Healthy soil

I ask kids where their food comes from, and they say the supermarket. We have lost that feeling which connects us directly to the soil. Other than farming and gardening the soil gets little love. We walk on it, but we don’t really want to see it in the house or on our shoes. However, soil is the foundation for food, animal feed, fuel and natural fiber production, the supply of clean water, nutrient cycling and a range of ecosystem functions. That’s why the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared 2015 the official International Year of Soil to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of healthy soil for food, security and essential ecosystem functions.

According to the World Bank (2013) data, among 7.1 billion global population, there are more than 805 million people who are facing hunger and malnutrition. To fulfill this gap, there is need to increase food production by 60 per cent. 70 per cent of the world’s poor living in rural areas depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. This means they depend on soil.

Soil supports rural life as well as urban life, as many landscapers and horticulturalists rely on it for trees, plants, flowers and gardens. Perhaps, one of the most important uses for soil is that it can directly improve human health. A spoonful of soil contains about 10 billion different microorganisms.

Penicillin, the first antibiotic, was discovered from dust blowing into petri plates by Fleming. Healthy soil is a prerequisite for achieving global food security since much of our food depends on soils; however, soils are disappearing fast, and most of the people don’t know or understand these unique and plentiful benefits of soils. It is easy to understand how important it is to keep them healthy and productive. Unfortunately, the 33 per cent area of fertile soils covering the world’s surface are in danger, threatened by urbanization, deforestation, poor agricultural practices, pollution and overgrazing, leaving them bare, degraded and unproductive. Estimates are that the world is losing 24 billion tons of fertile soil each year. That is the equivalent of 3.4 tons lost every year for every person on the planet. It can take up to 1,000 years to form 1 centimeter of soil. Study of soil science in Nepal started in 1951, and activities started in 1957 with the formation of Soil Science Division. Agriculture Perspective Plan (1995) put emphasis on boosting agriculture production through use of chemical fertilizers and irrigation in high production potential areas.