Soil Conservation

Farmers tilling the soil to transplant rice seedlings in a field near the village of Kamangu, Democratic Republic of Congo

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. Symptoms of soil 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 soils must be coupled with other measures that affect the land use practices in particular conservation agriculture, good agricultural practices and irrigation management and integrated plant nutrient management.

World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Techniques (WOCAT)

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.