Features In focus

Reminiscing World Soil Day

I SHOULD have informed you about the World Soil Day that fell on December 5, but we were not here last week.
Little has been said about this event and it would be unjust for me to be silent on such an imperative part of the environmental calendar.
If Zambia is effectively going to produce all the needed food, fibre and energy, we need to develop and rebuild our soils.
According to Rolf Shenton of Grassroots Foundation, an organisation that has been working with rural communities on how to improve livelihoods through conservancies, soil could recover if people could stop burning, tilling and over-using nitrogen fertilisers and other chemicals, among several other options.
“As cheap fossil fuels and finite resources like copper begin to run out around the world, we urgently need to look to the soil for economic growth and to provide the resources for the ever-increasing consumption patterns of our burgeoning population,” he says.
Shenton notes that well-managed soil combined with sunlight, water and carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis, will have to provide the bulk of all the food, fibre for manufactured goods and the bio-energy to fuel future economies.
“Regenerating soil is both easy and profitable especially at a small scale, and so creates a holistically sound opportunity for social and economic equality and justice resulting in peace and security that fosters society.
“Like in Zambia, the majority of the world’s current poor are small- scale farmers who stand to become the prime producers in a post oil economy,” he says.
Shenton says in the past two or three decades, there has been a massive revival of biologically sound, regenerative agricultural technologies that are proving to be profitable. These will inevitably displace the current industrial food system that is addicted to diminishing resources such as phosphorous.
The current food production system is also the main driver of environmental collapse, which is now threatening to change the climate.
Shenton further says innovative farmers are learning how to use nature to restore fertility and achieving commercial yields to levels previously thought impossible without expensive and dangerous chemical inputs.
Livestock ranchers are regenerating all eco-systems while increasing stocking rates and decreasing disease simply by focusing on building soil fertility.
“If I were the incoming President, I would manage the transition towards a booming soil-based economy for all, that is guaranteed to put more money in everyone’s pockets,” he says.
The common solution has been to increase the organic matter in soils. In wet or dry environments like Zambia, this is achieved by encouraging organic soil cover, dead leaves and grasses, to create a blanket for the soil.
Well covered soils can accept and safely store much more water than the increasingly degraded bare soils that are currently causing drought and floods throughout the region.
On average, Zambia receives 10 million litres of rainfall annually on each of its 75 million hectares, but much of this rain currently evaporates quickly or floods off, leaving the land dry and arid.
Increasing organic matter in soils can capture far more of this water and hold it safely underground to feed the growth of plants and animals.
Therefore, improving soils and stimulating growth of biodiversity (plants and animals) is now widely accepted as the only way to solve the biggest challenge in human history – climate change! The more growth we stimulate, the more carbon is used up in photosynthesis.
Meanwhile, the Global Soil Partnership says soils have been neglected for too long. People crash to connect soil with our nutrition, water, climate, biodiversity and life.
The World Soil Day crusade aims at linking people with soils and raise awareness on this linkage’s critical importance in our lives.
Truly, soils have been neglected for too long. We fail to connect soil with our food, water, climate, biodiversity and life.
There is need to invert this trend and take up some preserving and restoring actions.
Soils are a reservoir for at least a quarter of global biodiversity, and therefore require the same attention as above ground biodiversity.
Soils play a key role in the supply of clean water and resilience to floods and drought.
The largest store of terrestrial carbon is in the soil so that its preservation may contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The maintenance or enhancement of global soil resources is essential if humanity’s need for food, water and energy security is to be met.
Till next week, I sign out.
Write to: kzax2000@yahoo.co.uk

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