One Earth Soil & Root Health Forum launch – Getting to the Root of the Problem
The One Earth Root and Soil Health Forum was launched on 1 March looking at the role of root and soil health in supporting food security, livelihoods and tackling climate change. The first global Forum on this subject, bringing together 1000 participants for an online event, it underlined the importance of root and soil health in achieving sustainable development in line with the global United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The event brought together farmers, the private sector, public sector, NGOs and researchers as well as academics, marking the launch of a community for the protection and enhancement of soil and root health. There was an Africa focus given that around 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land is located in Africa.
Through geography-based parallel sessions, the forum had locally tailored discussions on the role of soil and root health in producing the necessary quality and quantity of food, supporting food security, livelihoods and tackling climate change.
Around 95% of the food we eat comes from our soils. Yet, this natural resource is disappearing. Over one third of the Earth's soils are already degraded and 90% could be by 2050 if we don’t take the right actions now. Soil erosion takes away the ability of our earth to produce food by decreasing the amount of water and nutrients available to plants as well as the space for them to put down roots.
Around 95% of the food we eat comes from our soils. Yet, this natural resource is disappearing
Soil erosion can cause up to 50% loss in crop yield. Soil health also plays a significant role in storing carbon, preserving soil resources and enhancing bio-diversity.
The Forum’s keynote speakers were Erik Fyrwald (Syngenta Group CEO and Chairman of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture) and Dr Ismahane Elouafi (Chief Scientist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
Erik Fyrwald underlined that "everything starts with soil. It is the foundation of productive farming practices – with healthy soil, you can have healthy plants, healthy people and a healthy planet. By acting on soil health through regenerative agriculture practices, we are acting on climate change, biodiversity loss, food security, and improving farmer livelihoods. The One Earth Soil and Root Health Forum is one way to help us shift towards achieving this – together.”
Dr Ismahane Elouafi noted that“healthy soils are the foundation for agriculture, as they provide 95% of our food. Soils also provide fuel, fibre and medical products, and play a key role in the carbon cycle, storing and filtering water, and improving resilience to floods and droughts.”
Speaking at the opening panel, Michael Misiko (the Africa Agriculture Director of The Nature Conservancy) noted that “climate change is inseparable from the life and health of our soils and the roots that must thrive within them.”
Speakers also underlined the link between soil and root health and the long-term economic productivity and the welfare of societies. Speakers also noted the importance of the Forum conclusions for the upcoming United Nations Food System Summit.
The Forum looked at the role of new sustainable transformative technologies can play in improving soil health
The Forum underlined that root health enables resilience to be built into the food systems at an early stage. Healthy roots enable better use of nutrients and water in the soil. Healthier roots also mean more shoots from a seed and more leaves, which in turn also means farmers can produce more food and more carbon is captured in soil. Healthy roots also help tackle soil erosion. The Forum looked at the role of new sustainable transformative technologies can play in improving soil health and helping soil to recover its full potential.
Soil and root health can also contribute to mitigating climate risks caused by climate change. Forum speakers underlined that more carbon resides in soil than in the atmosphere and all plant life combined. Studies show that there are 2,500 billion tons of carbon in soil, compared with 800 billion tons in the atmosphere and 560 billion tons in plant and animal life. By enhancing soil health, we enhance the ability of soil to store carbon. By enhancing root health, we also contribute to soil health and support its ability to store carbon. Healthy roots also produce healthy plants that capture carbon from the atmosphere.
The Forum was organized by the following partners: Agventure, Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Rizobacter, Seed Co Limited, Syngenta Seedcare, Syngenta Foundation, Solidaridad and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).