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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Comments on the Proposed Voluntary Guidelines on Soil Management.

The draft is refreshingly technical and is comprehensive with respect to the areas it has taken into consideration. I find it well-structured, nicely reasoned, and very useful to anyone who understands and cares about the vital role the soil plays in our lives.

I wonder whether its authors chose 'cultivated soil' with a dash of the soil in urban areas in order to keep within the scope of 'management', which is obviously unavoidable in this context. However, I would like to draw your attention to an aspect of soil conservation, which is very important but does not quite fit into the categories of soil guidelines are intended to cover.

They represent what we might call 'ruins of soil', i.e., abandoned strip mines (USA and Pacific),  large tracts of forest destroyed by uncontrolled logging (Burma and Indonesia), unfilled abandoned mines (Cornwall, Eastern Europe, South Africa, etc), aftermath of forest clearance of thin top-soil to 'create' grazing grounds (Amazon basin) and forest fires (Indonesia), and advancing desert (Sub-Saharan Africa), etc.

These ruins of soil are often contiguous with arable lands or some kind of forest. Their interaction with less ruined soils, though not fully understood, can only have an adverse effect on the qualities of the soil the guidelines are intended to preserve.

I think it would be wise to describe in the guidelines some actions the authorities may take not only to mitigate the ill effects of ruine lands on its more fortunate counterpart, but also to reclaim it in order to increase the available ecosystem services.

Of course, how this may be achieved will vary according to climate, geography and the composition of the ruined soil involved. But, as we are not talking about agricultural cultivation here, a comparatively small investment in resources may enable us to harvest many a climatic and ecosystem service benefit.


Lal Manavado.