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Stopping soil pollution is key for food security and safety

World Soil Day: Be the Solution to Soil Pollution

4 December 2018, Cairo, Egypt – Soil pollution contributes significantly to soil degradation, which decreases crop yields and in turn reduces the opportunities for food security and threatens food safety, said Hussein Gadain, FAO Representative in Egypt during World Soil Day celebrations.

TheFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is celebrating World Soil Day in collaboration with the International Union of Soil Sciences and the Egyptian Soil Science Society on 4-5 December under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation.

“Climate change has become a reality for all of us and its impact on agricultural production cannot be ignored,” added Gadain, during the celebration that came within the 13th International Conference of Egyptian Soil Science Society (ESSS).

ESSS, which works to promote efficient application of water, soil and environmental management practices, holds its annual conference to focus on the management of water and soil resources within the context of global climate changes.

Gadain stressed that the treatment of soils is no longer optional but has become a necessity of life on this planet.

The Near East and North Africa region is one of the areas most affected by soil pollution due to excessive use of fertilizers in agriculture, maybe even reaching critical limits. And in a vicious cycle, soil pollution leads to water pollution as pollutants in the soil are moved to ground and surface water, magnifying the problem.

Soil pollution does not only negatively affect the environment and the population’s food security, but it also plays a role in the decreasing economic growth of countries. For instance, FAO estimated that Africa lost $127 billion in 2016 due to soil pollution.

FAO is working to reverse such effects and to prevent more damage from happening in the future. The FAO - Egypt Country Programming Framework 2018-2022 focuses on achieving sustainable land, water and biodiversity management for agriculture through the development of a map of soil organic carbon sites, among other activities.

“If soil is managed sustainably, it can play an important role in mitigating climate change by isolating carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Soil is our silent ally in the face of climate change,” said Gadain.

World Soil Day

World Soil Day aims at focusing attention on the importance of healthy soils and advocating for the sustainable management of soil resources.

This year, the international day’s theme is “Be the Solution to Soil Pollution”, aiming to raise awareness and call people to #StopSoilPollution.

Stopping soil pollution ensures that people have safe and nutritious food to ensure active and healthy lives without endangering essential ecosystem services.

Soil Pollution

Soil pollution is a hidden danger that lurks beneath our feet.

One-third of our global soils are already degraded, yet we risk losing more due to soil pollution. With a growing population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, soil pollution is a worldwide problem which degrades our soils, poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.

Most of the pollutants originate from human activities, such as unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices.

As technology evolves, scientists are able to identify previously undetected pollutants, but at the same time these technological improvements lead to new contaminants being released into the environment.

In the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030, Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 12, and 15 have targets which commend direct consideration of soil resources, especially soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.


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