Soil erosion, deforestation, poor agricultural practices, loss of soil fertility, lack of runoff management and gully formation each contribute to the degradation of Malawi’s land resources. In order to reduce land degradation, mitigate degradation and implement sustainable land use practices, this chapter provides technical guidance covering various aspects of sustainable land management.
One of the most important natural resources is the soil. Healthy and fertile soils produce good yields of crops; whereas poor or degraded soils produce low and unreliable yields. Soil health is a function of rooting depth, nutrient fertility, structure, organic matter content, below-ground biodiversity and water holding capacity – all of which are related. Ensuring soils remain healthy and fertile requires a variety of management techniques including: “natural farming” (permaculture), good rangeland management, soil fertility management, erosion and runoff control measures, gully management, and stream/river bank management. Implementing these techniques and practices will minimise the loss of topsoil (through erosion) and degradation (causing nutrient loss and reduced water holding capacity) of healthy soils; changes in weather will have less impact, risks of crops failing will be reduced, and soils throughout the catchment will be protected and retained in place.