World Soil Day Initiatives Highlight Links between Soil, Ecosystems and Health
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A FAO campaign addressing the WSD2019 theme highlighted five ways that soil erosion threatens food security and the achievement of multiple other SDGs.

An UNGA resolution proposed a high-level dialogue to assess the progress in the fight against desertification, land degradation and drought and to map the way beyond the UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification, which concludes in 2020 and will be followed by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

The UNCCD hosted the launch of the official music video of ‘Born from the Land,’ dubbed, “the UNCCD Land Anthem,” and recorded by UNCCD Land Ambassadors Ricky Kej (India) and Baaba Maal (Senegal).

Celebrated worldwide on 5 December, the 2019 edition of World Soil Day (WSD2019) took place under the theme, ‘Stop Soil Erosion, Save our Future’! Diverse activities took place to raise awareness on the importance of proactively improving soil health and addressing the increasing challenges in soil management to sustain healthy ecosystems and human well-being.

In the lead up to WSD2019, various organizations launched major publications and initiatives highlighting the central role of land and soils in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) campaign addressing the WSD2019 theme highlighted five ways that soil erosion threatens food security and the achievement of multiple other SDGs. In particular, the campaign outlined how soil erosion: inhibits our ability to grow nutritious food (SDG 2); leads to ecosystem degradation (SDG 15); affects water supplies (SDG 6); damages urban infrastructure (SDG 11) and contributes to poverty and can lead to migration (SDGs 1 and 10).

The oxidation of soil carbon is a “no regret option that offers multiple benefits and deserves high-level visibility.”

A UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Foresight Brief, titled, ‘Putting carbon back where it belongs – the potential of carbon sequestration in the soil,’ describes the oxidation of soil carbon as a “no regret option that offers multiple benefits and deserves high-level visibility.” The Brief underscores that the fragility of soils due to poor land management practices puts the “sustainability” of industrialized agriculture into question. It notes that soil is being lost from agricultural areas “10 to 40 times faster than the rate of soil formation,” and that a quarter of the Earth’s surface is already degraded, with serious repercussions for food security. The Brief emphasizes the need for promoting agricultural practices that increase soil organic matter as they are supportive of enhanced food production, increased biodiversity, enhanced water retention, drought resistance and other important ecosystem services.

On 28 November 2019, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution noting the potential of land-based solutions to address climate change. The resolution recognized the work of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to promote investments in soil and land health, and particularly SDG target 15.3 on land degradation neutrality (LDN), which is considered to be an “accelerator” for achieving multiple SDGs. The resolution also proposed an UNGA high-level dialogue to assess the progress in the fight against desertification, land degradation and drought and to map the way beyond the UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification, which concludes in 2020, and will be followed by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

In line with the objectives of WSD2019, the ‘Sustainable soil management for nutrition-sensitive agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia‘ project, implemented by the Global Soil Partnership, is supporting FAO member countries to promote food-based approaches to agricultural development that put nutritionally rich foods, dietary diversity, and food fortification at the heart of overcoming malnutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies. Funded by the German government, the three-year project is being piloted in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso and Malawi, with the goal of improving nutrition through the “soil, crop, and human continuum,” particularly in locally-produced and consumed foods.

Also on WSD2019, the UNCCD hosted the launch of the official music video of ‘Born from the Land,’ dubbed, “the UNCCD Land Anthem,” on diverse social media platforms. The song was recorded by UNCCD Land Ambassadors Ricky Kej (India) and Baaba Maal (Senegal), in collaboration with musicians Lonnie Park and IP Singh, and seeks to raise awareness on the impacts of dwindling natural resources needed to sustainably feed, house, water, and provide recreational spaces for 7.5 billion people. The song was first performed at the UNCCD’s 14th Conference of the Parties (COP 14), held in New Delhi, India, in September 2019.

World Soil Day was endorsed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) Conference, in June 2013, and officially adopted by the 68th UN General Assembly in December 2013. [WSD2019 Webpage] [UNEP Press Release] [UNCCD Issue Brief on Land and the SDGs]


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