Global Soil Partnership

Seven Latin American countries start developing their National Soil Information Systems

New FAO/GSP project will support Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay to measure the organic carbon contained in their soils as part of a climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy.


Launched in parallel to the Fourth Regular Meeting of the South American Soil Partnership, held in Montevideo, Uruguay, from the 28th to the 1st of September 2017,  the new FAO/GSP project is supporting seven countries in Latin America to build their national soil information system in order to monitor the health state of their soils. This is a key aspect to support local decision making and to advise farmers and land users on how to restore degraded soil, tackle environmental challenges, increase yields and raise agricultural productivity. The project – involving Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay – will also allow these countries to re-energize and strengthen the Latin American Soils Information System (SISLAC), a valuable tool for decisionmaking and policy strategies for agricultural and rural development. 

According to the Status of World Soil Resources, 14% of the soils in Latin America and the Caribbean are exposed to severe degradation, being seriously threatened by wind and water erosion, loss of organic carbon, and soil salinization.

One of the main objectives of the new project is to release national soil organic carbon maps and work on a harmonized regional soil map by the end of 2017. Within this framework, a regional training workshop on digital soil organic carbon mapping was conducted, involving soil experts and GIS technicians from ten different countries in the region. These crucial tools will serve the primary function of filling the information gap, and thus strengthen the capacity to locally adapt to a changing change and mitigate its negative effects on the agricultural sector.  Supplying data for understanding soil processes will significantly contribute to meeting the national targets of the Paris Agreement related to agriculture and food security. It will also help countries to move forward in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular target 15.3, on land degradation neutrality.

The effective use of the knowledge generated is essential for countries to make informed decisions, stop the most serious soil degradation processes and continue caring for this vital resource through targeted policies. "The sustainable management of our soil resources requires as a first step to know about the health state of our soil, its various uses and the impacts of management practices that are being carried out. Without such information, actors in the field and at different levels are making decisions blindly and governments cannot make reliable forecasts," said Sally Bunning, FAO Officer.

Hundreds of millions of people rely on soils for food and nutrition security in the region. In addition, soils store carbon, preventing it from escaping into our atmosphere.  CO2 is one of the main gases responsible for causing global warming, changing precipitation regimes and making extreme weather events more frequent. Furthermore, the agricultural land base is expanding rapidly through conversion of forests, wetlands, and other natural habitats. Soil sealing is also expanding rapidly resulting from accelerated urbanization processes and the intensification of agricultural practices overusing chemicals.

"Land degradation is a threat to be faced. With up-to-date and reliable information, countries can design better policies for natural resource management and sustainable agricultural development," concluded Bunning.