Soil is an important natural resource which is often underestimated. It is the basis of food production, forage, fuel and fibres, as well as fundamental ecosystem services. However, it is a limited and not renewable resource: it’s pauperisation and consequent degradation are not recoverable during its life.
Moreover the natural extension of productive soil it is more and more limited thus it has to face the increasing pressures due to the intensification of agricultural activities, pastures and urbanization. It also has to provide more food, energy and raw materials for the increasing of population.
Soil degradation is due to a not sustainable use of the land but also to extreme climate events. The actual soil degradation tax threatens the possibility for future generations to satisfy their essential needs: this demonstrates how it is necessary to change the course. The soil has been deteriorated from intensive agricultural activities, climate changes, infrastructures construction and urbanization and restore it presents some positive aspects: a growing food security, growing incomes and more work places, it slows down climate changes and creates biodiversity.
To date it is estimated that almost ¾ of the ice free soils is used to satisfy food and raw materials demand, and to accommodate human settlements. In addition, 3.2 billion people experience a worse quality of life due to soil degradation, which is also considered the main cause of the transmission of emerging diseases to humans. In addition, nearly one million species are at risk of extinction.
Concerning future perspectives, it is estimated that up to the half of the century the soil degradation and desertification could lead to a global reduction of agricultural crops. All of this leads to a 30% rise on food prices and to an exasperation of hunger and malnutrition problems globally.
Global day against desertification and drought
Every year the united nations dedicate a day to the efforts brought to stop soil degradation. The event is celebrated every 17<sup>th</sup> of June since 26 years, after the agreement on the Convention to fight desertification (UNCCD), the first real global effort to face this problem. This year’s topic has been “to rebuilt better with an healthy soil”, the aim was to demonstrate that investing on an healthy soil it is not only a solution to create new work places but it is also convenient to amortize emergencies due to eventual climate change problems. The global day has underlined how we can transform the loss of productive soil as an important change for the pandemic recovery. Ibrahim Thiaw the UNCCD executive secretary said: “As we enter the United Nations decade of ecosystem restoration, we have a real chance to initiate a better recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. ”
On the occasion of the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) wanted by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), over 100 countries have made a commitment to restore nearly one billion hectares by 2030 - an area almost the size of China. Furthermore, the invitation is to return to considering the soil as a precious natural capital. If we really committed ourselves in this direction, the benefits would be manifold, especially for women and young people who, in times of crisis, tend to be marginalized. In developing countries, in fact, women are strongly involved in the management of the soil and agriculture: for this reason they would gain a lot from the increased productivity of the land. But more generally, betting on soil recovery would allow us to think about a more sustainable future.
Translated by Dr. Oshun Samintra De Feo