Water and soil are the first links of the food chain of ecosystems, and these components in turn nurture the soil with their biomass. Desertification affects both of these key components with a series of consequences that ramify throughout the entire ecosystem, which thus becomes vulnerable, loses part of its biodiversity and hence its resilience and functions. These degraded ecosystems are no longer able to provide stakeholders— especially farmers—with resources and services. Farmers are then forced to overutilize the environment, thus further worsening the desertification process. What could be done to offset this desertification spiral at local and then at higher global scales?
Research and development on cropping systems such as direct-seeding mulch-based cropping systems (DMC) means at least partially meeting this challenge, and then disseminating this technique in Southern countries during the 21st century. DMC is a highly innovative system, central to conservation agriculture and agro-ecological practices. It involves no-till cropping and provides permanent soil protection with both crop residue and companion crops, through crop combinations, yearly sequences or rotations.