The 4th Plenary Assembly of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management (VGSSM).
Held from 23-25 May 2016 at FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy, the GSP Plenary Assembly also endorsed the establishment of the Glinka World Soil Prize, named after the pioneering Russian scientist Konstantin D.
27 May 2016: The 4th Plenary Assembly of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management (VGSSM). Held from 23-25 May 2016 at FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy, the GSP Plenary Assembly also endorsed the establishment of the Glinka World Soil Prize, named after the pioneering Russian scientist Konstantin D. Glinka.
Due to be presented for adoption at the FAO Council in December 2016, the VGSSM were developed by the GSP’s Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) at the request of the 153rd session of the FAO Council in December 2015. The VGSSM are meant to serve as a reference for sustainable soil management principles for a broad audience, and propose special actions to protect soils that provide significant ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, enhancing biological diversity and boosting crop yields. They discuss how to minimize unwanted loss of soil nutrients and moisture evaporation, as well as reduce downstream runoff of agricultural inputs through the introduction of diverse soil management techniques such as mulching, no-till farming, terracing, windbreaks, riparian buffers and year-round crop cover. The Guidelines also aim to facilitate implementation of the World Soil Charter, noting further, that enhanced soil- and land-management techniques also support mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
The VGSSM build on a number of recent soil mapping exercises, notably a FAO-supported survey of cropland in Malawi that detected topsoil losses of around 29 tons a year, leading to a 10% decline in farm output. The Malawi study echoes findings contained in the inaugural Status of the World’s Soil Resources, published by the GSP in 2015, which estimates that 75 billion tons of soil are lost from arable land each year globally, resulting in the loss of roughly US$400 billion in agricultural production. The survey highlights both “hot spots” of increasing erosion – such as in Malawi – as well as “bright spots” where soil depletion has steadily declined as a result of active soil management, such in the Rift Valley of eastern Africa.
The Plenary Assembly emphasized the need to replicate such mapping exercises, in more countries and regions in order to illustrate what needs to be done at the global level to promote sustainable management of the world’s soils.
The GSP brings together members of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS), the GSP Executive Secretariat, and representatives of the different FAO partners and members. The GSP Plenary Assembly is the main yearly meeting of the Partnership charged with reviewing and prioritizing GSP actions, and facilitating a balanced regional decision-making process. [FAO Press Release] [IISD RS Story on the 5th ITPS Session] [IISD RS Stories on Soil and Land Management]