December 5th is World Soil Day, which reminds us of soil's vital role in our lives. Moreover, it calls for adopting sustainable soil management practices that impact human well-being, food security, and the overall state of our environment.
Beyond awareness, World Soil Day also catalyzes understanding and rallying support. Through various activities and campaigns, it encourages individuals, organizations, and governments worldwide to commit to improving our limited soil resources. Read on to learn more.
Featured in: December - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.
Through resolution A/RES/68/232, the United Nations General Assembly officially declared December 5 as World Soil Day in 2013 to honor the birthdate of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who strongly advocated for this day.
In 2002, the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) recommended the idea of highlighting the significance of soil for human welfare and the health of our ecosystem.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations initiated World Soil Day and promotes it through its Global Soil Partnership.
With each passing year, the influence of World Soil Day expands, leading to global events such as seminars and exhibitions.
In 2015, the World Soil Information Service (WoSIS), a free-to-access, georeferenced soil database containing over 100,000 profiles, was launched. The same year, the International Year of Soils celebrated the crucial role of soils in food security and ecosystem functions.
Two years later, the FAO introduced the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management, reflecting the growing global commitment to preserving our soil.
The event raises awareness about soil-related issues and highlights specific facets of soil health through its yearly theme. In 2023, the theme is “Soil: Where Food Begins.”
World Soil Day raises awareness about soil degradation caused by deforestation and unsustainable farming practices. Using chemicals and poor water management are also significant contributors to this issue.
According to the FAO1, about a third of the world's soils are already degraded. The primary reasons for these are erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification, and chemical pollution of soils.
Every harvest means that agricultural systems lose nutrients, so the soil gradually loses fertility yearly. Unhealthy soil produces crops that lack nutrients, threatening human health and nutrition.
Widespread soil degradation threatens the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers. An estimated 24 billion tons of fertile land disappear yearly due to urbanization and industrial development.
Climate change also adds to this issue; changes in temperature and precipitation patterns and extreme weather events accelerate soil erosion and the loss of organic matter.
This phenomenon creates a cycle where soil degradation contributes to climate change, further accelerating soil degradation.
Human activities have contributed to soil degradation; therefore, soil conservation demands immediate attention, for it is a matter of our survival. We need healthy soil that provides us with 95% of our food.
Likewise, soil can contain significant amounts of carbon, holding more carbon than the atmosphere and vegetation combined.
However, maintaining healthy ecosystems is more challenging due to soil pollution. Our environment bears traces of soil degradation’s impact as it disrupts the balance essential for a healthy planet.
The process of urbanization and deforestation has led to soil degradation and erosion. Moreover, they have caused a significant loss of arable land, posing a potential threat to food production and biodiversity.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has created the Global Soil Partnership program, which promotes sustainable soil management and inspires worldwide action and collaboration.
Likewise, the European Commission undertakes soil protection programs across the EU. Its soil scientists have developed a comprehensive Soil Thematic Strategy to tackle soil erosion, contamination, organic matter decline, and biodiversity loss.
In the United States, The Soil Health Institute and The Nature Conservancy work towards soil vitality through research and education on soil health management practices.
World Soil Day reminds us of the significance of soil as a natural resource. Soil supports plant growth and is a natural carbon sink and home to a substantial portion of the planet's biodiversity.
However, soil degradation is a real problem affecting the growth of plants and crops, threatening all forms of life on Earth. We need to take action and make a difference.
By protecting our soils, we secure our future and ensure the survival of future generations.
An annual observance raises awareness about the importance of soil and its crucial role in sustaining life on Earth.
It is essential for food production, biodiversity, water filtration, and climate regulation. It supports the growth of plants and provides nutrients necessary for their development.
The planet’s soil faces challenges like soil erosion, pollution, degradation, and loss of fertility due to unsustainable agricultural practices, deforestation, and urbanization.
Healthy soils can store significant amounts of carbon, helping to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, degraded soils release carbon, contributing to global warming.
We can start practicing sustainable farming methods, composting organic waste, avoiding the overuse of chemical fertilizers, and promoting reforestation and land restoration efforts.
FAO. (2015). Status of the World's Soil Resources: Main Report. FAODocuments.