Global Soil Week
Friday saw the culmination of Global Soil Week when leaders from around the world gathered together to discuss soil health. This year’s focus was the link between healthy soils and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the objectives agreed by the UN’s General Assembly in 2015 to end global poverty and promote a sustainable future for all. After considerable negotiations, seventeen goals were identified that cover a broad spectrum of issues within international development. Each country, including the UK, must now work to implement these goals with regular monitoring to measure progress on each commitment between now and 2030.
At the official signing of the SDGs, then International Development Secretary Justine Greening said, “we must now continue to play our part in helping the poorest and most vulnerable people to find stability, prosperity and opportunity. This is not just the right thing to do. It is firmly in Britain’s own long-term interests”.
Now comes the job of delivering on these promises. Writing a list of goals is easy. It is the implementation that is hard. However, when you look through the list of SDGs, it immediately becomes clear that investing in healthy soils is essential if we’re to meet the challenge.
Improving soil health can help support nearly all of the SDGs:
- When soil is healthy, crop yields are higher, which means that people are able to produce enough food to feed themselves and their families. This helps meet Goal 2: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”.
- While increasing productivity, better soil health with higher soil carbon levels also result in higher nutrient levels in food. This helps to achieve Goal 3: “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”.
- Higher levels of soil organic matter make soil better able to retain water, which makes it more resilient to drought conditions. This helps to reach Goal 6: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.
- Similarly, because water is better absorbed by healthy soils, improving soil health also reduces water run-off and therefore reduces agri-chemical pollution of waterways, which contributes to Goal 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.
- Healthy soils make fields more productive and raise crop yield, which allows farmers to sell more produce in local markets and communities. This increased profitability supports Goal 8: “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.
- By improving farmers’ profitability, healthy soils also contribute to rural development and reduce rural poverty. Since rural communities tend to be poorer than their urban counterparts, improving soil health can help to achieve Goal 10: “Reduce inequality within and among countries”.
- Maintaining and building soil organic matter is critical. By over-application and dependence on agrochemicals, soil organic matter decreases and the natural microbes in the soil become depleted. Protecting soil health is essential to meet Goal 12: “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”.
- Healthy soils are a key climate mitigation tool and can help reduce global emissions. By increasing soil carbon levels, carbon is sequestered out of the atmosphere, drawing it into the soil and locking it away. Soil carbon sequestration must be an essential component if we’re to meet Goal 13: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.
- Lastly, improving soil health and protecting the underground ecosystem is essential for Goal 15: “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.
Healthy soils are essential to achieve sustainable development all over the world, which is why we are asking the new UK government to prioritise soil health. Read more about what we’d like to see here.
You can also join us in protecting our soils by becoming a member today.
If you’d like to know more of our general election priorities, or you would like to stay up to date with other food and farming policy, you can visit our Food and Farming Policy Hub.