13 August 2018, Rio de Janeiro - Improving the health of the world's soils is essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including Zero Hunger and combating climate change and its impacts, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, today told participants of the World Congress of Soil Science.
In a video message to the event, which is being attended by more than 2,000 scientists from around the world, Graziano da Silva noted that approximately one third of the Earth's soil is degraded.
"Soil degradation affects food production, causing hunger and malnutrition, amplifying food-price volatility, forcing land abandonment and involuntary migration-leading millions into poverty," he said.
The FAO The Status of the World's Soil Resources report has identified 10 major threats to soil functions including soil erosion, soil nutrient imbalance, soil carbon and biodiversity losses, soil acidification, contamination, soil salinization, and soil compaction.
Graziano da Silva stressed the importance of sustainable soil management as an "essential part of the Zero Hunger equation" in a world where more than 815 million people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition.
Soils and climate change
"Although soils are hidden and frequently forgotten, we rely on them for our daily activities and for the future of the planet," the FAO Director-General said, underscoring the important role soils can play to support efforts by countries to mitigate or adapt to a changing climate.
In particular, he pointed to the potential of soils for carbon sequestration and storage, which has been documented in a global soil organic carbon map released by FAO. "Maintaining and increasing soil carbon stock should become a priority," Graziano da Silva said.
He also noted 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, but that this potential is limited when contamination exceeds the capacity of soils to cope with pollution.
Global Soil Partnership
In his message, Graziano da Silva pointed to the Global Soil Partnership in which FAO works with governments and other partners to build technical capacity and exchange knowledge regarding sustainable soil management through the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management.
"Let us make make soils a vehicle of prosperity and peace, and show the contribution of soils to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals," the FAO Director-General said.