FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

FAO ramps up action to halt degradation of soils

Soils are under pressure worldwide. The extent and pace of land degradation have reached alarming levels, threatening ecosystems and the ability of future generations to meet their food needs.

“Soils are a finite and non-renewable resource,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia, as he delivered the opening address at the International Field Course and Soil Judging Contest today in Gödöllő, Hungary. “Urbanization, population growth, industrial activities, climate change and certain agricultural practices are all contributing to land degradation.”

FAO has carried out more than 120 soil-related projects worldwide, but continues to ramp up activities on sustainable land management.

It views awareness-raising – among decision makers, civil society and the public at large – as critical to changing attitudes and land management practices. The Organization worked hard to have 2015 designated as United Nations International Year of Soils.

Rakhmanin called attention to the Global Soil Partnership. Initiated by FAO, it has grown into a network of some 400 institutions from government, scientific and research institutions, civil society, the private-sector and the UN family. The partners are committed to preventing soil erosion and degradation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting carbon sequestration, and encouraging sustainable use of agricultural inputs for soil health and ecosystems management.

To account for regional differences, the European Soil Partnership and the associated Eurasian Soil Partnership were launched in 2013, with FAO mobilizing funds to support the Eurasian partnership.

“Soils are our silent allies in food production, yet they have no voice and few people speak out for them,” said Rakhmanin. “Now we are beginning to change that.”

As part of Hungary’s observance of the International Year of Soils, the International Field Course and Soil Judging Contest will run from 1 to 5 September. The occasion enables an international group of students, researchers and others interested in soils to experience the landscapes and soils of Hungary and the Danube Basin. Participants test their knowledge and practical skills in the field to describe, understand and interpret soil characteristics.

1 September 2015, Budapest, Hungary