Newsletter n.68

1.EXPERIENCES:Agricultural Land Bank

2.NEWS FROM THE SIP FORUM: The fundamentals of Bioeconomy

3.NEWS ON THE SOIL AND EU INSTITUTIONS: State of the Environment in Europe (SOER) 2020

4.WE ARE NOT ALONE!

Agricultural Land Bank

It doesn’t get talked about much, but there is an Agricultural Land Bank in Italy. It is described as both an opportunity for private enterprise and for the recovery of abandoned land. In practice, there is a bias in favour of increasing access to farmland and woodland for young farmers. The Agricultural Land Bank consists of a list of parcels of land, both public and private, made available to rent or by concession.

What is the purpose of the Agricultural Land Bank? To restore land management in order to reduce the risks associated with abandonment of the land.

What is the aim?

To encourage employment, especially for young people; to restore public and private land through productive use; to encourage farming and forestry connecting them with the protection of the environment and the land; to preserve biodiversity, protect the landscape, prevent hydrogeological instability, protect mountain areas and their residents from natural disasters, increase fire prevention levels and protect against environmental degradation, halt the loss of local production, and so on.

The “National Bank of Agricultural Land” was set up in Italy in accordance with the Law of 28 July 2016, n.154, Art.16 and is run by ISMEA (Istituto di Servizi per il Mercato Agricolo Alimentare).

It is based on the identification and mapping of uncultivated abandoned areas. It can be added to both through land derived from the activities managed by the Institute itself, and from land belonging to Autonomous Regions and Provinces, as well as other public bodies interested in divesting themselves of land belonging to them. On the Institute’s website it is possible to consult the national map of uncultivated areas and the land that has been made available, and potentially make a declaration of interest in acquiring the land. Continua a leggere “Agricultural Land Bank”

2020 Programme for the Gruppo Suolo Europa (GSE/ESG)

It seems like only yesterday that the ESG [European Soil Group] held its electronic general meeting, but a whole year has passed! Much of what was discussed has been put into action and new challenges have emerged, especially from the Forum’s General Meeting held in Milan on 12 October 2019.

This year we are going to try to structure our decision-making in a different way. The programme for 2020 will be drawn up on the basis not of an email discussion, but by means of a questionnaire, which will help us prioritize the actions to be undertaken.

The questionnaire will be based on the ESG’s mandate and the 2019 Programme. Each heading will be followed by questions with different types of answers: a simple “yes” or “no”, or multiple choice, or with the opportunity to write comments.

The questionnaire’s layout and usability was tested in the first week of February by ESG Network volunteers. This will allow us to finalize the format before posting it online. All members of the ESG and ESG Network will be invited by email to fill in the questionnaire between 21-27 February. The results of the replies will be made available for viewing on the website. The final results will be published on 29 February, but we will not be able to report them in the March Newsletter because the programme that is drawn up will need to be approved by the whole ESG and ESG Network.

The process is naturally open to all and we invite anyone who wishes to participate but is not a member of the ESG or the ESG Network to let us know by email suolo.europa@gmail.com.

GDE – GNDE: Vive la différence !

In the previous Newsletter we wrote about the Green Deal for Europe – GND, the document of the new European Commission, raising some doubts and questions especially as regards the soil.

There is however a document drawn up by civil society: The Green New Deal for Europe – GNDE that tries to set out a Europe-wide plan for a workable transition. Three organizations were involved in preparing the first draft of the document: Green Public Works (GPW), Environmental Union (EnU) and Environmental Justice Commission (EJC). Their work circulated among various NGOs before being handed over for scrutiny of the analysis and contributions last September. The final document is not yet available but the draft includes discussion of the soil in its different contexts: environmental, agricultural, and urban, with a single common aim: “Beyond reaching net-zero emissions, the Green New Deal for Europe must also work to reverse biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and other forms of environmental breakdown.” Continua a leggere “GDE – GNDE: Vive la différence !”

State of the Environment in Europe (SOER) 2020

To those involved, it is known by the acronym SOER. This is the report on the state of the environment in Europe produced every 5 years by the European Environment Agency.  We found it under the tree at Christmas. It’s a document whose importance does not need any emphasis. We should all read it and think about it, while politicians and public servants should keep it on their desks, or rather their bedside tables.

There is nothing to be pleased about: in brief we have “missed the bus” and Europe will not succeed in achieving the targets set for 2030. What is needed therefore is urgent intervention capable of achieving in the next 10 years what we have failed to achieve in the last 40. By its very nature the report is unable to be “negative” or “pessimistic”, and so it continues to offer hope and ask for urgent intervention “to address the alarming rate of biodiversity loss, increasing impacts of climate change and the overconsumption of natural resources”.

Is this possible?

The state of the environment has worsened; overall environmental trends in Europe have not improved since the last EEA state of the environment report in 2015. Looking at Biodiversity, of the 13 specific policy objectives set for 2020 in this area, only two are likely be met: designating marine protected areas and terrestrial protected areas.

Looking ahead to 2030, if current trends continue, they will result in further deterioration of nature and continued pollution of air, water and soil.

Ah yes, the soil!

A brief look at the chart reproduced below which shows schematically and concisely the state of the environment in Europe will suffice. There is no need to read it: the three completely red lines jump out at you (red indicates “Deteriorating trends/developments dominate” e “Largely not on track”). They relate to:

Urbanization and land use by agriculture and forestry

Soil condition

Climate change and impact on ecosystems

In other words, these are the worst performing areas!

For urbanization and use of the soil Largely not on track even for 2050.

If in the words of Franklin Dehousse – professor at the University of Lieges and previously a judge at the European Court of Justice – whose comment on the French President’s remark about NATO was: “It’s not NATO that is brain dead, but the European political class” (published in Belgium in Le Vif/Express no. 47 | 21 November 2019), then the situation of the environment in Europe will NOT be able to improve.

If we put aside our scepticism, however, and look at the words of Ursula Van der Leyen and the Green Deal for Europe we could see, as the EEA report suggests, the “change of direction urgently needed to face climate change challenges, reverse degradation and ensure future prosperity.”

What we can say for the moment to the young people who are protesting and asking for results and concrete action is: “While there’s life there’s hope“.

table ES1

WE ARE NOT ALONE! Malles

Some of our readers may remember the articles on Malles and democratic control.

We are returning to the subject to give an important piece of news: in a judgement n. 01 of 4 January 2020, the Trento Court of Appeal in its Bolzano section agreed 100% with the Malles municipality. The popular referendum held in Malles in 2013 was legitimate, because it caused no harm of any kind to anyone. That is not all: every Italian citizen, according to the judgement, has the right to collect signatures and pose a democratic referendum question.

BASTA … research project on Biochar!

We have been sent this report on Biochar, which we are pleased to publish.

BASTA is a research project (FWO project number – S000119N) carried out by Hasselt University and ILVO (Institute for agricultural, fisheries and nutrition research in Belgium), who are combining their expertise and efforts to determine Biochar’s Added value in Sustainable land use with Targeted Applications.

 Biochar is a stable, porous, carbonaceous material, produced through thermal decomposition (or pyrolysis) of biomass. Given its promising physicochemical characteristics, biochar can be used i.a. in agriculture, mainly as a soil amendment and fertilizer, in animal farming for several purposes, as a soil remediation mean, and can also be considered a NET (Negative Emission Technology) or CDR (Carbon Dioxide Removal) technology.

 Biochar has sparked quite the interest in the scientific community in the last decade: initially investigated mainly in relation to soil fertility and soil amelioration – especially after the discovery of the so-called Terra Preta’s soils in the Amazon (lit. black soils) –, it is now also being extensively considered for its possible role in reducing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and, therefore, for its climate-altering potential, so much so that in its latest reports the IPCC lists biochar among the proposed tools to mitigate climate change by way of CO2 removal. Continua a leggere “BASTA … research project on Biochar!”

4p1000 Regional Strategies

Increasing soil carbon sequestration through sustainable resource use and the introduction of economically sound and environmentally viable management practices has multiple benefits, which should not be outweighed by negative impacts.

The Technical Scientific Secretariat of the 4×1000 Initiative carried out in 2019 a collection of ideas, information, and experiences on region-specific sustainable management practices to increase soil carbon sequestration. The related papers are intended to be published in a Special Issue of the international journal ‘Regional Environmental Change’ (SpringerNature, impact factor: 3.1) with the title: ‘Sustainable management practices to increase soil carbon sequestration: what are their contribution to climate change mitigation, adaptation and food security in different ecosystems and regions of the world?’.

The Springer Journal’s special issue will provide for each of the five continents a specific overview of SOC sequestration possibilities, adequate and innovative practices and their benefits for climate change mitigation, adaptation, the resilience of food systems, and food security.

The full manuscripts of the papers, already proposed for last December, are expected for June 1st, 2020. Once published they will be a source of inspiration for many farmers and land users around the world.