable regions has caused serious soil productivity decline especially under extensive farming practices. This is manifested by declining yields, decreasing vegetation cover, salinization, fertility decline and increasing erosion. Food security is directly related to the ability of land to support the population.

Reversing the degradation of soil, water and biological resources and enhancing crop and livestock production through appropriate land use and management practices are essential components in achieving food and livelihood security.

Successful experience for enhancing land productivity and maintaining water ecosystem services (biodiversity, water supply, carbon sequestration) in specific countries have taken place but their wider dissemination for the benefit of other countries, even in the same region, is rather limited. There is an urgent need to develop and implement sub-regional and national programmes, as well as projects at community level to reverse land degradation and to improve land productivity.

Causes for land degradation are numerous and include decline of soil fertility, development of acidity, salinization, alkalization, deterioration of soil structure, accelerated wind and water erosion, loss of organic matter and biodiversity. As a result, farm labour productivity and revenues from agriculture are falling, migration to urban areas is increasing, rural poverty is exacerbated. Efforts to restore productivity of a degraded land must be coupled with efforts to recognize productive capacity of land resources.
There is a need  to encourage countries to scale up already known SLM measures and continue to develop new updated land use systems to meet economic, environmental and food security goals. In this effort FAO collaborates closely with WOCAT and other partners.

WOCAT, World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies, launched in 1992, is a project of the World Association of Soil and Water Conservation (WASWC) in collaboration with several institutions and coordinated by the University of Bern, Switzerland. It aims to promote the integration of successful soil and water conservation approaches and techniques into land use systems world-wide. FAO is involved in the ongoing regional workshops and data collection in Africa. The African overview now is taking shape and will serve as an entry point for the initiative of the International Scheme for Conservation and Rehabilitation of African Lands (ISCRAL) on a country by country basis. WOCAT uses the following distinctions:

Soil and water conservation (SWC). In the context of WOCAT is defined as: activities at the local level which maintain or enhance the productive capacity of the land in areas affected by or prone to degradation.  SWC includes prevention or reduction of soil erosion, compaction and salinity; conservation or drainage of soil water; maintenance or improvement of soil fertility.

SWC technologies. SWC technologies are agronomic, vegetative, structural and management measures that control soil degradation and enhance productivity in the field.

SWC approaches. SWC approaches are ways and means of support that help to introduce, implement, adapt and apply SWC technologies in the field.

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