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International Year of Soils: Asia regional soil partnership promoted

13/05/2015 Bangkok, Thailand

Representatives and scientists from 19 countries in Asia are examining best practices and common challenges they face in protecting and managing the region’s soils – the very foundation for food production relied on by billions of people.

“Soil is the basis for food, feed, fuel and fibre production and for many critical ecological services,” Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, said in opening remarks to the group. “Soil is the reservoir for at least a quarter of global biodiversity, and therefore requires the same attention as above-ground biodiversity, yet the critical importance of soil to our daily lives is often overlooked.”

Indeed, soils play a key role in the supply of clean water and resilience to floods and droughts. Plant and animal life depend on primary nutrient cycling through soil processes and the largest store of terrestrial carbon is in the soil – its preservation may contribute to climate change mitigation.

However, in Asia, as in other regions of the world, soil degradation has become a serious problem and the degradation is occurring – even escalating – at a time when the region needs soil more than ever. The area of productive soil is limited in relation to current technologies and is under increasing pressure of intensification and competing uses for cropping, forestry, pasture/rangeland and bioenergy, to satisfy the demands of the growing population for food, energy production, settlement and infrastructure, raw materials extraction,

“Most of the arable land in our region is already fully utilized, yet by 2050, in order to meet the needs of an additional two billion inhabitants of our planet, we will need to increase food production by at least 60 percent. In order to do that, we must sustainably manage and protect our soils,” Konuma pointed out. “There is an anonymous saying that ‘whatever mankind does, even when we produce the most marvelous art work, we depend on a few drops of water and 10 centimeters of soil’,” he added.

The participants in the FAO-sponsored consultation belong to the Asia Soil Partnership (ASP), formed in 2012. The ASP, along with other Regional Soil Partnerships, aims to endorse a regional plan of actions.

The year 2015 has been recognized as International Year of Soils to raise awareness about soils, sometimes referred to as our “silent ally” and the need to sustainably manage and protect soils worldwide. The Asian Soil Partnership Consultation Workshop on Sustainable Management and Protection of Soil Resources takes place 13 – 15 May in Bangkok, Thailand.

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