Permaculture bed with various crops

Soil and biodiversity Conserving soil conserves biodiversity

The biodiversity in the soil is under threat – jeopardising the health and fertility of the soils that are a life-sustaining resource. Some ten million hectares of soil become degraded every year.

This human-induced soil degradation is in part the result of over-intensive farming, forest clearance, pollution, or sealing of the ground.

Protecting the soil goes hand-in-hand with the conservation and enhancement of its biodiversity. Agro-ecological approaches and conservation tillage together help to preserve both the soil’s species diversity and its ecosystem services, thus contributing to achievement of the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

German activities

A woman in Togo harvests lettuce. She carries a toddler on her back.

Special Initiative “Transformation of Agricultural and Food Systems”

Through this special initiative the BMZ supports soil conservation and the restoration of soil fertility in India and sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2014 the initiative has enabled more than 279,000 small-scale farmers to implement soil conservation measures, and almost 353,000 hectares of land have been protected and rehabilitated. This has resulted in yield increases averaging 45 per cent – with top increases of between 94 per cent and 300 per cent for some crops – and 1.4 million people have benefited from improved nutrition and higher incomes.

Detailed information on the Special Initiative “Transformation of Agricultural and Food Systems” is available here.

A woman farmer in Malawi in front of a solar system that provides electricity for the pump of a drip irrigation system

Sustainable agriculture

Agro-ecological practices play an important part in the restoration of soil fertility. An example of these practices is vermicomposting: by the end of September 2021, more than 61,000 smallholder households are due to have been trained in this practice in Kenya alone. Vermicomposting is not only environmentally sustainable: for smallholders it is also an additional strand in their economic activities. This is particularly useful in the Covid-19 crisis, because the pandemic has had an adverse impact on nutrition in many countries.

Parched ground in Beira (Mozambique)

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Through the UNCCD, the BMZ supports soil conservation at international level and encourages the use of synergies in work geared to the achievement of global environmental and development goals at the nexus of soil, biodiversity, forests, climate and agriculture.

Deforested areas in the tropical rainforest on Borneo in Indonesia

Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative

The BMZ is one of the initiators of this international initiative that focuses on the assessment of land-based ecosystem services. The ELD initiative, established in 2011, equips decision-makers in partner countries to consider the economic value of healthy soil when drawing up policies and land-use strategies.