Mulching to control soil erosion in Dominica


In Dominica, natural hazards, such as storms and hurricanes regularly occur and directly affect agricultural productivity and production. Heavy rainfalls, especially in the late summer and autumn months from August to December, significantly increase susceptibility to landslides and soil erosion and lead to a loss of productive top soils, among others. Therefore, careful soil management practices in crop production are required.
Mulching is an on-farm soil conservation strategy to protect the soil from the impacts of heavy rainfalls, storms, and droughts. Besides preventing soil erosion, mulching also reduces weed growth, and increases soil moisture, microbial action, and soil fertility.



Natural hazards, such as storms, hurricanes, and heavy rains, directly impact agricultural productivity and production in Dominica, leading to landslides and soil erosion, among others. In order to better mitigate the impacts of these hazards and prevent soil erosion, mulching can be used to protect and conserve the soil, and reduce erosion by water and wind.

Mulching is a very simple and beneficial practice where organic material, such as crop residues and weeds, or inorganic material, like plastic sheets, is spread over the soil surface. 


The objective of mulching is to protect the soil from the impacts of heavy rainfalls, storms, and droughts, while providing complementary benefits, such as the reduction of weed growth and water loss, and the increase of soil moisture, microbial action, organic matter and nutrient content. This practice helps in the improvement of the resilience of those farmers that adopt it because it helps in the reduction of the impact of extreme weather events on the soil. And also, their livelihoods will benefit: eventually, this practice helps to improve agricultural productivity, thereby contributing to people’s food and nutrition security.


The material used for mulching is often determined by local availability. While inorganic materials limit water losses and reduce soil erosion better than natural mulches, organic mulches are a long-term source of energy and nutrients. The different beneficial effects of organic material are listed in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Beneficial effects of organic materials

Types of mulch  Beneficial effects
Straw mulch, C. zizanioides or Vetiver Residues of Zea mays (corn) Reduction of splash effect of rain, Decrease of runoff velocity, Reduction of soil loss
Straw of Oryza sativa (rice), Straw mulch, Leaves of Phyllostachys bambusoides (bamboo), Residues of Z. mays Decrease of soil bulk density, Penetration resistance
  Increase of size + stability of soil aggregates
Grass & Wood shavings Increase of infiltration capacity, hydraulic conductivity
Straw of O. sativa, Straw mulch, Leaves of P. bambusoides, Vetiver, Residues of Z. mays Increase of soil moisture, Decrease of soil temperature
Gliricidia sepium, Leucaena leucocephala, stover of Zea mays, straw of O. sativa Increase of activity and species, diversity of soil flora and fauna
Straw of O. sativa, Vetiver Straw of O. sativa, Vetiver Suppression of weeds
Stover of Z. mays Increase of organic matter + nutrient content
  Increase of crop yield

In Dominica, both organic as well as inorganic mulching is extensively used. Plastic mulches are widely used in the production of pineapples and vegetables primarily to prevent or suppress weed growth. Organic mulching is also extensively practiced in banana, plantain, and other field vegetable production, particularly during the dry season to reduce moisture loss and weed growth, and improve microbial action and organic matter availability. 

Mulch materials should be checked for relevant pests and diseases to avoid spreading these to new sites. Furthermore, pests like snails, slugs, and rodents tend to hide under mulch. Therefore, appropriate pest control strategies, especially related to these types of pests, must be evaluated for incorporation into production systems when mulch is used.

Figure 1 and Figure 2 show mulching on a pineapple farm at Layou Valley and a banana farm at Londonderry in Dominica, respectively.


This technology contributes to the SDGs:

Further reading

Cleveland, D. A. and Soleri, D. 1991. Food from Dryland Gardens: An Ecological, Nutritional, and Social Approach to Small-Scale Household Food Production. Tucson, Arizona: Center for People, Food and Environment (CPFE).

El-Swaify, S.A., Dangler, E.W. and Armstrong, C.L. 1982. Soil ero¬sion by water in the tropics. Research and Extension Series 24. Hawaii, Honolulu: University of Hawaii.

FAO. 2008. Enhancing drought resistance through guinea grass mulching, Jamaica.

FAO. 2013. Soil and water conservation practices to reduce soil erosion & enhance water conservation, St. Lucia.

Lang, D.M. 1967. Soil and Land-Use Survey No. 21. University of the West Indies.

Müller-Sämann, Karl M. and Kotschi Johannes. 1994. Sustaining Growth: Soil fertility management in tropical smallholdings. Weikersheim, Germany: Margraf Verlag.

FAO. 2014. Training manual. Disaster risk mitigation and management in cropping systems in Dominica. Soil conservation and soil fertility improvement.



Created date

Fri, 12/12/2014 - 10:18


FAO Strategic Objective 5 – Resilience, in FAO

Sustainable development cannot be achieved without resilient livelihoods. People around the world are increasingly exposed to natural hazards and crises – from drought, floods, earthquakes and disease epidemics to conflict, market shocks and complex, protracted crises. Worldwide, 75 percent of poor and food insecure people rely on agriculture and natural resources for their living. They are usually hardest hit by disasters.   

The recurrence of disasters and crises undermines countries’ efforts to eradicate hunger and malnutrition and to achieve sustainable development. People who rely on farming, livestock, forests or fishing for their food and income – around one-third of the world’s population – are often the most vulnerable and affected. Climate change, in particular extreme weather-related shocks, is exacerbating the situation. SP5 assists countries to increase the resilience of households, communities and institutions to more effectively prevent and cope with threats and disasters that impact agriculture, food security and nutrition. It focuses across all agricultural subsectors on . 

  • natural hazards and related disasters such as floods, droughts and earthquakes 
  • food chain threats caused by plant pests and diseases and animal diseases, as well as food safety threats such as radio nuclear contamination or avian flu
  • conflicts and protracted crises.

SP5 helps countries and communities to prevent and cope with these different areas of risks and shocks through normative guidance, technical standards and their implementation in the field. FAO resilience work feeds into global processes such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the One Health approach for food chain crises and the Committee on World Food Security's Agenda for Action for addressing food insecurity in protracted crises. SP5 country support like the implementation of DRR good practices at country and local levels is delivered in close collaboration with and based on technical advice from FAO technical divisions, including AGA, AGP, CBC, FIA and FOA.


Previous, Climate, Energy and Tenure Division (NRC) in FAO

The Climate Impact, Adaptation and Environmental Sustainability team of the Climate, Energy and Tenure Division (NRC) develops the knowledge base on the impact of climate, climate change and climate variability on agriculture, and facilitates the use of this information and knowledge through field projects. The team also supports capacity development at national level by supporting governments to integrate disaster risk reduction in the agriculture sector as well as identifying, testing and validating in cooperation with various partners climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction good practice options to build resilience of all actors in agriculture to the impact of climate change and extreme weather events.

Organic Agriculture work in FAO:

The coordination of FAO’s organic agriculture activities is housed in the Climate, Energy and Tenure Division. Since 1999, the Organic Agriculture programme works along three main areas:

  • Strengthening the ability to exchange information and to set-up organic agriculture networks, in order to ensure that producers, operators and governments have access to the reliable and quality information needed for informed decision-making, for directing research and extension, and for making investments;
  • Developing and disseminating knowledge and tools that support organic plant protection, soil and nutrient management, animal husbandry and post-harvest operations, especially in developing countries and market-marginalized areas;
  • Assisting governments in designing the types of legal and policy frameworks that provide support to farmers by facilitating the marketing and trade of certified organic products that meet international inspection and certification standards.

For queries related to climate change and disaster risk reductions, you can contact: or

For queries on organic agriculture, you can contact: Nadia Scialabba.