Land Use Changes and Sustainable Land Management Practices for Soil Carbon Sequestration in Sub-Saharan African Agro-ecosystems

  • Kennedy Were
  • Bal Ram Singh
  • George Ayaga


Land use plays an important role in the global system. It alters in response to changing human needs driven by an array of socio-economic, technological, political, and environmental factors. However, the rate of land use change in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains alarming due to a population that is rapidly growing at the rate of 2.6% annually and technological advances leading to the transformation of the land surface. For example, between 2010 and 2015, the rate of forest decline was about 2.8 million ha year−1. The prominent mode of transformation has been the conversion of fragile native ecosystems (i.e., forests, woodlands, savannahs, grasslands, and steppe) into agro-ecosystems in order to fulfill the escalating demand for food, fiber, fuel, and shelter. This has had ramifications on the principal carbon (C) pools, especially the soil organic C (SOC) pool. Studies have shown that a decline in SOC stocks following deforestation in SSA can at times exceed 50%. However, the exact magnitude of SOC depletion in SSA is still uncertain owing to scarcity of reliable long-term data needed for accounting. Replenishing SOC stocks in SSA agro-ecosystems calls for adoption of a combination of appropriate sustainable land management (SLM) practices (e.g., conservation agriculture (CA) and integrated nutrient management), which can enhance the capture and storage of C in plants and soils, as well as mitigate GHG emissions and climate change. For example, soil C sequestration under CA and fertilizer use in Africa has, on average, been 0.37 Mg C ha−1 year−1and 0.63 Mg C ha−1 year−1, respectively. In this chapter, we have provided a synthesis of the impact of land use changes (i.e., conversion of forests to croplands) on the SOC pool, as well as the SLM strategies with a potential for sequestering C in SSA agricultural soils.


Land conversions Land management Soil carbon sequestration Sustainability Sub-Saharan Africa 

Abbreviations and Acronyms




Arid and semi-arid lands


Bamboo forest




Conservation agriculture






Carbon dioxide


Dissolved organic matter


Democratic Republic of Congo


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations




Greenhouse gases


Integrated nutrient management


Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils










Mean residence times




Nitrous oxide


Natural forest




Plantation forest




Particulate organic matter


Soil inorganic carbon


Sustainable land management


Soil organic carbon


Soil organic matter


Sub-Saharan Africa


United Nations


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


United States Department of Agriculture


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kennedy Were
    • 1
  • Bal Ram Singh
    • 2
  • George Ayaga
    • 3
  1. 1.Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, Food Crops Research Centre - KabeteNairobiKenya
  2. 2.Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life SciencesÅsNorway
  3. 3.Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, Food Crops Research Centre - AlupeBusiaKenya

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