The Vital Role of Healthy Soil in Addressing Hunger and Climate Change

In the ongoing battle against hunger and climate change, one unsung hero emerges from beneath our feet: healthy soil. As Dina Esposito, the Feed the Future Deputy Coordinator for Development and USAID Global Food Crisis Coordinator, underscores, soil health is pivotal in ensuring food security and combating the adverse effects of climate change.

Image: John Healey, Fintrac Inc.

President Roosevelt’s poignant words, urging the conservation of soil as our fundamental asset, still resonate today. Our very sustenance depends on the health of the soil, yet nearly one-third of soils worldwide are degraded due to decades of neglect and unsustainable agricultural practices. This degradation is particularly acute in Africa, where soil health continues to decline, posing grave threats to food security and exacerbating the impacts of climate change.

The link between healthy soils, food security, and climate resilience cannot be overstated. Soils serve as the foundation of our agricultural systems, providing essential nutrients for crop growth and resilience against environmental stressors. Moreover, with soil holding a staggering 80 percent of the world’s carbon found on land, it plays a pivotal role in both mitigating and adapting to climate change.

On World Soil Day, December 5, the spotlight shines on the importance of healthy soils and USAID’s commitment to addressing the global food crisis by prioritizing soil health through innovative approaches:

  1. Returning Nutrients to the Soil: In the wake of fertilizer supply chain disruptions exacerbated by global crises, USAID has stepped up efforts to ensure smallholder farmers have access to fertilizers and the knowledge to use them effectively. By partnering with fertilizer companies and leveraging local networks, USAID is not only providing access to fertilizers but also promoting efficient usage to maximize returns and minimize environmental harm.
  2. Improving Soil Management and Health: USAID programs offer guidance and support to farmers in adopting sustainable soil management practices, such as no-till or low-till farming, crop diversification, and improved water management. Through initiatives like the Accelerated Innovation Delivery Initiative Rapid Delivery Hubs (AID-I), USAID is scaling up efforts to reach millions of farmers across Africa, equipping them with the tools and knowledge needed to enhance soil health and resilience.

Looking ahead, USAID remains steadfast in its commitment to improving soil health, with a particular focus on Africa, a continent with immense needs and opportunities. By investing in soil health, we can not only ensure food security for all but also build resilient food systems capable of withstanding the challenges of a changing climate.

As we reflect on the critical role of healthy soils in shaping our future, let us heed President Roosevelt’s call to action and work together to restore and sustainably manage this precious resource. Together, we can cultivate a world where nutritious food is abundant, even in the face of uncertainty and adversity.

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