African Soil Types

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Even though it is one of the largest continents, Africa and its constituent countries have consistently lagged behind the rest of the world in both economic and agricultural development. This is due in large part to the types of soil that can be found in Africa, many of which (though not all) are sandy and arid, making them largely unsuitable for agricultural production on any substantial scale.

Histosols

  • This African soil type is only found in a small area on the continent, including the coast of West Africa and Madagascar. This type of African soil tends to be acidic. It is typically composed of incompletely decomposed plant material, along with sand or clay. Although not as productive as some soils, histosols can be used for grazing and for some agricultural use if managed well.

Andisols

  • The andisols are some of the most productive types of soils in Africa, and they are predominantly composed of various materials ejected from a volcano (such as ash and pumice.) As a result, the regions with this kind of soil are agriculturally productive. They are primarily found along the Great Rift Valley.

Arenosols

  • This type of African soil is found in several regions throughout Africa, particularly around the Kalahari Desert. This soil is often composed of sand, and as a result is often not fertile. Because of this, this type of soil is mostly used for grazing, although it is possible for subsistence farming to be undertaken on this soil with proper irrigation.

Vertisols

  • These soils are found along the rift from Sudan to South Africa. Because they are composed largely of clay, they become hard during the dry season and sticky during the wet season, with the result that they are difficult to till, reducing agricultural productivity.

Ferrasols

  • This type of African soil is typically found in the tropical regions, mostly Central Africa. Although these soils are quite stable physically, they are chemically poor, and the nutrients are typically held in the biomass so that plants are not able to access them. These soils withstand erosion well, but they do require a great deal of irrigation and other agricultural work to be productive.

Aridisols

  • This type of African soil occupies a substantial portion of the continent, with most estimates placing it at approximately 26 percent. This type of soil occupies a number of environments, including dunes, salt pans, and rocky lands. Because these soils are sandy and arid in composition, the soil is mostly unusable for agriculture.

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