Soil Quality and Agricultural Sustainability in Semi-arid Areas

  • Msafiri Yusuph Mkonda
  • Xinhua He
Part of the Sustainable Agriculture Reviews book series (SARV, volume 32)


Soil quality and agricultural sustainability are required to feed about nine billion people by the year 2050. To feed such a population, the planet ought to increase food production by 60%. To attain agricultural sustainability, there should be a balance among biophysical, economic and social dimensions under which soil quality is a core aspect. It is worthwhile to explore soil quality versus agricultural sustainability in sub-Saharan countries because the population is expected to increase by 80%. This chapter reviews the current agronomic practices in countries characterized by semiarid agro-ecological zones and their implications to soil quality and agricultural sustainability, using Tanzania as a case study.

We found that agro-pastoralism based on maize, sorghum, millet, sheep, cattle and cow is a current dominant agricultural system but with low yields. Monoculture has contributed to the degradation of soil quality. Drought has raised issues to already stressed ecosystems and made rain-fed agriculture a vulnerable and unsustainable livelihood for smallholder farmers. This situation has reduced the per capita grain harvested area from 0.6 to less than 0.4 ha and thus, affected for more than 70% the smallholder farmers’ livelihoods. Fortunately, areas using fertilizations of animal manure and other organic soil management practices have increased soil fertility and crop yields from 0.82 tn ha−1 under no-fertilization to 1.8 tn ha−1 under organic fertilization.


Agricultural sustainability Climate change Ecology Food security Nutrient use efficiency Organic fertilizations Semiarid Smallholder farmers Soils quality Tanzania 



The authors are thankful to the Editor-in-Chief of Sustainable Agricultural Reviews, Professor Eric Lichtfouse for inviting them to write a chapter in “Ecology for agriculture”. They are also appreciative to the reviewers for the constructive comments and insights.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Msafiri Yusuph Mkonda
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xinhua He
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre of Excellence for Soil Biology, College of Resources and EnvironmentSouthwest UniversityChongqingChina
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Solomon Mahlangu College of Science and EducationSokoine University of AgricultureMorogoroTanzania
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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