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Opinion: We Need to Get Serious on Soils

Severe hunger in Africa could become a thing of the past even in arid regions. Long-term strategies to build resilience to the harsh climates that decimate crops and cattle do exist and need implementing with urgency. In Africa, these strategies, that can lead to major productivity gains in the face of climate change, start with soil.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization released a statement recently declaring that soil management could make or break climate change efforts. This is because our soils hold the most potential for capturing and storing the excessive amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that exacerbate global warming. In its fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that 90 percent of agriculture’s climate change mitigation potential lies in soil carbon sequestration.

But degraded soils are less able to capture and store carbon than healthy, fertile soils. And in nowhere in the world are soils as degraded as they are in Africa. It is estimated that around 65 percent of Africa’s soils are degraded, and despite being home to 10 percent of the world’s population, Africa accounts for just 3 percent of global fertiliser use. Without a good balance of organic and mineral fertilisers, soils are unable to nourish healthy food crops. When soils starve, so do people.

Hernán Piñera

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