Soil. Dirt!

How crucial this is for us as society to survive – the main provider of our
daily food. It has been overlooked by many but is currently back on the agenda
of international institutions! 2015 has been declared International
Year of Soils 2015 (IYS)
by the 68th UN General Assembly. The
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will be the
overarching platform, which has the aim to raise awareness of the crucial role
of soils for food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential
eco-system services and sustainable development (UN, 2013).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqGKwWo60yE

The IYS 2015 emphasizes once more how urgent and necessary it is to pay
attention to the role of soil for our planet and the wellbeing of the creatures
on it.

First
of all it is URGENT, as we now know that by today soil degradation influenced
by human activities affects nearly 20 percent of the Earth’s vegetated land
surface. On these affected lands, soil degradation such as desertification,
compaction, nutrient depletion and salinization form barriers to the production
capacities of the land and erodes crop yields.

Alongside,
it is a matter of NECESSITY, as the soil fulfils many services for all. We need
the soil to produce food, feed, clothes, building material and biomass for
energy but also need its eco-system services to filter water and recycle
nutrients. Additionally, the soils fulfil an important role in climate change
mitigation while sequestering carbon and buffering water. Finally it hosts a
quarter of the planet’s biodiversity.

So, soil – a very, very precious resource.

Alright, the acknowledgement is there – but how now what further? How does one actually
give hands and feet to this notion of awareness? In a search for answers I visited
the Soil Otherwise (Bodem Anders) conference in Den Bosch (Friday 20th
March). An inspiring event, wherein 250 farmers, scientists, civilians,
students, policy makers and civil society organisations came together to share
experiences and searched for practical solutions how to create and sustain a
healthy soil.

It was a refreshing and positive day accompanied by talks ranging from changes required
in thought  paradigms of scientists, to the need for
innovative policy changes for freely pursuing sustainable farming practices.
However, some of us are not willing to sit back and wait on change to happen within
large institutions.

They
are the bright pioneers that are ready for change to happen from this moment
on. Many of these pioneers are farmers who are already actively working towards a
healthy and vital soil.

However,
they cannot do it alone. They need us; the consumers – (or the customer/food
enjoyer/purchaser if you prefer a less negative word) – to support them in
their work on creating a beautiful healthy soil orchestra with innovative, soil
restoring farming practices. We can contribute to a world with healthy soils, supporting
vital produce now and in the future, simply by taking a stand when purchasing
your next meal.

image

Filmmaker and ecologist John D. Liu
was present as key note speaker at the conference as expert in large scale
landscape restoration projects around the world. He brought beautiful film
material from his projects and inspiring words too. His following words brought
clarity to my mind: “Since a certain time
now, we have become ignorant of basic things (…) we have to recognize what is
of value to us – money or human life (…) Where is the value? Life is not a
transaction, we are not consumers – we are human beings. (…) we need to have a
society wide conversation: what do we want the world to look like?”

What is of value to me? Suddenly,
choices become easy and food purchases simple. It is truly a vote.

Fogelina, or Lina as we call her, is currently working on
Agrobiodiversity at Oxfam Novib and pursuing her Masters at Wageningen
University. Her enthusiasm and immense knowledge on sustainable food systems
can make the otherwise mundane subject of soil magical and exciting. Her
healthy and nutritious lunchbox is her trademark at the Academy.

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