KARI-NARL-KSS NO.P148 2008 - Baseline Information on the Quality of the Soils of Kiboko-Kibwezi Area, Makueni District

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Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
Interest in evaluating soil quality has been stimulated by increasing awareness that soil is a critically important component of the earth's biosphere (Glanz, 1995). Soil functions in the production of food and fibre and also in the maintenance of the environment through acting as a filter and environmental buffer for air, nutrients and chemicals (Doran and Parkin, 1996). The quality and health of soil determines agricultural sustainability and environmental quality. Past management, land conversion and intensification in face of growing demands for food have overtaxed the resilience of natural processes to maintain the global balance of energy and matter. Recent assessment of land degradation by UNEP indicates that almost 40% of agricultural land has been adversely affected by human induced soil degradation and that more than 6% is degraded to such a degree that restoration of its original productive capacity is only possible through major capital investment (Oldeman, 1994). Therefore, qualitative assessment of soil quality is invaluable in establishing baseline condition against which relative degree of change under the proposed intervention can be evaluated (UNEP et al., 1997). The proposed intervention is mechanized water harvesting micro-catchments, which are intended not only to restore the degraded ecosystem, but also to check further degradation, by harvesting rainwater and reducing the run-off. Since land degradation is a process of change that can only be assessed realistically by comparing the existing conditions with same baseline conditions established at a given, the soil quality indicators are to be identified at the beginning of the intervention and be used as criteria for evaluating the impacts of the mechanized water harvesting micro-catchments.