The 4 per 1000 goal and soil carbon storage under agroforestry and conservation agriculture systems in sub-Saharan Africa uri icon

abstract

  • The 4 parts per thousand initiative launched by the French government at COP21 in Paris in December 2015 aspires to increase global soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks at a rate of 0.4% per year. We conducted a systematic literature review on SOC storage under agroforestry and conservation agriculture systems in sub-Saharan Africa, where we reported 66 and 33 cases for both systems respectively. The results showed that SOC storage rates were significantly higher than 4 parts per thousand yr(-1) in fallows and in multistrata agroforestry systems (P = 0.0001 and 0.0178, respectively), but not in alley cropping and parklands systems. For conservation agriculture, SOC storage rates were only significantly higher than 4 parts per thousand yr(-1) (P = 0.0438) when all three principles were applied, i.e. no- or minimum tillage combined with crop residue retention and intercropping or rotation. The data showed very large variability in SOC storage rates as the result of various factors, including previous land-use history, experimental set up and approach used to determine SOC storage (diachronic versus synchronic approach), soil type, depth of soil sampling, type of crops and management, and duration of the experiment. SOC storage rates significantly decreased with time in the agroforestry systems (P = 0.0328). However, we were unable to find significant relationships with initial SOC stocks or tree density. Given the limited published data and the high variability in results, no significant relationships between SOC storage rates and site variables were found for conservation agriculture. We argue that there is a potential for SOC storage in agricultural soils of sub-Saharan Africa, as illustrated by SOC gaps observed on smallholder farms. Low SOC levels are, however, to a great extent the result of limited resources of most smallholder farmers. Practices such as agroforestry and conservation agriculture can restore SOC in these soils, but the 4 parts per thousand initiative has to be implemented on the grounds of the positive impact on crop productivity rather than on climate change mitigation. The efficiency in doing so will depend on the specific situations and will need economic support to smallholder farmers, including the promotion of good markets for sale of extra produce and for input supply, effective private support and policy, such as credit schemes and subsidies for inputs, and efficient extension services which incentivize farmers to invest in new technologies.

publication date

  • 2019
  • 2019