Given the landscape of some parts of Rwanda like in other countries, it is estimated that tonnes of top soils are washed away and dumped into water bodies, leaving the land less productive for agriculture yet its one of the most earning economic activities in the country as statistic from the ministry of Agriculture shows.
The Agricultural sector contributes 35 to 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 90 percent of the country’s employment opportunities, mostly women, 70 percent of export revenue and 90 percent of national food needs.
The appropriate ways through which individuals maintain their land is by protecting it from soil erosion through land conservation.
Soil conservation is not only important in to agriculture but it also maintains the landscape and adds to the beauty of the land.
According to a popular information website (www.jstor.org), land in Africa is predominantly affected by soil erosion.
Soil erosion is the washing away of top soils, if the area is too steep, soil erosion is most likely to affect the land
Agnes Kalibata, State Minister for Agriculture says the government is planning to introduce Agro-forestry scheme where bamboo trees will be planted in areas where the landscape is not too steep.
She added that trenches will be applied in some areas to help in controlling the flow of running water. It will also prevent the top soils from being carried into swamps and other water bodies.
Contour farming is another method that is useful in preventing soil erosion by controlling water runoff. This is done by planting along the slope of a hill, following the natural contours of the land, instead of up and down or across.
Planting crop cover when land is not in use is highly recommended. Besides providing protection for your land, many cover crops are nitrogen-fixers, implying that they absorb nitrogen from the air and deliver it back to the land.
Land should also be given some time to rest, although it may appear to be expensive in the short run since basing on the African perspective people do not have enough land but it’s productive in the long run in that it allows the soils to rest and regain the lost nutrients.
Keeping your soil healthy is very important in preventing soil erosion. Soil that is rich in organic matter has better structure and is less susceptible to being washed or blown away. To keep your soil healthy, add plenty of compost each year and don’t over-till when you are planting.
The covering of top soils so that the speed at which the running water and wind is limited is also another way of preventing soil erosion and maintaining soil fertility in that with time after rain the mulch rots and turns into natural fertilizers.
Kalibata however says that applying fertilizers to the soils is important for crops but it does not contribute to increasing soil fertility. She urged farmers to utilise methods that increase yield without compromising the fertility of the land.
Soil erosion also creates a crust cover, making it difficult for rainwater to be absorbed, and for seeds to break through. Gullies are subsequently created leading to improper leveling of the land which makes planting and harvesting difficult.
The amount of soil erosion which occurs in an area depends upon certain factors such as the speed at which the ruining water or wind moves across the area.
Poor farming methods like over-grazing, where a small piece of land has a high animal population, leads to easy washing away of the vegetation, and consequently, soil erosion.
Parcels of land that have been adversely affected by soil erosion usually degenerate into swampy areas. This renders them agriculturally unproductive.
Once an area of land has been eroded, it is sometimes impossible to reclaim it. Practicing soil conservation methods is therefore paramount not only for preserving the environment but also ensuring food security.