UN Enviroment Programme

Chapter 12. Status of soil pollution in sub-Saharan Africa

National and regional priorities in sub-Saharan Africa

The development and implementation of comprehensive national legislative tools to address and prevent land pollution is a complex matter and mainly still absent from developing countries (Brandon, 2013). Still, soil pollution can be addressed through the identification of priorities and action plans on national and regional levels and must include role players representative of the industry, academia and organizations concerned with the issues at hand in its development.

National priorities can centre around an endemic soil pollution problem or as part of an endorsement of international actions. The South African government’s approach to address negative health impacts after all asbestos mining was prohibited in 2008 was to develop of regulations and policies to phase out any manufacturing or use of products that contain asbestos as well as on the handling of asbestos waste (SAWIC - Department of Environmental Affairs, 2019).

An example of a national priority developed from international action is reflected in Ghana becoming the first country in the region to formally join the Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) on 1 October 2019. As part of the strategy to drastically reduce plastic waste in the country, the Ghanaian Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology and Innovation (MESTI) has committed to the development a National Plastic Management Policy (IISD, 2020).

While numerous other action plans, projects and initiatives have been launched to address aspects of soil pollution in sub-Saharan Africa, this section will discuss only a few examples of national and regional priorities.

The Africa Stockpiles Programme was an initiative aimed at assisting African countries to deal with obsolete pesticide stockpiles in a safe and sustainable manner. Stocks were eliminated from 339 sites across four countries in the region i.e. Ethiopia, Mali, the United Republic of Tanzania and South Africa (FAO, 2020).

An initiative by the Swedish International Development Coordination Agency and the UNESCO-IUGS International Geoscience Programme (IGP) in collaboration with local partners, is aimed at reducing the negative human and environmental health impacts of abandoned mines in sub-Saharan Africa (Environmental & Health Impacts of Abandoned Mines in sub-Saharan African Countries, 2019). The approaches to tackling this issue include the identification and recording of the locality of abandoned mine sites (available as an interactive map on the website). Following the identification of the site, trials are then conducted to determine the best options for the remediation of trace element contamination. To date, the project has resulted in 29 trial sites in 17 sub-Saharan countries. These countries are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda (Environmental & Health Impacts of Abandoned Mines in sub-Saharan African Countries, 2019).