Recognizing the importance of farmworkers in protecting the land

Protecting the citizens and the land by protecting the soil and safeguarding the environment while caring for the health and safety of workers.” These are the words with which the North Tuscany Consortium No. 1 was introduced by its chair.

What characterizes this territorial consortium? Involvement of farmers, or rather farmworkers, in the conservation of the land. It is already the consortium’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the land and to this end it carries out hydraulic and maintenance work. But protection of the land cannot be separated from the direct participation of those who live on it, especially in rural areas.

Let’s take a step back.

Italy has signed up to the EU’s territorial cohesion programme and has an Agency whose mandate is to promote “economic development and social cohesion, facilitating cooperation between institutions and the establishment of strategic partnerships among those involved in order to bridge the territorial gap within the country and strengthen the administrative capacity of local and regional government”.

The Agency organized “A strategy for Internal Areas in Italy” with the aim of preserving the  more  remote  rural  areas,  which have  historically  been deprived  of  many  public services (healthcare, schools, transport…),  and experienced  a  lengthy  and  steady  period  of  abandonment  in  favour  of  urban  areas,  with  high  social  costs  in  terms  of  hydro-geological  instability,  decay  and  soil  consumption. Continua a leggere “Recognizing the importance of farmworkers in protecting the land”

Experiences from other European States: Open Letter from the Farmworkers’ Confederation (France)

The Farmworkers’ Confederation is a French agricultural trade union whose purpose is to defend all kinds of farmworkers. The union, which has a national regional and local presence in the country, is a founder member of the European section of Via Campesina.  In this period of crisis for the whole farming sector caused by Covid19, on 20 March the union published a letter with the unambiguous title: «Coronavirus: The need to reinvent our farming and food systems».

The letter is highly significant and the analysis it puts forward enables us to reflect profoundly on our future, and not just in farming. We reproduce some important passages below.

The coronavirus crisis has shown that many areas of our daily lives must be removed from the logic of global competition, the search for profit at any cost, the financialization of the real economy and the specialization of land use.

If we continue to pillage natural resources, and to consider the earth, its fertility and its workforce like any other product, to produce food as if it were a standardized industrial product that can be traded all over the world, how are we going to live in the face of the collapse of biodiversity, and the health and agronomic impacts of climate change? […]

If we continue to patent living things and hand over the production of seeds to multinationals, what will happen in times of crisis if we don’t have control over the basis of our food supplies?

If we continue to build internationalized supply chains, where the smallest economic, health and climatic shock generates catastrophic market volatility, how can we guarantee fair, stable and secure prices for the farmworkers who supply our food here and elsewhere? Continua a leggere “Experiences from other European States: Open Letter from the Farmworkers’ Confederation (France)”

Compost + cultivation = increased storage of organic C in the soil

An interesting and important study conducted for 19 years by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, found that practices that increase soil organic carbon, such as the use of compost, help increase long-term soil carbon storage.

By moving beyond the surface level and literally digging deep, scientists at the University of California, Davis, found that compost is a key to storing carbon in semi-arid cropland soils, a strategy for offsetting CO2 emissions.

Briefly:cerchio carbonio suolo

  1. Conventional soils neither release nor store much carbon.
  2. Cover cropping conventional soils, while increasing carbon in the surface 12 inches, can actually lose significant amounts of carbon below that depth.
  3. When both compost and cover-crops were added in the organic-certified system, soil carbon content increased 12.6 percent over the length of the study, or about 0.07 percent annually.

That is more than the international “4 per 1000” initiative, which calls for an increase of 0.04 percent of soil carbon per year. It is also far more carbon stored than would be calculated if only the surface layer was measured. Continua a leggere “Compost + cultivation = increased storage of organic C in the soil”

AHDB’s Horticulture Manual (UK)

If you visit the site of the AHDB (the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) you can get an idea of the many questions that British farmers  – and fruit and vegetable growers in particular – are asking following Brexit. We hope that this “agreed separation” will not create further problems for people and producers who are working to achieve a civil cohabitation, at least on the subject of food. We turn to the AHDB, not because of their detachment from the EU but because of the important contribution they make through their attention to the soil and their programme of research on its management. The website has a section called “Greatsoils” where you can find publications that are based on scientific data while remaining easy to read and understand. One in particular sets out how someone can assess their own soil: a handbook with the title Soil management for horticulture. Continua a leggere “AHDB’s Horticulture Manual (UK)”

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”

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!”

Planet A® Appeal “Land Matter Planet – Quality of the soil for the health of life”

Participants in the Planet A® session held 27-28 June 2019 at Chalons en Champagne in France with the title “Land Matter Planet – Quality of the soil for the health of life“, drew up and signed an appeal to those responsible for decision-making in Europe. We are reproducing it here in its entirety because of its importance. In addition to various office holders in the 4 per 1000 Initiative, the lead signatory is Rattan Lal, professor of soil science and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 2007 to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).


“Preserving and restoring terrestrial ecosystems, including soils and forests, by ensuring their sustainable management, combating desertification, halting and reversing land degradation and biodiversity”: This is one of the 17 sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. For us scientists, observers and cultivators of land and soil, the focus on soil is a vital imperative. Continua a leggere “Planet A® Appeal “Land Matter Planet – Quality of the soil for the health of life””

4 per 1000 Initiative: A philanthropic guide for action for healthy soils

The  Iniziative’s latest Newsletter draws attention to a document with the title “Healthy Soils to Cool The Planet” – A Philanthropic Action Guide.

After more than a decade of economic crisis and with future prospects not looking promising, the idea of relying on philanthropy may seem a utopian one, or even just the latest attempt to gather human and economic resources to save the planet.

This guide – produced by Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions,  a  USA consulting  firm – focuses primarily on agricultural soil carbon removal, but protection and restoration of forests, wetlands, coastal ecosystems, and grasslands are essential for meeting climate action and sustainable development goals. The Guide has specific grant recommendations and focuses  on philanthropic  and  investment  opportunities  to  promote  healthy  soils  and  soil  carbon sequestration  (SCS)  primarily  through  changes  in  agricultural  practices  in  the  United  States  and  globally. Focus topics  and  strategic  systems  are  featured  as  “game-changers”  with:  waste  to  compost,  geographic  hotspots, peatlands, ecological restoration & green infrastructure as well as irrigated rice. This  guide provides  an  initial  roadmap  for  investing  in  healthy  soils  to  help  cool  the  planet  and  enhance resilience. Continua a leggere “4 per 1000 Initiative: A philanthropic guide for action for healthy soils”