Healthy Soils Essential for Food Security

by Vins
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Esther Ngumbi, a researcher in entomology at the University of Illinois, writes that, “in the race to beat food insecurity, achieve zero hunger, and address climate change, we must look down—to the soil.”

Noting that the director-general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), José Graziano da Silva, has recently stated that the future of the planet depends on healthy soils, Ngumbi argued that  “the importance of soil cannot be overstated,” and she outlined three major environmental benefits of healthy soils, including

mitigating climate change, providing habitat for microorganisms, and increasing agriculture production.

Healthy soils mitigate climate change by storing carbon. As Ngumbi reported, research studies have shown that healthy soils reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-80 percent.

Healthy soils provide better habitat for bacteria and fungi that help plants grow better and help them to resist pests.

And healthy soils help farmers around the word build “resilient ecosystems that can bounce back from extremities that come along with a changing climate,” Ngumbi wrote.

Nevertheless, she noted, according to a 2015 UNFAO report, a third of our soils are degraded. The UN report has spurred responses around the world, from Ethiopia, where a national initiative to map soil health is “transforming agriculture,” to the US, where advocacy groups including Soil4Climate advocate for soil restoration as a climate solution.

Ngumbi also highlights Foodshot Global’s Innovating Soil 3.0 challenge, a “unique investment platform” intended to spur innovations to support a “healthy, sustainable and equitable food system.” The challenge’s cash prizes aim to develop “bold ideas that utilize the latest in technology, science and engineering into solutions” to address the soil health crisis.

“To reap the many benefits that come along with healthy soils,” Ngumbi concludes, “the right interventions and innovations to improve soil health must be funded, rolled out and scaled up.”

 Source: Esther Ngumbi, “In the Race to Beat Food Insecurity, Achieve Zero Hunger, and Address Climate Change, We Must Look Down–To the Soil,” Inter Press Service, September 18, 2018,

Student Researcher: Graziel Mae Favila (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Wendy St. John (Sonoma State University)