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Indigenous soil enrichment for food security and climate change mitigation in Africa and Asia: a review

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Abstract

As alternatives to industrial agriculture such as agroecology and ‘ecological intensification’ gain policy traction there is renewed interest in traditional agro-ecosystems. Despite the relatively extensive literature on indigenous soil knowledge, or “ethnopedology,” – our understanding of associated processes of soil enrichment are limited. This review draws on diverse and sometimes obscure literatures and personal communications with practitioners to fill this knowledge gap. We show that indigenous soil enrichment is much more widespread in Africa and Asia than previously documented. We find that practices fall into two main categories: the cultivation of ruined settlements and the anaerobic charring of biomass and the incorporation of pyrogenic carbon into soil along with other non-pyrogenic organic matter. We conclude that indigenous soil enrichment is an important and hitherto overlooked aspect of traditional agro-ecosystems with significant potential for inclusion in agronomic strategies supporting sustainable development and addressing climate change