The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
has been nominated to implement the IYS 2015, within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and in collaboration with Governments and the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
The IYS 2015 aims to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions
FAO estimates that a third of all soils are degraded, due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification, pollution and other processes caused by unsustainable land management practices.
Unless new approaches are adopted, the global amount of arable and productive land per person will in 2050 be only one-fourth of the level in 1960.
It can take up to 1,000 years to form one centimetre of soil, and with 33 per cent of all global soil resources degraded and human pressures increasing, critical limits are being reached that make stewardship an urgent matter, Mr. Graziano da Silva said.
Calling soils a “nearly forgotten resource,” he urged investment in sustainable soil management, saying that would be cheaper than restoration and “is needed for the achievement of food security and nutrition, climate change adaptation and mitigation and overall sustainable development.”
Echoing that call, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that without healthy soils, “life on Earth would be unsustainable.” Indeed, soils are the foundation of agriculture. They provide vital ecosystem services and the basis for food, feed, fuel, fibre and medical products important for human well-being.
“Soil is also the largest pool of organic carbon, which is essential for mitigating and adapting to climate change. In an era of water scarcity, soils are fundamental for its appropriate storage and distribution,” said Mr. Ban, urging all States to pledge to do more to protect this important yet forgotten resource. “A healthy life is not possible without healthy soils,” he declared.
According to FAO, at least a quarter of the world’s biodiversity lives underground, where, for example, the earthworm is a giant alongside tiny organisms such as bacteria and fungi. Such organisms, including plant roots, act as the primary agents driving nutrient cycling and help plants by improving nutrient intake, in turn supporting above-ground biodiversity as well.