Due to the rapidly growing population in tropical Africa, a substantial rise in food demand is predicted in upcoming decades, which will result in higher pressure on soil resources. However, there is limited knowledge on soil redistribution dynamics following land conversion into arable land in tropical Africa that is partly caused by infrastructure limitations for long-term landscape-scale monitoring. In this study, fallout radionuclides .sup.239+240 Pu are used to assess soil redistribution along topographic gradients at two cropland sites and at three nearby pristine forest sites located in the DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. In the study area, a .sup.239+240 Pu baseline inventory is found that is higher than typically expected for tropical regions (mean forest inventory 41 Bq m.sup.-2). Pristine forests show no indication of soil redistribution based on .sup.239+240 Pu along topographical gradients. In contrast, soil erosion and sedimentation on cropland reached up to 37 cm (81 Mg ha.sup.-1 yr.sup.-1) and 40 cm (87 Mg ha.sup.-1 yr.sup.-1) within the last 55 years, respectively. Cropland sites show high intra-slope variability with locations showing severe soil erosion located in direct proximity to sedimentation sites. This study shows the applicability of a valuable method to assess tropical soil redistribution and provides insight into soil degradation rates and patterns in one of the most socio-economically and ecologically vulnerable regions of the world.