Soil is a complex organo-mineral association capable of sustaining all the terrestrial ecosystems on earth. It is a fundamental part of the environment upon which human beings and most other life forms depend, but despite this, soil is a grossly undervalued component of the natural world. Concerned by the lack of impact soil science has had, a group of soil scientists at a meeting in Rennes, concluded that a different, and more broadly based approach to the application of soil science research findings, particularly in Developing Countries, was needed. This approach they called holistic. It was defined as the task of all people concerned with the soil to direct their interest, not just towards the physical, chemical and biological aspects, but also to those environmental economic, social, legal and technical aspects that affect soil use. Subsequently, a workshop held in Harare, conducted in the form of a “think tank” explored the ways in which the soil resource could be used on a sustained basis within the social and economic framework of the countries of Southern Africa. The major issues relevant to “applied” soil science were discussed in a holistic manner so that the related issues of education, training, role of agricultural extension services and possibilities of co-operation in science and technology between institutions of the southern African countries and Europe could be identified. Soil scientists have a considerable challenge to face. They must work more closely with practitioners of other disciplines, and also take legal, economic and social conditions into account so that sustainable land management systems are developed and used. At the same time, standards of research in “pure” soil science must not be compromised by a broadening of the framework within which the discipline exists.