The aim of soil conservation is the prevention of soil erosion so that the fertile topsoil is retained. There are a lot of methods that can be used to conserve the soil. These are:
The main strategy used in mountainous areas is terracing. Terraces built across slopes hold the soil on flatter land. These are mainly needed in tropical lands were rain falls in heavy storms, capable of removing large amounts of soil on slopes. On a smaller scale are embankments placed across the bottom of steep slopes to hold back soil and water. Farmers can help by using contour ploughing (around the slope instead of up and down). Ridges formed by ploughing block the downward movement of water on slopes. Planting trees in lines, either as windbreaks for the farm or as shelter belts between the fields, checks wind speed and protects from erosion.
*Changes in farming practices:
Erosion rates are lower when the soil is covered, one strategy can be the use of mixed cropping or internal cropping. For example, a field crop like maize can be planted between a bush or tree of coffee. Instead of leaving the soil open to wind, the bushes will afford protection. Crop rotation can also help in the same way if crops of different sizes and periods of growths are planted in neighbouring fields. The main advantage of crop rotation is the maintenance of soil fertility. This is because not all crops use the same nutrients: what one takes out from the soil, another will give back. Maintaining soil fertility is very important; adding organic matter to the soil is the best way to hold water and promote a stable soil structure.
The main farm sources are animal manure, crop stubble, and straw. Mixed farming cannot be practiced everywhere, in the Great Plains in the western USA dry farming is used. Because of the low water availability, dry farming involves spacing plants more widely than in wetter areas and leaving the land empty of crops (fallow) every other year. In the dry years of the 1930s the top soil blew away in great clouds. Farmers were obliged to change their techniques during fallow years. Now field surfaces are left rough, and the soil is covered with a layer of waste and straw to protect it from the action of both sun and wind.
Some strategies are funded by governments, for example tree planting on slopes in and next to farming areas, in order to replace trees already cleared. Planting schemes without the community support are not always successful; the participation of the community increases the chances of success. For example in Nepal local people are allowed to harvest grass that is taken to the village to fed animals, animal dung is used to fertilize the land. When government instructs and supports this kind of projects, schemes like this can form part of an integrated rural development program.
Soil conservation is integrated with agricultural change to increase food output and improve rural standards of living. A major issue in many rural communities in developing countries is land ownership. A majority of farmer don’t own their lands but pay rent to landlords, making the introduction of new conservation strategies impossible. What is need is a land reform that change this, but liitle progress has been made because powerful landowners have too much too lose.