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Food & Hunger

The Key to Ending World Hunger? Healthy Soil, UN Says


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Extreme weather patterns and the spread of invasive species continue to exacerbate food insecurity in developing countries, while variations in soil health contribute to low yields. Achieving zero hunger and good health and well-being for everyone are two vital goals of the UN’s efforts to end extreme poverty by 2030. You can join us in taking action on these issues here.

Healthy soils are essential to the fight against world hunger, according to experts in a new report.

The United Nations gathered more than 2,000 scientists in Rio de Janeiro for a week-long conference devoted to the theme “Soil Science: Beyond Food and Fuel,” which covered the role of soils, developing resilient agriculture practices to address environmental changes, and how to combat ongoing threats to food security and sovereignty, reported UN News.

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“Soil degradation affects food production, causing hunger and malnutrition, amplifying food-price volatility, forcing land abandonment, and involuntary migration — leading millions into poverty,” said José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in a video message. Da Silva noted that approximately one-third of the Earth’s soil is degraded.

There are currently 10 major threats to soil functions, including soil erosion, nutrient imbalance, acidification, and contamination, according to the FAO’s The Status of the World's Soil Resources report.

“Although soils are hidden and frequently forgotten, we rely on them for our daily activities and for the future of the planet,” Graziano said, noting that 815 million people around the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. “Maintaining and increasing soil carbon stock should become a priority.”

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The message also pointed out how soils act as filters for contaminants, “preventing their entry into the food chain and reaching water bodies such as rivers, lakes, seas and oceans,” noted ReliefWeb.

But this becomes challenging when contamination exceeds the capacity of soils ability to cope with pollution.

Nationally, the Nature Conservancy is driving a farmer-led, science-driven initiative by the National Corn Growers Association known as the Soil Health Partnership, noted the Tennessean in a report last month. More than 100 farm demonstration sites are being used to test practices that optimize yields and soil health, according to the organization.

The Nature Conservancy also published guidelines for national soil health called reThink Soil, outlining how new soil health practices can improve not only bottom lines for farmers, but deliver enhanced protection of our environment.