To improve Africa’s soil health and plant nutrition, empower women farmers

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BY CLAUDIA RINGLER AND CARGELE MASSO
OPEN ACCESS | CC-BY-4.0

Healthy soils play a critical role in supporting agricultural productivity, climate change mitigation and resilience, and a range of ecosystem services. Up to 65% of Africa’s productive land is estimated to be degraded, and far too many smallholder farmers must eke out a living on degraded and nutrient depleted soils. While many technical options for soil improvement or restoration exist, a large number of them remain “on the shelf” or do not see widespread use due to sociocultural, institutional, economic, and policy barriers that stand in the way of their uptake at scale.

Gender inequality is deeply embedded in soil health and plant nutrient management; It reinforces these barriers and represents a “wicked problem” requiring a fuller understanding of context and culture-specific approaches. Persistent inequalities such as women’s lower access to both agricultural resources and knowledge are a significant contributor to the 24% gap in land productivity between women and men farmers on farms of equal size, as well as to major differences in labor productivity.

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