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GSP newsletter #8

Check out the latest news of the Global Soil Partnership

04/01/2016

 

 

 

View the online version here.
Global Soil Partnership Newsletter
#8 - December 2015

Season’s Greetings

This year, which has been a key year for the soil community is coming to a close. It's been an exciting year packed with soil-themed initiatives that have taken place across the globe. It began with a challenge. As FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva said at the opening of the year twelve months ago, "healthy soils are critical for global food production, but we are not paying enough attention to this important silent ally". Describing soils "a nearly forgotten resource", Graziano da Silva called for more investment in sustainable soil management and awareness raising activities. Therefore, giving this “silent ally” a voice became one of the main goals of the IYS global campaign.

With soils explicitly mentioned in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the first time, strong foundations are now in place for more to happen. We need to keep the momentum going: 2015 may be over, but our soils still need us as much as we need them.


Another important element that emerged very evidently from the year, is the power of partnerships and collaboration. Through support from various partners, we were able to invest in precious awareness raising instruments. We hope to continue benefit from such support to be able to continue to play the critical role of informing, educating and disseminating advocacy for our soils. But we have also enjoyed support and collaboration from enthusiastic supporters, for instance we managed to translate the logo in 35 languages and we hope to break this record next year. The idea is to establish a year long conversation with our public through many channels and in particular through social media. Last but not least, we recorded on our map more than 600 events that took place all over the world, again, let’s make an effort to ensure that 2016 will continue to be a record breaking year in support of our soils.

My best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2016!

 

Moujahed Achouri
Director, Land & Water Division
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Closure of the International Year of Soils

To celebrate the closure of the International Year of Soils and the World Soil Day, many events of all kinds took place worldwide between the 4th and the 7th of December 2015. World Soil Day was celebrated at FAO headquarter on the 4th of December. In addition to the official remarks given by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, representatives from member states, UN agencies, IYS stakeholders and the IYS special ambassadors, Prof. Claire Chenu and Prof. Tekalign Mamo, also spoke about the legacy of the year and the way forward post-2015. "Let us promote sustainable soil management rooted in proper soil governance and sound investments. Together, we can promote the cause of soils, a truly solid ground for life," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon through the message he sent for the occasion. The webcast of the closing ceremony is available here. A vast number of celebrations were also organized by other FAO offices and other partners around the world.

Throughout the year a vast amount of information material has been produced in numerous languages. The “information box” provides information on soils through a broad range of products, making the topic accessible to everyone. It includes fact sheets, infographics, educational booklets, videos, posters, interviews and stories.

FAO has also released some key publications on soils this year including the Revised World Soil Charter, the Farmer's Compost handbook and Understanding Mountain Soils: A Contribution from mountain areas to the International Year of Soils 2015.

As the year end approaches, we are left facing another challenge: turning this year outcomes into concrete actions. The GSP is already implementing actions in all the regions to promote the sustainable soil management and activities will continue well beyond 2015. Initiatives such as the Macedonian Soil Information System and the Turkish soil carbon and soil fertility system were finalized this year. Among the many initiatives, the development of soil information systems in Cambodia and Afghanistan will commence in the coming months as well as an assessment of soil erosion in Malawi. Awareness raising will also continue with World Soil Day to be celebrated every 5th December and the World Soil Prize to be established under the GSP aegis.

Launch of the Status of the World's Soil Resources report

The much awaited report on the Status of the World's Soil Resources (SWSR) was launched on the 4th December in FAO headquarters, Rome during the World Soil Day celebration and the official closure of the 2015 International Year of Soil.ITPS meeting, Potsdam, Germany 13-17 April 2015

The report is based on the assessments of more than 200 environmental scientists of the state-of-knowledge on soil resources and soil change. It reports on the major soil changes globally and in more detail on regional changes. The report provides documented scientific data on soil erosion, soil organic carbon change, soil biodiversity changes, soil acidification, soil compaction, soil sealing, soil salinization and sodification, soil contamination, soil nutrient changes and water logging.

Yet the overwhelming conclusion of the report is that the majority of the world's soil resources are in only fair, poor or very poorcondition and that conditions are getting worse in far more cases than they are improving. In particular, 33 percent of land is moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification, and chemical pollution of soils. "Further loss of productive soils would severely damage food production and food security, amplify food-price volatility, and potentially plunge millions of people into hunger and poverty. But the report also offers evidence that this loss of soil resources and functions can be avoided," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. Writing the foreword to the 650 page-long report, he expressed the conviction that the contents will "greatly assist in galvanizing action at all levels towards more sustainable soil management," adding that this was in line with the international community's commitment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Main Report | Technical Summary | Brochure

Establishment of the International Network of Soil Information Institutions


National Soil Information Institutions met at FAO Headquarters from 8-10 December and joined forces to establish the first International Network of Soil Information Institutions. Strengthening of soil data and information is the goal of GSP pillar 4 and since 2012, an effort was made to develop a coherent Plan of Action for Pillar 4 which was endorsed by the GSP Plenary Assembly in 2014. Following the “guidelines for the development of Plans of Action of the GSP Pillars”, an implementation plan was developed following an inclusive approach. Since this plan envisaged the establishment of a Global Soil Information System (based on a distributed model), and required the active participation and contribution of national soil information institutions, an International Network of Soil Information Institutions (INSII) was established.

During the workshop, the final version of the Pillar 4 Implementation Plan was developed, the Pillar 4 Working Group was established and agreement regarding the roadmap and roles and responsibilities for the execution of Pillar 4 were agreed.

Release of the Revised World Soil Charter

The Revised World Soil Charter has been endorsed by the 39th FAO Conference in June 2015. The significance of endorsement of the updated Charter was high as it coincides with the International Year of Soils encouraging international efforts for reversing alarming trends in soil degradation through boosting wide adoption of sustainable soil management.

 

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Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management

The just concluded FAO Council supported the initiative for developing the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management. The aim of these guidelines is to support the implementation of the World Soil Charter in order to effectively promote sustainable soil management. A very inclusive process will be used for developing these guidelines and all partners will be invited to play an active role on this challenging endeavour.

Upcoming events

  • 5th ITPS Working session, Rome, FAO HQ, February 2016
  • Eurasian Soil Partnership workshop, Bishkek, Kirghizstan, 29 February - 2 March 2016
  • Soils side event at the Regional Conference for Latin America, 29 February - 3 March 2016
  • GSP Plenary Assembly, Rome, FAO HQ, 23-25 May 2016
 
Global Soil Partnership www.fao.org/globalsoilpartnership