Grounding the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Options for the protection of our precious soil and land resources

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Links to soil and land resources can be found throughout the SDGs. Achieving the agenda as a package – particularly the goals and targets related to poverty eradication, food security, health, gender, water, energy, cities, climate change, and the protection of
terrestrial ecosystems – will depend greatly on soil and land resources.

Soils and land provide the basis for more than 95 % of the food produced in the world and support the livelihoods of agricultural workers (one in three of all workers, and more than two-thirds of the entire workforce of Sub-Saharan Africa). In addition, soils hold one of the largest carbon pools on Earth and host a large pool of biodiversity.

These resources are scarce and are also in jeopardy. Nearly one-quarter (24 %) of the world’s land area is affected by degradation, thereby impacting 1.5 billion people worldwide. We are losing 24 billion tonnes of topsoil every year to wind and water erosion. Due to global demographic changes, cropland per capita has fallen by more than half since 1960.

Soil and land degradation, and poor soil fertility in particular, is widely accepted as the most critical factor in limiting agricultural production in Sub-Saharan Africa.  As increasing – and sometimes competing – demands continue to be placed on soil and land resources, there are concerns about their future sustainability.

The following graphic shows the inclusion of soils and land in the proposed SDGs. It examines the goals to which soil and land resources will contribute, thereby indicating where increased pressure can be expected. The graphic further depicts which fundamental soil and land services must be guaranteed to ensure that these resources can support delivery of the SDGs.

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