The quest for improving soil fertility : Why an integrated approach is needed

Beek, Christy van; Herold, Nadine; Kessler, Aad; Vonk, Remko


Improving the productive capacity of lands has been on the international development agenda for many years. Yet, to date insufficient progress has been made. Although there have been successes, they tend to be of limited impact, and spontaneous spreading of good practices is low. In this article, different intervention paradigms are reviewed. It is concluded that interventions differ in their fundamental view of drivers for change. We found interventions that aim to increase the total amount of nutrients within the soil, either through increasing inputs or through increasing demands, but seldom both at the same time.We also found interventions that aim to increase the efficacy of existing soil nutrients through either increasing the nutrient holding capacity (e.g. through mulching) or the release of nutrients (e.g. through liming). The differentiation of these approaches has strong effects on the institutional organization of the intervention. This article makes the case for integrating these different approaches and for more collaboration at institutional levels to facilitate this process.