The World Soil Day, celebrated every year on December 5 by the UN, honors the global and sustainable management of this resource. The protection and regeneration of degraded soils is essential to meet the challenges of climate change, fight deforestation and improve the lives of people around the planet. As a resource both for the environment and for people, soils are nevertheless endangered by pollution and deforestation linked to human activities.
For Kinomé, for nearly 15 years, the understanding of the functioning of soils and the promotion of solutions to preserve them have been at the heart of its different activities.
In the field, Kinomé accompanies projects that protect soils and allow their regeneration. In Togo, in the Plateaux region, home to the country’s last remaining mountain rainforests, the watersheds are threatened by subsistence farming and excessive wood exploitation. Deforestation thus leads to strong erosion and soil impoverishment.
The consequences are disastrous for the local ecosystem, but also for the populations who depend on the quality of their soil. The fertile layers of soil are washed away by runoff water and end up silting up rivers. The cultivated soils of the mountain slopes become impoverished. Water infiltrates less into the watersheds, so the water catchments of the surrounding villages dry up, the landscapes become savannah, and the dryness of the soil facilitates bush fires.
Protecting the soils of the watersheds is therefore a central issue for the Togolese region. However, it must not be to the detriment of the local population who live off their vegetable, cocoa and coffee crops. In partnership with the Unité Technique du Café et du Cacao (UTCC), a public institution in the region, Kinomé has therefore developed a reforestation project specifically adapted to the regional situation: a program that promotes agroforestry.
The technique of agroforestry consists in combining, on the same plot of land, agricultural crops with the planting of trees – here fruit trees. Planting trees on food, coffee or cocoa fields conserves rainwater and enriches the soil, for example by fixing nitrogen. With a planting target of 20,000 trees per year and the regeneration of 500 hectares of degraded land per year, the project aims to reverse the trend of soil impoverishment and alarming deforestation over a large part of the region.
The project also involves the anti-fire committees of the villages in the region that protect their land from bushfires. These groups of villagers also manage tree nurseries that will later be planted in agroforestry. Their involvement is essential to enable the reforestation of areas considered at risk and ultimately to refertilize the land in the watersheds.
Agroforestry is a technique that can be applied to other areas suffering from deforestation and degradation of fertile land. In Senegal, in the Djikoye Valley, tree cutting for food crops is endangering soil resources. Together with its local partner SOPREEF, Kinomé is involved in watershed land use management: by combining agroforestry crops, construction of small dykes and tree planting along contour lines – i.e. perpendicular to the slope – runoff water is slowed down so that fertile silt remains on the soil surface and planted seeds can take root.
Fighting deforestation, improving local lives and adapting to climate change require the preservation of the planet’s soil resources. A better understanding of their vulnerability will make it possible to develop innovative solutions to solve these challenges. Whether in Togo, Senegal, Congo-Brazzaville where Kinomé is working with the French Development Agency and the World Bank to adapt local agriculture in savannah areas, or in the arid zones of Peru where the technique of assisted natural regeneration is used to reverse the desertification of fertile land, it is essential to put the soil issue back at the heart of action against climate change and to manage this resource sustainably for the future of the planet and of mankind.