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5 key takeaways from the Global Symposium on Soil Erosion

Around 500 participants from over 100 countries attended the Global Symposium on Soil Erosion (GSER19) hosted at FAO headquarters last week. The symposium focused on catalyzing efforts to reduce soil erosion, the most significant threat to our planet’s soils. Discussions focused on how policy and scientific evidence can be translated into concrete actions to reduce soil erosion towards food security and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Five key takeways:

1.       Science already has many solutions to control and prevent soil erosion but these need to be implemented and scaled-up. Science must be brought into action through policy if we want to see significant impact. In order to influence policy, the scientific community must produce evidence and success stories that show the concrete impacts of Sustainable Soil Management and other erosion control practices as well as the value of integrated approaches. Soil cannot be seen in isolation.

2.       The economic implications of soil erosion are important. But we must remember that these implications are also environmental. The multiple ecosystem services that soils provide are under threat.

3.       Soil erosion is not only a ‘farmers’ problem’. Although rural areas are mostly affected by soil erosion, its offsite impacts are also visible in urban areas. Soil erosion can lead to landslides and flooding which can damage urban infrastructure and lead to soil and water pollution. Many off-site impacts of soil erosion are problems of the larger community.

4.       Farmers are part of the solution and should be supported. This can be achieved through targeted incentives, education and awareness-raising.

5.       Awareness-raising and education are key. Many people still do not understand the value of soil and its multiple benefits. Raising awareness, particularly among the general public and young people, is fundamental if we want to see change. Consumers also have a role to play.

Winner of the video contest on soil erosion announced

With nearly 5 000 views and over 1 200 likes, Aynoq'as y Taqanas (Bolivia) took first prize at the video contest on soil erosion. The video explores how long rotation practices and terraces help to reduce the effects of soil erosion in the Andes. Second and third prize were awarded to Turkey (933 likes) and Spain (829 likes) respectively. All finalists produced fantastic videos, you can watch them all here.

New publications launched at the symposium

Two new publications were launched during the symposium. Soil erosion: the greatest challenge for Sustainable Soil Management, gives an overview of soil erosion and its impacts, and how to assess and control it through Sustainable Soil Management and erosion control practices. It also addresses the role of soil governance and the socio-economic drivers of erosion. The Soil Loss Atlas of Malawi builds a comprehensive picture of soils in Malawi by examining different types of soil loss and their drivers across the 27 districts of Malawi.

 What’s next

Stopping soil erosion does not end here, GSER19 marks the beginning of a concrete plan of action to address this global threat. Three key action areas have been identified going forward:

1.       A global soil erosion map will be developed following a country-driven approach

2.       A political plan of action to be presented at UNCCD COP14 in September 2019

3.       A global study on the costs and benefits of soil erosion and soil erosion control

Targeted intervention and innovation are key, both technical and institutional approaches are necessary. As Ronald Vargas, Secretary of the Global Soil Partnership said at the symposium closing, “we need to think global but act local.”

If you missed the event, here are some useful links:

Take a look at the GSER19 webpage here and at the Photo gallery

Watch the animation
Watch the webcast of opening and plenary session (15 May) here: morning | afternoon.

Read the press release
Read FAO Story
Join the conversation on social media: #StopSoilErosion