M Venkaiah Naidu writes: Without  soil conservation, there is no food security

News: Recently, Sadhguru, a spiritual leader, had launched an initiative known as “save soil campaign”. In addition, he also completed 100 days of solo biking across many countries to promote concerted action on saving soil.

What are the factors that have led to food security?

The agricultural modernisation has led to improvement in the crop production, which in turn has ensured food security to large swathes of people across the world. It should be kept in mind that around 95% of global food production depends on soil.

What are the challenges to food security?

Soil is a fragile and finite resource. Soil degradation is going on at an unprecedented scale across the world. Therefore, it is a significant challenge to sustainable food production.

Soil Degradation: About 1/3rd of the earth’s soils are already degraded. About 90% could be degraded by 2050 if no corrective action is taken.

– It is estimated that 96.40mn hectares or about 30% of India’s total geographical area — is affected by land degradation.

What are the causes that lead to soil degradation.?

Apart from natural causes, there are human activities which also lead to soil degradation. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s ‘State of Land, Soil and Water’ report, out of around 5,670mn hectares degraded land, 29% is attributed to human-induced land degradation

The agriculturists have adopted modern scientific techniques. For example, they now resort to extensive use of fertilisers and pesticides which lead to the deterioration of soil health and contamination of water bodies and the food chain, which pose serious health risks to people and livestock.

According to the FAO’s latest ‘State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture’, soil pollution is another issue.

Further, as per studies, around 160 million hectares of cropland worldwide is affected by salinisation.

Lesson that can be learnt from India

Since ancient times in India, mother earth has been considered a divine entity and her worship is an integral part of the country’s civilisational ethos, and the Indian farmers have followed sustainable and holistic agricultural practices.

According to the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the World Future Council’s report namely “A Healthy Planet for Healthy Children’’, there are various success stories. For example, Sikkim in India became the first organic state in the world. It phased out chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

The Union government introduced the revolutionary soil health card (SHC) scheme. The SHCs have been distributed to about 23 crore farmers. It has contributed to improving the health of the soil.

In addition to the above measures, India is also working to restore 26mn hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Way Forward

There is a need for collective global action involving governments and civil society to reverse this alarming trend. All the stakeholders like the government’s functionaries, farmers, CEOs, scientists, school children, etc. must work to save the health of the planet and ensure food security.

The need of the hour is to adopt innovative policies and agro-ecological practices that create healthy and sustainable food production systems.

(1) In fact, natural farming and organic farming are not only cost-effective but also lead to improvement in soil health and the farmland ecosystem.

(2) There is an urgent need for action to reduce dependence on pesticides worldwide and to promote policies advocating healthy and sustainable food systems and agricultural production.

(3) Efforts should be made to reduce soil erosion. The Soil erosion not only affects fertility but also increases the risk of floods and landslides.

Source: The post is based on an article “Without soil conservation, there is no food security” published in the Indian Express on 24th June 2022.

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