Why a Soil’s Angel Newsletter? In 1966, Florence was completely flooded. From all part of the world, thousands of people –mainly young – joined their forces to save the cultural and historic heritage deeply affected by the water. They were called “mud’s angels”. What motivated those people? Surely solidarity but also the acknowledgement that the future of the World Heritage was in danger. We need to have the same will and the same strong effort to save the soil for next generations!We need Soil’s Angels in all Europe able to use their energies to preserve soil, land and landscape.

The Soil’s Angels Newsletter is a tool to create synergies among all people with only one aim: to save the world heritage that has as a name Soil.


1. EXPERIENCES: Hazardous waste disposal? Indeed, and in parks of supra local interest too!


3.NEWS ON SOIL AND EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS: Access to land for farmers in the EU



Hazardous waste disposal? Indeed, and in parks of supra local interest too!

Land protection in Italy and Europe is a rather ‘evasive’ issue. It is being tackled by institutional organizations, its limits are protected by strict legislation… But in the end it is always up to citizens to speak up and prevent any abnormal behaviour.

In 2014 Italy was fined tens of millions of euros by the EU (the sentence dates from 2007) for failing to meet their communal obligations related to waste and landfill management. For Italy, waste disposal and landfill management are a long-standing problem: Italy is perhaps an emblematic example for the relevant institutions’ lack of efficiency.

In the numerous landfills seized by the Court for illegal and irregular management, both urban and industrial waste leave a legacy of polluted groundwater, destroyed land and citizens’ health at high risk. Moreover, it is well known that large economic and non-economic means are being employed to “shape” laws and administrators. Similarly we know only local populations are able to find resources – human, economic and technical – to object to such public choices encouraged by tactical bureaucratic behaviour, and private if not mafia-related interests.

We should learn and value those very examples going in a different direction. These are people who meet up and watch over their land in order to get their identity back, take back their history and determine their own future. They do not merely act locally against critical issues such as industrial and mining activities and waste management; they also consider environmental concerns at global level.

In an area north of Milan, for years people have been fighting to save an area of 70 hectares worth of agricultural land between Casorezzo and Busto Garolfo (an area in Parco del Roccolo – a park of supra local interest). Landfill and excavation activities for hazardous waste disposal have been taking place for quite some time (around 300.000 m³, already in use), and now a new one, also for hazardous waste wide 500.000 m³ may be added (this involves lands from contaminated work sites, foundry lands, reclamation lands …). Moreover, a further 2 million m³ will be dug up and be used as an extension. This is all happening at a few hundred metres away from inhabited towns, and directly above groundwater, an issue already of concern.

Although citizens and 50 municipalities from the area north of Milan, and the municipalities of Magenta and Abbiategrasso, Milan City Council (ex Province of Milan) was in favour of the environmental impact assessment. However, following three hearings with representatives of the relevant communities, the Region signed a resolution opposing the project, by unanimity.

The only way to stop this further environmental massacre has been an appeal to the Regional Administrative Tribunal, which was supported by a detailed scientific report. Therefore, a discussion-table with the City of Milan was able to achieve the feasibility of a pilot project, which has a more present-day scientific methodology and foresees changing the previously used impact assessment.

Why are we mentioning this story?

  1. Because the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) although carried out by a University, analysed the situation from a technical point of view, whereas the scientific community has no longer been considering the environment to be merely geophysical support of human-induced activities, but also a complex system made up of different living communities, including man;
  2. In order to carry out an adaptable pilot project, and modify the norm to make it more coherent in terms of environmental protection by opening up the discussion-table to the Region.
  3. Citizens have proved to be the true protagonists in handling and programming their land. They were in charge of the appeal, and took part in all discussions. They used research, international scientific technicians, bore all costs, and created a specific act of crowdfunding. In other words, they proved to be willing and able to involve a high number of stakeholders.

This leaves us with two more questions:

  • Why is this being left to citizens and local populations?
  • Why are the administrative authorities in question not doing any work to protect their lands and future generations?

For more information about this and on how to send monetary contribution, please contact Luigi Dell’Arena: soundcooker@gmail.com


Annual online assembly of the Soil Europe Group (SEG)

The annual assembly of Soil Europe Group (SEG) will take place from 20 to 25 February. Aside from providing a review on activities for the 2016 objectives and their results, the Assembly will suggest a renewal and extension of such activities. For this reason, the Assembly will be open to anyone willing to participate, either from the SIP Forum or from Soil’s Angels.

We would like to remind you that the assembly will consist of a reading and exchange of emails throughout the week (the duration will depend on the number of topics to be discussed) and will aim to set the agenda for 2017.

For the moment, the debate will take place in Italian and it will entail the following: reviewing all 2016 activities, aims and activities for 2017, the structure of the Soil Europe Group, and appointing persons of contact.

If interested, we kindly ask you to get in touch in order to:

  1. take part in the electronic assembly, by sending an email to europa@gmail.com with the following in the subject header – “Name Surname – SEG Electronic Assembly Participation”
  2. Suggest activities, objectives, actions related to implementing the European dimension that SEG should have ;

A detailed programme and information on the modality of the assembly shall be sent to those who request participation.


People4Soil: ECI main aims

A reminder of the main aims and motivation of the European Citizens Initiative People4Soil:

Soil is one of Europe’s main strategic resources, as it guarantees food security, biodiversity and regulates climate change. It is time to protect European soil.

 Aims of the ECI:

Recognizing soil as common heritage which needs protection at EU level as it brings essential benefits to do with our wellbeing and environmental resilience;

Developing a specific, legally binding framework to cover the main risks: soil erosion, soil sealing, loss of organic matter and biodiversity, contamination;

Integrating the United Nations sustainable development goals related to soil in EU policy;

Appropriate attention to and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural and forest sectors.

IMPORTANT! Gather signatures from friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances. Keeping your ID with you, all you have to do is fill out the online module to be found on www.salvailsuolo.it


Access to land for farmers in the EU

A few of the conferences held in Brussels in partnership with World Soil Day were mentioned in the newsletter of 16 December. The one on ‘Access to land for farmers in the EU’ particularly attracted readers who asked for further information.

The conference held by the Greens Group at the European Parliament, was split in two sessions. In the morning session at the European Economic and Social Committee the report “Land Rush – The sellout of Europe’s Farmland” was presented. In the second session, in the afternoon, losses in food security and sovereignty, not to mention difficulties in accessing land and job possibilities for new generations of young EU farmers were discussed in the European Parliament in the presence of MEPs (see photo above).

Indeed land has become an opportunity for investment and therefore subject of speculation. The study mentioned above illustrates the situation of land purchase and land grabbing in Europe, by multinational and major European and non-European investors. From large U.S capital being the predator, it is now large Chinese businesses (which are psychologically more worrying than North-American multinationals).

This means it will be impossible for small and medium agricultural businesses to survive, and stops any young person keen on getting involved in agricultural production to get any land, with the exception of family inheritance. And here we are left with the inconsistency of over half of agricultural soil in Europe is rented (at a total of 96% in Slovakia, and 89% in Bulgaria) and those who work it do not own it.

On top of this already negative picture, we must add the impact of the situation on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): in practice those large financial groups able to respond to the Commission’s administrative rules are subsidised.

Adam Payne’s contribution – a farmer and member of the Via Campesina co-ordination committee – gave the following scathing overview of the situation:

  • Europe has 10.8 million agricultural farms (average : 16,1 hectars) ;
  • 8% of agricultural work comes from the business’ family members ;
  • From 2003 to 2013 the EU has lost EUR 4 million worth of small agricultural farmers (in other words 33% of the total amount)
  • 3% of European farms cover over 100 hectars and own 52% of all agricultural land ;
  • Whilst 75% of farms are smaller than 10 hectars each and only have 11% of agricultural land ; finally
  • 6% of all farm managers are below 35 years of age, whereas 55% are over 55 years of age.

MEP Jose Bove’s speech gave several indications on how to amend this context: i) limiting CAP subsidies at a maximum of EUR 50-100 thousand per farm; ii) subverting the current false agricultural model which is based on “the bigger, the better” and support small and medium farms; iii) stop large agricultural projects (for example the one on 20.000 dairy cows, which means monopolizing and taking over large amounts of land); iv) blocking land purchasing for speculative purposes (for example the land recently bought by some French enterprises in Romania).

In the conclusions drawn by MEP Maria Heubuch, the importance to act with new goals and rules to ease new generations of farmers into agricultural activities was underlined. This is hoped to be achieved quickly at European level and in individual Member States.

A hard copy can be requested to: maria.heubuch@europarl.europa.eu



Other European states’ experiences: European Avenue Day

In the previous newsletter, we mentioned the march of the ‘fitofori’ which will take place in Rome and other Italian cities. It seems that similar initiatives take place in other European countries (in Germany from 2008) and that there has been a European Avenue Day since 2015. The main objective of the European day is to show off this plant heritage to improve its conservation. Many diverse activities take place on this day: media attention, conferences, tree planting, photography competitions, and sports competitions (i.e. cycle races). We remind you that trees along sidewalks, paths, canals and rivers are a natural heritage able to block dusts, reduce the accumulation of polluting substances, lower temperature; moreover they are natural “wells” which gather carbon, natural corridors for insects and wildlife, not to mention precious for biodiversity protection. Last but not least, they increase road and pedestrian security as the “micro-environment” favours a less dangerous way of getting around.

So now what we must do is join the Italian Avenue Day and the European one together, and help to prepare the international Conference, which will take place in the Netherlands in September 2018 and will be on “Crossing borders for a greener and sustainable transport and infrastructure”.

For more information Société pour la Protection des paysages et de l’Esthétique de la France (SPPEF): chantal.pradines@centraliens.net


4 per 1000 initiative: Indicators on organic and biological state of soil

The aim of the 4 per 1000 Initiative is to share experiences involving land, research work, agricultural practices and policies aimed at increasing soil-related awareness and their potential in carbon accumulation.

To improve soil quality and evaluate the changes in agricultural practices, it is necessary to have comparative data on the state of soil. These are so called “indicators” and they are the results of observation, analysis, studying and modelling. The indicators are important for farmers and other stakeholders in terms of selecting the right management in a context which tends to improve the organic and biological state of soil.

Within the 4 per 1000 Initiative framework, the French Ministry of Agriculture gathered a panel of experts to produce a short document entitled “Indicators on organic and biological state of soil”. The idea was to produce a “living” document which – beginning from a description of existing indicators – would need regular updates following contributions, critiques and suggestions from various users. The document must therefore be used, verified and amended, by staying in touch with the network which produced it and that refers to the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Initiative. The aim here is to obtain a short document which can be used by various stakeholders, including politicians which often ask for comparative data on soil.

Each indicator is described by explaining what exactly has been measured, who uses it and why. It also clarifies how measurements and estimates are made, the stage of the analytical method and its results, the degree of certainty of the results, and finally the advantages and disadvantages.

The qualitative and quantitative indicators of organic matter are mainly about the amount of carbon and nitrogen present. Indicators on the biological state emphasize the presence of microbiological factors (soil “breathing”, microbial biomass, enzyme activity…) and wildlife factors (earthworm, nematodes, micro-arthropods).

The first version of the document is already available (in French) and can be downloaded from the website of the Ministry, however a new version is expected to be published soon. For this purpose, we ask those interested to send their comments in by 15 March 2017 to the following address: indicateurs_sols.dgpe@agriculture.gouv.fr.

For the moment, this document is for soil experts only. Despite the complexity of the indicators described, the use of this document can gradually become more “simple” especially if we were to install a dialogue and a privileged communication channel between those following the indicator updates and development, and those physically working on land.