Global Soil Partnership

Results from the first economic evaluation of soil and nutrient loss in Malawi

The pilot project “Economic evaluation of soil and nutrient loss in Malawi” ( GLO/17/001//01/99), funded by the UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment initiative, analysed the economic impact of both soil and soil nutrient loss in Malawi with new country-representative data on soil erosion and nutrients loss indicators collected through field surveys, merged with detailed climatic data and socio-economic information. Soil/nutrient loss was translated into yield loss, the micro and macroeconomic economic impact of loss on agricultural production as a result of soil degradation was estimated, best practices were then identified to mitigate the soil and nutrient loss events in pair with net benefits in terms of growth of economic income, food security and poverty.


Workshops and training activities were a key element of the project, focusing strongly on developing national capacities for the assessment of soil nutrient loss (e.g. cost-effectiveness of current fertilizer application practices), and on tools for assessing and mapping the economic value of soil degradation. National staff were trained in state‑of‑the-art techniques and methods, enabling them to replicate similar assessments, as well as to establish a national soil information system. Sustainable agricultural practices were identified, including both anti-erosion practices (vetiver grass, terraces, tree belts and bunds) and practices to tackle the issue of nutrient loss and deficiency (crop diversification and legumes intercropping).

The project, conducted in partnership with the Land Resources Conservation Department and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development of Malawi, also took into consideration the impacts of soil and nutrient loss in terms of gender (e.g. smallholder farmers and female-headed households were identified as the most heavily affected stakeholders), and gender-sensitive tools were applied, whenever possible.

The results of the project led to changes in the practices used within communities in the country, and to alternatives in policies linked to soil degradation and sustainable agriculture in order to increase agricultural productivity. The need for political support and widespread campaign on soils across the country was emphasized. Through the identification and implementation of sustainable practices to halt and mitigate the effects of erosion and nutrient loss in Malawi the project contributed to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 2 to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. The project also contributed to SDG 15 by protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, regarding the fight against soil degradation.

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