Montpellier Panel issues its report on Africa’s soil degradation

4 Dec

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

A panel constituting African and European members, the Panel, has issued its 36-page report, titled: No Ordinary Matter; Conserving, Restoring and Enhancing Africa’s soils, whose presentation is linked to the World Soil Day on December 5, 2014.

It is rather adding its voice to an already clearly established finding that 65 percent of soils in Sub-Saharan Africa “are degraded, and unable to nourish the crops the chronically food insecure continent requires.” This must leave Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn alone, wallowing in his lies about Ethiopia becoming food secure starting 2014.

This goes against the grain, as I explained in my article The state of Ethiopian agriculture, prospects and pitfalls. In that article, it was explained that Ethiopian soil lacks six soil nutrients, according to ATA’s Quarterly Update. As explained by the scientist handling the soil testing and curing project Dr. Samuel Gemeda, “Ethiopia’s soil is deficient in as many as six essential nutrients such as Boron, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, and Zinc”.

The Montpellier Panel Report also comes with the same tone and conclusion. Hereunder are its salient finds with regard to Ethiopia:-

    “Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of soil nutrient depletion in SSA, therefore soil is a recurrent theme and falls under different sections within the national investment plan (e.g. sustainable land management, natural resource management and climate change). Under Ethiopia’s five year growth and transformation plan, there is a dedicated sustainable land management project that focuses on the conservation of soil and water in arid zones. An estimated $8 billion is still required over the next ten years, in particular for irrigation development.”

While the report’s efforts are constrained by lack of data, its findings on Ethiopia state:

    “While national level data is limited, it is striking where available. For example in Ethiopia, over one-quarter of land is degraded which affects about 20 million people, almost a third of the total population. Another study found that nearly one-third of South Africa and 40% of all cropland suffers from land degradation. Nearly 17 million people or 40% of South Africans depend on these degraded areas for their livelihoods.”

In other words, 26 percent of Ethiopian land has been degraded, and would affect the lives of 21 million Ethiopians, or the equivalent of 29 percent of the country’s population.

Ethiopia is a country that has been losing one billion tons of topsoil annually. The implication of this is loss, at least, for over a century 20 percent of its soil productivity in large parts of the country. There is a regime now that assembles citizens in the stadium blasts its lies on the megaphone and its media the false announcement Ethiopia has become food secure as of the year now ending.

Fortunately, neither Ethiopians nor the international community is being fooled by this irresponsible behavior, when the regime is signing with donors and the World Bank loan of $600 million to buy food for over 10 million chronically non-self-supporting. It has also signed agreement to extend Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP IV) through 2015-2020.

The Montpellier Panel has made an estimate of the annual costs of this soil loss and continuing degradation in Ethiopia. Accordingly, in GDP terms this takes away 4 percent of resources from Ethiopia. This is further broken down into annual cost of soil erosion and nutrient loss from farming, which is estimated at $106 million. Then there is deforestation that destroys $23 million worth natural resources. Losses in livestock capacity adds up to $10 million.

By way of solutions, among others, the panel recommends combining the best and conventional approaches in agricultural methods in a manner that is environmentally appropriate and sustainable.

In offering the example of Mali, the panel underlines the importance of good governance, a commodity in short supply in Ethiopia.

In addition, the panel recommends sound land use and soil management assessments, on the basis of which governments establish appropriate incentive structures for sustainable land use. Not only this, governments also need to ensure long-term land lease regulations and protection of tenancy rights.

Such recommendations for the TPLF are poison pills. Otherwise, it would have the sensibility not to displace hundreds and thousands of farmers and peaceful communities and minorities, a substantial number of whom in the Omo Valley have been decimated.

Gambella has been turned into war zone, not any differently from the Ogaden, which has now become trading post for the TPLF generals and place to practice range shooting on live Ogadeni Ethiopians, as the video here shows.

We cannot mention all the places, where the TPLF has undermined human and community dignities just because of greed for land and resources. The TPLF regime is bent on destroying Ethiopia. Only last week, it announced preparing 3.6 million hectares of farmlands to investors, with thousands of Ethiopians displaced or their lands confiscated.

This is not what the country needed now.

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