"The Nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself." - Franklin D. Rooseve
According to the HungerMapLIVE, the World Food Programme’s Hunger monitoring platform, as of January 27, 2022, there are 826 million people across 92 countries who do not have access to sufficient food.8 The future continues to look bleak. According to the FAO’s “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI)”, 2021, there will be 660 million people hungry in 2030, falling woefully short of the goal to eliminate world hunger by 2030.
While fossil fuels are consistently blamed for climate change, very rarely is the role of agriculture acknowledged. Around a third of the greenhouse gas emissions since 1850 can be directly attributed to changes in land use on the planet. This reflects the potential of soils under agriculture. On the other hand, if the soils of the world are not revitalized, global warming could cause 230 billion tones of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere due to carbon loss.
Adding to the stress of water scarcity is the pollution of freshwater bodies due to agricultural chemicals used by conventional practices – in the form of fertilizers, pesticides, livestock pharmaceuticals, plastics, etc. that run off from farms. Of the total pollution of water bodies, agricultural water pollution in the form of agricultural effluents contributes 56%, amounting to 1260 km3 a year.
Half of the world’s soil can be found in agricultural lands, and the rest is in uncultivable lands in mountains, deserts, etc. By and large, the deteriorating state of soil that we see today is a result of the conventional agriculture that is prevalent throughout the world. The present systems of farming and food systems often treat soil as an inert material upon which agricultural activity – growing crops and fodder, and animal rearing – is practiced.
Soil Organic Matter, also known as SOM, encompasses all the substances that originate from living organisms. The presence of an adequate amount of SOM is crucial for maintaining the vitality of soil, as it safeguards its essential physicochemical properties and structure. A thriving soil ecosystem, in turn, plays a pivotal role in restoring ecological balance, which has been disrupted as a result of human activities.
The larger ecosystems across water and land have been under threat for many generations now. In this context, how we treat agricultural soil is significant as 87% of biomass on the planet is terrestrial.33 Alarmingly, every year we are losing 27,000 species from the soil habitat in the tropics alone.34 It is well proven that the two major factors for the loss in biodiversity are loss of SOM and intensive exploitation by humans.
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