Originally posted on CIAT News.
The second photo-film of a two-part series, “The Ground Beneath Your Feet,” was launched during the 2015 Global Soil Week, where CIAT was highlighting the importance of soil, debating the latest science and technology as well as methods for preserving this vital natural resource.
In Lushoto, Tanzania, a cluster of CCAFS climate-smart villages nestle in the stunning Eastern Arc Mountains, stretching between Tanzania and Kenya. The richly diverse landscape is a hotspot of biodiversity, its sloping hillsides supporting a wide range of agricultural produce – from vegetables, beans, sugarcane and cassava to agroforestry.
But this diversity of crops takes a toll on the soils in which they are grown, which on sloping land exposed to increasing rainfall, is washing precious top soil away. Without replacing nutrients in the soil, or managing soils on the steep slopes better, Lushoto’s diversity will likely disappear.
Soil health is measured through indicators, like organic carbon. In Lushoto, carbon per kilogram of soil can vary between 15 and 150 grams within just 10 kilometers. Designed originally by the World Agroforestry Centre, the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework has been updated and implemented globally by CIAT and regional partners to map the landscape and show variability in dynamic soil properties.
Using the framework, a biophysical baseline of key soil and land health information across the landscape can be mapped to show what crops can grow, where, and how well. By pinpointing what soil type farmers have on their farms, researchers can also advise farmers on inputs and management strategies to improve soil health and overall agricultural productivity.
Scientists are now linking soil health data with household survey data on cropping diversity, perceptions of climate change, and gender together with socio-economic data to better understand and address farming system constraints. Lab tests help further identify soil nutrient quantities such as nitrogen content, building up a rich map of the soil.
2015 Global Landscapes Forum