Estimation of soil carbon gains upon improved management within croplands and grasslands of Africa

Batjes, N.H. | Environment, Development and Sustainability | 2004 | Peer Reviewed | Original research |


Many agro(eco)systems in Africa have been degraded as a result of past disturbances, including deforestation, overgrazing, and over exploitation. These systems can be managed to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon sinks in vegetation and soil. The scope for soil organic carbon gains from improved management and restoration within degraded and non-degraded croplands and grasslands in Africa is estimated at 20-43 Tg C year-I, assuming that ‘best’ management practices can be introduced on 20% of croplands and 10% of grasslands. Under the assumption that new steady state levels will be reached after 25 years of sustained management, this would correspond with a mitigation potential of 4–9% of annual CO2 emissions in Africa. The mechanisms that are being put in place to implement the Kyoto Protocol- through C emission trading – and prevailing agricultural policies will largely determine whether farmers can engage in activities that enhance C sequestration in Africa. Mitigation of climate change by increased carbon sequestration in the soil appears particularly useful when addressed in combination with other pressing regional challenges that affect the livelihood of the people, such as combating land degradation and ensuring food security, while at the same time curtailing global anthropogenic emissions.