DA cites role of healthy soils in food security

Mara Cepeda
DA cites role of healthy soils in food security
The Department of Agriculture leads the launch of International Year of Soils 2015

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) recognized the crucial role healthy soils play in food security and sustainable management during the official launch of the country’s observance of the International Year of Soils (IYS) 2015 on Monday, May 25.

IYS 2015, with the theme, “Healthy Soils for a Healthy Life,” was declared by the 68th United Nations (UN) General Assembly to raise global awareness on the significance of soils for food security, nutrition, and environmental protection.

“This campaign launch would signal a series of events as we are challenged to protect our soils,” said BSWM director Silvino Tejada in a press conference.

He discussed the agency’s ongoing “Save our Soils” initiative, which aims to encourage all stakeholders to take an active role in soil conservation and management.

Kaya po ibig naming pagyamanin at pangalagaan nang mabuti ang ating mga lupain sapagkat ito po ay nagbibigay buhay sa lahat (We want to effectively enrich and closely take care of our lands because they give life to all),” Tejada said.

His sentiments were echoed by DA Undersecretary Emerson Palad. “There is a direct link between soil health and human health, as 95% of the food we consume comes from soil,” said Palad, who is also the chairman of the National IYS Task Force.

In his speech, Palad cited the 2014 State of Food and Security Report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which said that an estimated 805 million people in the world lack sufficient access to nutritious food within 2012 and 2013.

Tejada called for a unified action as a response to IYS 2015. “Let us work together and work much harder with a renewed commitment in pursuing the objectives of the IYS to address the issues and problems of hunger, poverty, land degradation, and climate change,” he said.

Also in attendance during the campaign launch were Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala; Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food; William Dar, Inang Lupa Movement Inc. president and former International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics director-general;  and Aristeo Portugal, FAO deputy resident representative to the Philippines.

They, together with other officials from BSWM, signed a covenant citing their commitment to work towards the attainment of the IYS 2015 goals.

Sustainability for the future

Dar and Villar identified soil degradation as one of the primary threats to the maintenance of healthy soils.

Villar suggested the use of more sustainable agricultural practices like waste composting in replacement of chemical fertilizers, as these degrade soils and increase their acidity levels.

“There is an urgent need to regulate soil degradation and restore [our agricultural] lands,” stressed Villar.

Meanwhile, Dar emphasized in his speech, “It is time for us to map our agricultural lands all over the country.”

According to him, doing so will be the basis for scientific studies that will hopefully lead to improvements in the country’s agricultural sector.

Villar agreed, suggesting budget allocation for soil mapping in the country in 2016.

Iisa lang naman ang goal natin: conservation and reservation of our resources for the future generation (We only have one goal: conservation and reservation of our resources for the future generation),” she said.

Key objectives

The following are the main goals of IYS 2015:

  • Create full awareness of all concerned stakeholders about the fundamental roles of soils for sustaining human life
  • Achieve full recognition of the prominent contributions of soils to food and nutrition security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential ecosystem services, poverty alleviation, and sustainable development
  • Promote effective policies and actions for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources
  • Sensitize decision-makers about the need for robust investment in sustainable soil management activities, to ensure healthy soils for different land users and population groups
  • Advocate rapid enhancement of capacities and systems for soil information collection and monitoring at the local and national levels

UN nominated FAO to implement IYS 2015 worldwide within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and in collaboration with governments and the secretariat of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

Locally, BSWM is the lead local agency tasked to create massive awareness on the importance of soil in abundant and progressive farming. – Rappler.com 

Photo from Shutterstock

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.