Soil, a little-known carbon sink, is a diminishing resource in Kenya

Soil is a diminishing resource, the more we abuse it the more we lose it when it plays a major role in CO2 sequestration.

Climate change, drought, illegal logging, aggressive agricultural practices, and the over grazing of cattle is causing soil to erode at an alarming rate, creating a vicious cycle.

The worst drought in over 40 years, along with five failed rainy seasons is killing cattle and wildlife across east Africa.

Hundreds of thousands of people are facing a looming famine. But few are talking about soil as an important resource in carbon sequestration in mitigating the effects of climate change.

“The carbon sequestered in the soil, okay, is two times the CO2 in the atmosphere,” Charles Gachene, Soil Scientist with LARMAT Department, University of Nairobi points out.

“It is three times what is in the vegetation. So you can already see its importance, this soil organic carbon pool, is storing a lot of it.”

How to protect the diminishing resource?

Aggressive farming practices, over grazing of cattle, illegal logging and even building more houses and infrastructure for an exploding human population is rapidly destroying the structure of soil sending CO2 into the atmosphere.

“How now do we take care to this soil?”, Gachene asks. 

“Because if you start now cultivating it anyhow, you are not, you know, carrying out sustainable land management practices to maintain and restore our soils. You finally expose the CO… carbon in the form of CO2 into the atmosphere

A geologist at South Eastern Kenya University said planting more trees could have a two-pronged beneficial effect.

“What we need to do, is we need to protect the catchments because this water is washing away the soil, we need to plant the trees”, said Steven Okoth Owuor.

Firstly, it will reduce the soil erosion as the roots of trees will slow down the rate of water flowing through the gullies according to the geologist.

Secondly, the trees will also absorb the carbon, preventing it from being emitted into the atmosphere.

As the world comes together at COP 27 in the Egyptian port city of Sharm El-Sheikh it will remain to be seen if global inaction towards communities left on the front line of the climate crisis will finally be addressed, especially since Africa accounts for the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions.