Fertile ground: harnessing the market to reverse soil degradation in South Asia
This briefing (PDF) by IIED argues that there is a need to develop value chains to enable organic fertilisers and composts to supply much needed organic matter to depleted soils. Soils are the foundation of all terrestrial life on the planet and are essential for agricultural production. Yet intensive agriculture involving heavy inputs of chemical fertilisers is degrading soils across South Asia and many other parts of the world, threatening food security. Soil fertility and structure can be vastly improved through greater applications of compost, manure and other organic fertilisers. However, the shift away from diverse farming systems means that organic matter is now in short supply on many farms. Lessons from multi-stakeholder initiatives in Bangladesh and Nepal illustrate the potential for scaling up such value chains to foster more inclusive and sustainable agriculture. One of the key lessons of this case study is that such value chains do not simply materialise by themselves. They need to be nurtured over time, and require action by multiple stakeholders. For example, agro-retailers play a vital role as they are often the first or only technical advisors available to farmers and have a strong influence on the inputs that farmers purchase.