At end of International Year of Soils, UN chief appeals for reverse in rate of soil degradation

A farmer plants acacia seedlings in Liguere, Senegal. Photo: FAO/Seyllou Diallo

4 December 2015 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is marking the second World Soil Day and the end of the International Year of Soils with an appeal to reverse the current rate of soil degradation because of expanding cities, deforestation, unsustainable land use and management practices, pollution, overgrazing and climate change.

“The challenge before us is clear,” Mr. Ban said in his message on the Day, noting that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about 33 per cent of global soils are already degraded. “This trend must be reversed through sustainable soil management practices,” he said.

The UN chief went on to say that “sustainable soil management is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – many of which reflect the centrality of soils to sustain life, food, and water.

The UN General Assembly declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils, which aimed to create full awareness of civil society and decision makers about the fundamental roles of soils for human’s life. The Year also sought to achieve full recognition of the prominent contributions of soils to food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and sustainable development.

“The multiple roles of soils often go unnoticed,” according to José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, who said that “soils don't have a voice, and few people speak out for them. They are our silent ally in food production.”

At FAO headquarters in Rome today, the agency is marking the official closure of the 2015 International Year, this year’s celebration of World Soil Day, as well as the launch of the much-awaited Status of the World Soil Resources Report.

Throughout the year, FAO and its global partners raised awareness that the planet’s soils are in danger because of expanding cities, deforestation, unsustainable land use and management practices, pollution, overgrazing and climate change, warning that the current rate of soil degradation threatens the capacity to meet the needs of future generations.

According to FAO, the demands of a growing population for food, feed and fibre are estimated to result in a 60 per cent increase by 2050.

In his message, Secretary-General Ban also cited the link between the sustainable soil management and climate change as he made his second visit to Paris to help secure agreement at the UN climate change conference, widely referred to as COP21.

“We need to ensure the sustainable use of our terrestrial ecosystems while we combat climate change and its impacts,” he said. “The carbon sequestration capacity of soils is an essential contribution to mitigating climate change.”

“Let us promote sustainable soil management rooted in proper soil governance and sound investment,” the UN chief said. “Together, we can promote the cause of soils, a truly solid ground for life.”

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