Soil is a non-renewable resource

The International Year of Soils was launched on World Soil Day, 5 December 2014, but the IYS communications campaign is well under way with a variety of promotional material already available on the website.

The campaign is built around six key messages that highlight the multiple ways in which we all depend on soils.

Despite being a non-renewable resource, meaning its loss and degradation is not recoverable within a human lifespan, soil is often overlooked.  It is estimated that today, 33 percent of land is moderately to highly degraded due to the erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification and chemical pollution of soils.

Throughout 2015, FAO will raise awareness on key soil functions and how these overlap with FAO' s strategic objectives through a series of communication products.

Key messages

  • Healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production.
  • Soils are the foundation for vegetation which is cultivated or managed for feed, fibre, fuel and medicinal products.
  • Soils support our planet's biodiversity and they host a quarter of the total.
  • Soils help to combat and adapt to climate change by playing a key role in the carbon cycle.
  • Soils store and filter water, improving our resilience to floods and droughts.
  • Soil is a non-renewable resource; its preservation is essential for food security and our sustainable future.

The threat of soil degradation

Soils are under increasing pressure of intensification and competing uses for cropping, forestry, pasture and urbanization.  The demands of a growing population for food, feed and fibre are estimated to result in a 60 percent increase by 2050.  These pressures combined with unsustainable land uses and management practices, as well as climate extremes, cause land degradation. Soil preservation and sustainable land management have therefore become essential for reversing the trend of soil degradation and ensuring food security and a sustainable future. 

How can we protect our soils?

Many things can be done at various levels to promote sustainable soil management and ensure healthy soils. These include more government investment; promotion of management practices for climate change adaptation and mitigation; as well as strong regulations and the development of inclusive policies by governments, among others. Farmers and people directly in touch with the soil need to understand the benefits of sustainable land management practices before they can practice them. Education, effective extension programmes and the promotion of suitable technologies play a critical role in this aspect.

FAO's role

In collaboration with partner organizations and governments, FAO is promoting soil preservation around the world.  Recognizing and valuing soils for their productive capacities as well as their contribution to food security and the maintenance of key ecosystem services is central to the process.

A number of significant projects are already underway, including the Transboundary Agro-ecosystem Management Programme for the Kagera River Basin, The Great Green Wall Initiative and Action Against Desertification.

Related links

Download fact sheet


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