Global Soil Partnership

SOILS4NUTRITION project: Sustainable Soil Management for healthy diets

How Sustainable Soil Management can improve the nutritional quality of food

FAO’s Global Soil Partnership is promoting Sustainable Soil Management practices to improve the nutritional quality of locally-produced food to address micronutrient deficiencies in people. 

29/09/2020

What is nutrition-sensitive agriculture?

Nutrition-sensitive agriculture is a food-based approach to agricultural development that puts nutritionally rich foods, dietary diversity, and food fortification at the heart of overcoming malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. By maximizing agriculture’s contribution to nutrition, the nutrition-sensitive agriculture approach aims to ensure the production of a variety of affordable, nutritious, culturally appropriate and safe foods in adequate quantity and quality to meet the dietary requirements of populations in a sustainable manner.

The project: Sustainable soil management for nutrition-sensitive agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia

The project is a 3-year initiative funded by the government of Germany. It sets up pilot sites to test and demonstrate the effects of sustainable soil management practices, such as intercropping and integrated fertility management, on micronutrient contents in the edible parts of crops. 

The goal of the project is to improve nutrition through the soil, crop, and human continuum, particularly in locally-produced and consumed foods. The expected impact is to combat the situation where a half of the world population suffers from “hidden hunger,” a condition defined by a deficiency of micronutrients despite adequate daily caloric intake.

The project has entered its field execution stage, being piloted in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso and Malawi where the government have highlighted the need to address human nutrient deficiencies, particularly in rural communities.

Implementation phase & field protocols

Field protocols for the measurement of micronutrients in soils and crops were implemented on several pilot field sites in each of the three countries. In Bangladesh, Malawi and Burkina Faso, several trial fields have been selected, with different soil characteristics and covering the most consumed products and the possibility to assimilate more micronutrients, including rotations between cereal, pulses and legumes.

Following these field protocols, the selected crops are rice, mung bean cauliflower and cabbage in Bangladesh, maize, soybean and amaranth in Malawi and sorghum and cowpea in Burkina Faso.

The field trials are established to compare different practices and identify their impact on increasing micronutrient contents in the soil and edible parts of the crops. These crop management practices include traditional application of organic matter, mineral fertilizers with micronutrients added and biofortified varieties. The results of the first crop season are expected by the end of the year 2020.

Conclusion

Results of the pilot trials, specifically any changes in micronutrient contents of the edible part of the crops, combined with the food consumption habits of the farmers and local community, will be used to infer possible health outcomes on the local populations. They will be fundamental to demonstrate that Sustainable Soil Management technologies and practices increase micronutrient contents of soils and crops. The project is associated with capacity-development and training activities for farmers, national agricultural researchers and extension services.

Learn more about the Soil4Nutrition project

Photogallery

BangladeshBurkina FasoMalawi

Resources