Soil Health, Sustainable Land Management and Land Degradation in Africa: Legal Options on the Need for a Specific African Soil Convention or Protocol

  • Robert Kibugi
Part of the International Yearbook of Soil Law and Policy book series (IYSLP, volume 2017)


This chapter explores the situation on soil health management, and the responses to land degradation in Africa, and examines whether the current multiplicity of international law instruments is sufficient or whether an Africa-specific legal instrument is required to address soil health in the context of sustainable land management and in response to land degradation. The chapter has drawn its inspiration from the first volume of the International Yearbook of Soil Law and Policy (2016), in which the welcome note from Africa written by Mr. Shem Shikongo from Namibia focused on the continuing prevalence of land degradation across Africa, despite multiple international legal options and in spite of the opportunity for Africa to frame a bespoke legal and policy approach to address land degradation, food security, and related challenges, such as climate change. According to the FAO, in a 2015 report, although Africa has a diverse range of soils and land-use systems, very large areas, particularly in West Africa, experience unsustainable systems of land use and erosion, together with widespread low fertility. Climate change represents a major global challenge to sustainable development and poses a specific obstacle to Africa due to the vulnerability of production systems, including land. Despite participating in various international legal instruments, Africa still faces hurdles in cooperatively addressing land degradation. The emergence of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the concept of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) present an opportunity for an endogenous African approach to internalize options and mechanism that are unique and responsive to African needs.


  1. Algeria (September 2015) Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).
  2. African Union (2010) Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy.
  3. Boer BW, Ginzky H, Heuser IL (2016) International soil protection law: history, concepts and latest developments. In: Ginzky H, Heuser IL, Qin T, Ruppel OC, Wegerdt P (eds) International yearbook of soil law and policy 2016 (Springer)Google Scholar
  4. Botswana (2015) Botswana intended nationally determined contributionGoogle Scholar
  5. CAADP (2003) Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development ProgrammeGoogle Scholar
  6. CBD CoP Decision X/2 The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (2010)Google Scholar
  7. CBD CoP Decision XIII/3 Strategic actions to enhance the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, including with respect to mainstreaming and the integration of biodiversity within and across sectors (2016)Google Scholar
  8. ELD Initiative & UNEP (2015) The Economics of Land Degradation in Africa: Benefits of Action Outweigh the Costs. Available from
  9. Ehlers K (2016) Chances and challenges in using the sustainable development goals as a new instrument for global action against soil degradation. In: Ginzky H, Heuser IL, Qin T, Ruppel OC, Wegerdt P (eds) International yearbook of soil law and policy (Springer)Google Scholar
  10. Ethiopia (2016) Ethiopia’s Forest Reference Level Submission to the UNFCCC. Online.
  11. FAO (2012) Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Land TenureGoogle Scholar
  12. FAO and ITPS (2015) Status of the World’s Soil Resources (SWSR) – Main Report. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  13. Ghana (September 2015) Ghana’s intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) and accompanying explanatory note.
  14. IPCC (2006) Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. Online.
  15. IPCC (2014) Africa (Niang, I., O.C. Ruppel, M.A. Abdrabo, A. Essel, C. Lennard, J. Padgham, and P. Urquhart). In: Barros VR, Field CB, Dokken DJ, Mastrandrea MD, Mach KJ, Bilir TE, Chatterjee M, Ebi KL, Estrada YO, Genova RC, Girma B, Kissel ES, Levy AN, MacCracken S, Mastrandrea PR, White LL (eds) Climate Change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part B: regional aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1199–1265Google Scholar
  16. IUCN (2004) An Introduction to the African Union on the Conservation of Nature and Natural ResourceGoogle Scholar
  17. IUCN (2015) Land degradation neutrality: implications and opportunities for conservation, Technical Brief Second Edition 27/08/2015. IUCN, Nairobi, p 1Google Scholar
  18. Kenya (2013) Analysis of drivers and underlying causes of forest cover change in the various forest types of Kenya. Ministry of Forestry and WildlifeGoogle Scholar
  19. Kenya (July 2015) Intentionally Nationally Determined Contributions (Ministry of Environment)Google Scholar
  20. Maputo Declaration (2003) on Agriculture and Food Security, approved by the African UnionGoogle Scholar
  21. Rampa F, van Seters J (2013) Towards the development and implementation of CAADP regional compacts and investment plans: the state of play. Online.
  22. Shikongo (2016) Welcome Note. In: Ginzky H, Heuser IL, Qin T, Ruppel OC, Wegerdt P (eds) International yearbook of soil law and policy. SpringerGoogle Scholar
  23. UNCCD (2016) Science Policy Brief 2/2016 - Land in BalanceGoogle Scholar
  24. UNEP (1982) World Soil Policy. Online:
  25. Zambia (2016) Zambia’s Forest Reference Emissions Level Submission to the UNFCCC. Online.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NairobiNairobiKenya

Personalised recommendations