Soil health underpins the resilience of food and forage production and other key ecosystem services that support agricultural livelihoods, and is often threatened in the regions where the CCRP works. The first phase of the Soils cross-cutting project demonstrated considerable interest and engagement on the part of many CCRP grantees to improve their understanding of soils and their capacity for soil health assessment. A toolkit was developed and utilized within several CCRP projects to help them to develop context-specific management strategies and to evaluate effects on a range of key soil functions.
Now in Phase II, the Soils team continues to support projects in the three CCRP regions around issues of agroecological management and soil health, with the aim of strengthening smallholder livelihoods and farming system resilience. The team has transitioned from a development and piloting phase to a design and refinement of a more useable, validated product and public good. The team continues to work with the three communities of practice and with other partners to advance strategies to enhance food systems sustainability. They will continue to backstop a range of projects, with emphasis on the three “agroecology hub” projects recently established in the East & Southern Africa CoP. The expectation is that those trained will be able to multiply the impact of the soil tool kit and soils research support via the hubs, farmer research networks, and other networks and platforms. Globally, there is growing enthusiasm about building soil organic matter both to sustain farm productivity and to reduce atmospheric carbon in the form of greenhouse gases. The CCRP-funded Soils project will also link with broader efforts to build soil health worldwide via the Global Alliance for the Future of Food and other cross-cutting projects.