To feed future generations, countries must invest in living soils

As of May 2018, 116 countries were in the  process of setting national targets for soil health as part of their effort to meet the SDGs, with support from IUCN. 

Healthy soils are much more than a natural resource for farmers: they are a public good that is essential for a sustainable future. Global estimates of the contribution of soil biodiversity to ecosystem services are between 1.5 and 13 trillion US $ annually.

Read IUCN article here By Jonathan Davies, Drylands Coordinator, Ecosystem Management Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Governments should invest in healthy, living soils by channelling agricultural subsidies towards sustainable farming methods. If done right, agriculture can conserve the diversity of species found in soils, helping halt land degradation and desertification. This in turn helps countries ensure future food security and to mitigate climate change….

Healthy soils are actually species-rich habitats harbouring thousands of different species including fungi, bacteria and invertebrates. These species are the engine that drives the carbon, nitrogen and water cycles essential for soil to produce food. Soil takes hundreds of years to form, but can be eroded easily by wind and water when soil biodiversity is lost. …

….Unsurprisingly, many countries are acting to preserve and improve the health of their soils. The UN has included soil health in its ambitious vision for 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to halt the world’s net land degradation by 2030. As of May 2018, 116 countries were in the  process of setting national targets for soil health as part of their effort to meet the SDGs, with support from IUCN. 

Ethiopia is one of the pioneer countries when it comes to soil health targets. With land degradation estimated to cost the country as much as US$4.3 billion annually, the country has good reason to take action. Ethiopia has set the ambitious target of protecting and restoring 331,933 km2 of land – around 30% of the country’s total surface area. This includes 130,000 km2 of cropland and 120,000 kmof grassland – land on which the government plans to introduce sustainable farming and grazing methods. One such method is agroforestry, which involves planting trees alongside crops. It has been shown to reduce erosion and improve crop yields, while providing livestock fodder, fuel and other sources of income. …