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Did you know that this week, 19th-23rd April 2015, is the Global Soil Week 2015? If you didn’t, now you do! But even as we commemorate the soil week, the invaluable natural resource, that is soil, is highly abused and is continuously degraded. Soil degradation is hampering economic development, costing the continent's farmers billions of dollars in lost income according to a report by Montpellier Panel. The report further adds that "In Africa, the impacts are substantial where 65% of arable land, 30% of grazing land and 20% of forests are already damaged.” These sentiments are again captured by the deliberations of the Soil Governance Conference held in Brasilia, March 25-27th, 2015 that noted that the improper use of soil causes losses of 5 to 7 million hectares annually and that nearly half of the fertile soils of the planet have been lost in the last 150 years.

Soil is the backbone of life. It stocks water and recycles nutrients, increases resilience to floods, absorbs carbon and hosts approximately 25% of the planet's biodiversity. Nature takes about 2000 years to create a layer of only 10 cm of fertile soil, while the misuse of soil results in permanent damage (Soil Governance Conference, 2015). Have we focused too much on crop and livestock production and how we can improve our yields forgotten that all this depends on soil? 

In definition, land is a naturally occurring resource that is not covered by water and is composed of various components; minerals, rocks, water, living organisms, organic matter and air. Soils are layers of particles of different proportions that make-up the land mass. In agriculture, soil is the basis for food, feed, fuel and fiber production and controller of services to ecosystems that enhance human existence. It is the reservoir for at least a quarter of global biodiversity, and therefore undoubtedly requires uttermost attention.

The largest store of terrestrial carbon is in the soil so that its preservation may contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Soils also serve as a platform and source for construction and raw materials. The maintenance or enhancement of global soil resources is essential if humanity’s need for food, water, and energy security is to be met.

But even with all this knowledge on the importance of soil, humanity still continues to abuse it. We have continued to use harmful fertilizers, we overgrazing, aid erosion and in a year 8 million hectares are turned into something other than crop land such as malls, homes, highways and parking lots. The world statistics on land degradation show that 300 million hectares are strongly degraded, 910 million hectares are moderately degraded and 9 million hectares are no longer usable.

These challenges facing the globe are major and almost appear insurmountable! Our soil resource is being depleted and to a large extent, we feel helpless, no one seems to be doing much. In the proverbial hummingbird story, what can we do? 

As part of Farm Concern International (FCI) contribution to safe guarding our soil, we have our own version of the hummingbird story. FCI’s interventions in conservation of natural resources is guided by FCI’s Natural Resources Management (NRM) strategic framework where all facets of agricultural production drivers are geared towards improved productivity which is entrenched in Commercial Village (CV) operation and leadership. FCI’s capacity building department is focused on sharing such information as a way of reaching out to teams to educate the smallholder farmers on the importance of sustainable NRM and improved agricultural productivity among CVs. 

In the past year, FCI has promoted specific soil conservation strategies that have since improved the yields among CV, these include; good agricultural practices such as; compost manure; preparation, crop rotation, cover cropping, trench cultivation, terracing, intercropping and agro forestry. This has since resulted in increase of crops produced for household nutrition, food security and sales worth over USD 3 Billion across all programmes implemented by FCI. 

Additionally, in one of our flagship programmes, the Domestic Horticulture Markets (DoHoMa), in the implementation year 2014-2015, trainings on natural resource management led to an increase in the number of trees planted from 371,105 to 392,139. Our data shows that an average 85% of farmers in the programme have planted trees this year while over 90% of smallholders under the intervention adopted soil fertility management techniques. 

At FCI we are doing our best; through our network of 3 million farmers across 12 African countries, we are making a positive impact on soil management. What are you doing that helps us conserve our soil? Are you planting trees? Are you using good agricultural practices? Have you refused to use non-biodegradable products? This is the Global Soil Week, what is your soil hummingbird story?

 

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FCI VISION :Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond.