SOAS University of London

Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Sustainable Land Management

Module Code:
P117 (P568)

This module explores the problem of ensuring the continued productivity of the world’s land resources. This is a key issue for sustainable development affecting both the developed and developing world. Developing nations face the challenge of transforming traditional agricultural systems as they become less viable in the face of demand for land. Demand for land also threatens natural environments increasingly subject to encroachment for agriculture.

The intensification of agriculture generates sustainable development challenges for ‘modern’ farming systems also. These include excessive nutrient loading associated with use of inorganic fertilisers, toxicity problems caused by pesticides, and the salinisation of soils in irrigated systems.

The module begins by considering land use change arising from increased agricultural production and how these changes can lead to unsustainable land management practices. This leads to a general discussion of the range of possible causes of land degradation and the current state of knowledge on the global extent of land degradation.

This overview is followed by an introduction to soil science and an examination of principal degradation processes and their assessment. The units that follow consider land management problems in different agroecological zones and farming systems.

Finally the course considers the policy options for governments seeking to influence land management practices of farmers and other land users. In particular the relationship between poverty and environmental degradation is examined.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Students will be able to:

  • describe the components of soil and important land degradation processes (erosion, nutrient depletion and salinisation)
  • explain how multiple factors may lead to unsustainable land management practice and identify possible points of intervention for tackling land degradation problems
  • give examples of successful strategies for sustainable land management in different ecological zones and farming systems and identify the biophysical and socio-economic factors related to their success
  • discuss the complex relationship between poverty and environmental degradation
  • examine the role of government intervention and policy in creating conditions for sustainable land management.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules