The aim of sustainable land management is, simply, to reap the benefits of the land whilst maintaining the quality of its soil, water and biodiversity.
Soil degradation has become a crucial concern for many communities since soil is an integral part of almost all terrestrial ecosystems and plays an important role in sustaining livelihoods through food and agricultural production.
Several options exist to help manage land sustainably.
For example, creating “exclosures”: closing off plots of degraded land, such as communal grazing land, from people and domestic animals is an effective way to rehabilitate soils. Exclosures can help allow a rich diversity in plant species to establish, which contributes to higher densities of carbon stored in both trees and in the soil. Farmers report benefiting from increased livestock fodder production and reduced soil erosion.
Planting trees along river banks and installing drip irrigation in the Tana river basin in southeastern Kenya is helping to reduce soil erosion, which in turn limits sedimentation and siltation in water streams in the lower parts of the basin. As a result, farmers upstream enjoy more productive lands, and businesses downstream are guaranteed a more reliable supply of water.
The importance of trees and shrubs to soil conservation is such that forestry and farming should no longer be regarded as entirely separate operations. They must be integrated in carefully planned systems of agrosilviculture - intercropping tree crops with food crops, or using the fallow period to grow trees of economic value.