chapter  4
48 Pages

Soils, Livelihoods and Agricultural Change: The Management of Soil-fertility in the Communal Lands of Zimbabwe

Policy debates about soil management in the communal areas of Zimbabwe date back to the early colonial era when soil erosion and soil-fertility loss were deemed to be undermining the productive base of the country (Beinart, 1984). Since that time much scientific effort has been invested in documenting the extent and nature of the problem through a string of field surveys, mapping exercises and biophysical and economic modelling efforts (eg Elwell, 1974, 1983, 1985; Whitlow, 1988, among many others). The result has been the emergence of a conventional wisdom which states that soil erosion and fertility loss is bad and getting worse. This view is so often repeated in both the scientific literature and in the popular media that its basic premises are barely questioned.