Recommendations arising from the round table “Soil is Life, is Food, is Future”

These are the recommendations that came out of our Round Table on 28 June 2021. The full record of the meeting is expected to be ready in November.                                           

We were able to have an open and constructive discussion that permitted the emergence of a new paradigm for preserving soils based on the following points:

  1. Soil Policy is a key political issue that needs binding measures
  2. Soil policy: there is no more time to lose and we cannot be patient. As a reference point for many other countries in the world, we need an EU policy on soil, where the equation climate justice = social justice must lead the future discussions.
  3. Soil is a key policy issue: unfortunately, land use is frequently not related to the soil’s characteristics. The soil must become a key political issue, as such it must be considered in the choices that consider comparatively the potential uses in the planning and drafting of future regulations.
  4. Binding soil measures: there is an urgent need for binding concrete measures based on scientific data [They already exist as “voluntary” measures (FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management)]. Binding measures must be used also to channel investments.
  5. Decent jobs and living conditions in agriculture

Decent jobs in agriculture is a theme directly linked to sustainable soil management as indicated by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It includes immigration and immigrants’ integration (no slavery), decent working conditions, gender equity, and child protection.

  • Soil is a living laboratory

It is a whole: from biodiversity to ecosystem services. Soils are not all the same, they have different properties because of their different development and hence provide different ecosystem services. Nevertheless, all soils must be protected and conserved through a sustainable management taking into account their particularities and potential uses. The reference policies must consider these differences.

  • Stop land fragmentation and concentration

There is a need for a strong monitoring system to preserve the right to access the land (tailored to different socio-economic situations) and to stop land speculation that displaces the people living in the area.

  • Sustainable soil management practices

Sustainable soil management practices have to overturn the present situation and become the rule not the exception. Agroecology, biological agriculture, regenerative agriculture, organic agriculture, non-industrial agriculture are all examples of sustainable soil management practices that can be adopted.

Convergence of the agricultural political agenda and of the nature and climate political agenda is crucial to avoid inconsistencies and to prevent negative effects on soil health, all of which must include sustainable management and protection of soils.

  • Importance of farmers
    • Farmers are not carbon traders but food producers.

Increasing soil organic carbon must be seen as a means to improve overall soil health and consequently food production. The ultimate goal should not be the carbon market, but rewarding farmers who adopt sustainable soil management practices aimed at improving soil health and maintaining the provision of ecosystem services.

  • Importance of horizontal transfer of knowledge from farmers to farmers and from farmers to civil society:  reinforcement of communication and joint work between extension services and farmers; strengthen the transfer of knowledge from farmers to civil society and facilitate the exchange of needs and solutions. Existing national and international mechanisms and programmes can help achieve this goal.
  • Importance of the stakeholders’ dialogue

Respecting farmers and their role is fundamental to maintaining food security and nutrition as indicated by International Treaty (FAO Farmers’ Rights).

There is the urgent need to balance the needs of all actors concerned by soils, and for this we have to trust farmers and their associations. Consequently, farmers and small and medium sized farms should be considered as the implementing actors of all actions, together with other soil stakeholders.

  • Urbanising without sealing

Respect the rules for where to build as indicated by soil scientists and promote the redevelopment of abandoned and brownfield sites. However, de-sealing is not a ‘precept’; options for wasteland reclamation must be envisaged.

  1. Education

Education from primary school to university must include tailored courses on soil science aiming at raising awareness of the meaning of the soil for life. Field visits to farms and construction areas must be included.

l)       Control of food chain

Measures to avoid losses throughout the production cycle (from the field, stocking, transport, and sale to the final consumer); improving diets (reduce animal production); increasing local production and consumption; and maintaining decent prices for producers are all components of correct soil conservation and sustainable management.

The complete recording of the Round Table on YouTube and the videos made available by the event:

                Complete recording –   https://youtu.be/vnExBaT8PzM 

                Video “I am the soil” – Riccardo Mei: https://youtu.be/kMpOHMLmjD8 

                Short Video “Lumbricus terrestris” with Barbara Geiger https://youtu.be/3_dz30F7I5Y

                Video “Lumbricus terrestris” with Barbara Geiger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVT8B-jKH3Q (full version 15′)