The true potential of citizen science comes through in this article – the power to change the world when combining “traditional” scientific methods with data generated through citizen science. This is a call to arm the farmers of Africa with a citizen science network that would help them learn about and maintain the health of soils. – LFF
To harness the potential of soil microbes Africa must move quickly. As soil degrades, so too does microbial life.
Understanding the microbial diversity of Africa’s soils is important for another reason as well. At least some portion of this diversity is indigenous to particular soils, crops and ecosystems developed over thousands of years of farming.
At a time when multinational corporations are investing to identify, develop and patent soil microbial uses and inventions, Africa needs to understand the value of microbes.
The commercial value of its diversity should be realised.
At the same time, many of the agronomic products developed are based on soil microbes. This will benefit farmers elsewhere who face similar challenges, whether arid soils or crop diseases.
Africa’s soil crisis calls for quick and creative action. In addition to a citizen soil knowledge initiative, we need to use all the techniques already available to protect and restore soil, particularly through applying integrated soil fertility management.
This is the approach widely promoted by organisations such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.
The alliance invests in agriculture as a way in which to help tackle poverty. It combines farming methods and materials available to farmers to improve soil health, whether manure, fertilisers or crop residue left in the field.
Promotion of integrated soil fertility management can go hand in hand with engaging farmers in citizen science networks. It will connect them to agricultural universities, research institutions and agricultural enterprises.
Featured image: Tens of millions of smallholder farmers across sub-Saharan Africa have a stake in improving the health of the soil their cattle graze on. (Photo credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)