Soil: How does it sustain life?
Soil forms the foundation of the ecosystems across the globe. Assuming the role of water filter and a growing medium, soil creates a habitat for billions of organisms contributing immensely to biodiversity and in turn, antibiotics which are essential to fight diseases. In the same vein, soil forms the basis for agroecosystems. To state that soil is indispensable for life on earth is putting it mildly. Alarmingly though, little attention is being paid to the deteriorating health of soils worldwide. Especially when soil fertility is a make or break factor for agriculture and soil is non-renewable on a human time scale.
The threats to soil life are numerous. Ironically, agriculture is both the perpetrator and victim of poor soil quality. Modern tillage agriculture is a major cause as it robs the soil of organic matter that is essential for food, causes dryness and adds layers of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic nitrogen. Suburban sprawl of concrete, heavy machinery, overgrazing, global warming and pollution are a few other factors that have contributed to the ruin of soil health.
2015: It is going to be all about the soil
Enhanced awareness of soil and its life-supporting functions is crucial to reversing this alarming trend and ensuring that food production meets the demand of population levels by 2050. The Kingdom of Thailand’s request in the framework of the GSP to declare 2015 as the ‘International Year of Soils’ was endorsed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) member countries on 24 April 2013. The IYS will be leveraged as a platform to raise awareness about the importance of sustainable soil management for food security and essential ecosystem functions.
Main objectives of the IYS 2015 include:
- Generate awareness amongst civil society and decision makers about the importance of soil for human race
- Explain to the public the vital role soil plays in food security, adapting to climate change, ensure essential ecosystem services, alleviating poverty and sustainable development
- Develop effective policies and actions to bring about sustainable management and protection of soil resources
- Encourage investment in sustainable management activities that aim at creating and maintaining healthy soil for various land users and population groups
- Promote initiatives in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) process and post 2015-agenda
- Ensure rapid capacity enhancement for soil information collection and monitoring at all levels (global, national and regional).