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Better Land Husbandry: From Soil Conservation to Holistic Land Management

2006 Edition, January 4, 2006

Complete Document

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Active, Most Current

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ISBN: 978-1-4398-4424-3
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Product Details:

  • Revision: 2006 Edition, January 4, 2006
  • Published Date: January 4, 2006
  • Status: Active, Most Current
  • Document Language: English
  • Published By: CRC Press (CRC)
  • Page Count: 340
  • ANSI Approved: No
  • DoD Adopted: No

Description / Abstract:


Land shortages are forcing increasing numbers of smallholder farmers to cultivate tropical steeplands. Resulting accelerated soil erosion is often countered by the promotion of soil conservation technologies, such as crossslope barriers, which aim to reduce soil loss and preserve land productivity. This conventional approach, focusing on controlling soil erosion rather than maintaining or improving the quality of soil that remains in farmers' fields, has several drawbacks. Firstly, it addresses the symptoms of soil degradation rather than its causes and secondly, it seldom tackles the complex social and economic constraints that affect farmers' decision-making vis-à-vis land management. Most seriously of all, conventional soil conservation approaches tend to downplay the significance of the central purpose of farmers' activities, which is to generate maximum livelihood benefit from the land through agricultural production.

Land degradation is a social, economic, political, and technical problem requiring multi- and inter-disciplinary solutions. In this context, there is clearly a need for a new way ahead, one that shakes off the negativity of the soil loss prevention ethos and focuses, instead, on the positive aspects of land management. The new approach must place the farmer first and also address the issues of soil quality and land productivity. It is precisely these ideas that provide the foundations and starting point for the better land husbandry approach.

The better land husbandry approach aspires to discover an integrated framework within which land management issues can be analysed and practical, productivity-enhancing, strategies be formulated and implemented. The focus of better land husbandry is to improve soil quality, particularly soil architecture via soil protection, incorporation of organic matter, and the use of soil organisms. In this respect, it is in sharp contrast to the conventional soil conservation approach. The conventional approach attempts to ‘combat' soil erosion head-on by capturing soil once it has been eroded. The better land husbandry approach, on the other hand, aims to maintain optimum soil conditions-in physical, chemical, biological and hydrologic terms-for the acceptance, transmission and retention of water, and for root growth and crop production.

Whilst it is not a panacea to land degradation, an approach that encourages better land husbandry has the potential to draw social and natural scientists into productive dialogue with the land users, leading to practical and realistically sustainable land management development initiatives that can play a critical role in sustainable agriculture intensification and the sound management of natural resources. Despite a growing number of successful better land husbandry examples worldwide, the aficionados of the better land husbandry approach continue to face a challenge in getting their message across. There is, therefore, a need to win over the sceptics and those who are either disinterested or uninterested. Informed debate backed up by rigorous research is an effective way to do this. This book is designed to contribute to this debate.