Soil erosion removes nutrients and organic matter, sometimes in a very short time period. Thus, the consequences of soil erosion are more tangible compared to other forms of soil degradation.
However, the decline in soil organic matter, loss of soil structure and biodiversity, soil pollution and desertification, these consequences of soil degradation are likewise severe but not directly associated with immediate nutrient losses.
What is the soil’s value?
In a recent BCG study, external environmental costs in German agriculture was one of the main points. The intensive use of soils has its price: 0.9 billion EUR in Germany based on the European soil strategy. Even though this price sounds high, BCG evaluates it as too low. In addition, this soil value was just calculated by the repair costs of erosion losses. But if we really value the degradation of soils, the costs are a lot higher, given the above-mentioned factors.
Not taking care of our soils initiate negative feedback loops, which are not only costly for our environment but also threaten our food security.
Total value of the soil
Monetization of negative and positive impacts is a developing discipline. It helps to address the importance of natural capital and adds a monetary unit for reasons of comparability. The total value healthy soils bring to food production was & is known by many farmers globally. But somehow, see e.g. the current Western European discussion with farmers on nitrate, these insights seemed to have become partly out of sight.
This blog brings some pioneers back in sight; a blog spotlighting concrete actions at farmers’ level to stop soil erosion.
Last year’s first Alternative Noble Prize Bearer Yacouba Sawadogo – a farmer from Burkina Faso – is known as “The man who stopped the desert”. In a semi-arid climate, he follows a very successful method for protecting young plants from drought and wind erosion. He creates ‘mini dunes’ – small soil wall pits against prevailing wind direction and enriched with compost for the seeds. This attracts termites which also add organic material to the soil resulting in a higher water-holding capacity and more yield.
Second last year’s Alternative Nobel Prize Bearer Tony Rinaudo – also known as ‘The man who greens the desert’ – works with a similarly effective method. He uses the roots of old cut trees to make farming possible again in degraded desert lands. The old tree roots are still there and sprout. If the farmers don’t cut the tree sprouts off but prune it, then new small trees can keep the soil together, protect against erosion and allow drought-resistant farming.
“A profitable farm was less about how much the farmer grew and more about how they treated their soil", is the reflection of the famous soil professor and author David R. Montgomery. Regenerative Agriculture is what he advocates, a set of techniques to improve soil health and thus enhance the soil’s value. Think in particular about the contribution soil does in the climate change discussion by sequestering carbon
Frontrunners of enhancing soil’s value
Measures enhancing the soil’s value are always of first importance, not just on World Soil Day. These are often best practices, described in our previous blog. Many pioneers and frontrunners in best practices and regenerative agriculture do work continuously on the realization of better farming for enhancing the soil’s value. And we know many of them will be present on the world’s leading trade fair for organic food, the Biofach 2020 (coming February) as a main topic there will be the soil and the positive impacts of organic farming on its value.
The soil’s value is enormous, given the vital role soils play in our daily lives. World Soil Day is an impetus to realize this; on December 5th, and on the other days throughout the year.
Monetization of soil’s value is a huge task; Soil & More Impacts is on this for many years. And for good reasons, as monetization of natural capital brings the importance of soil from the farmers’ rubber boots on the desk in the boardroom of food companies. This is a work in progress, but more and more companies are touching the ground on this point.
And therefore, we are happy that also frontrunning farmers, people with boots on the soil, show methods to conserve soils and build-up that actual value.
Soil & More Impacts – Accountable by Nature