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The Multi-faced Role of Soil in the Near East and North Africa

The Global Soil Partnership (GSP) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has published the first in a series of region-specific policy briefs to support harmonized soil management approaches and contribute towards achieving the SDGs.

Titled, ‘The Multi-faced Role of Soil in the Near East and North Africa,’ the brief was launched on 31 March 2019, during the Near East and North Africa (NENA) Land and Water Days. Policy brief. The world’s soils are rapidly deteriorating due to soil erosion, nutrient depletion, loss of soil organic carbon, soil sealing and other threats, but this trend can be reversed provided countries take the lead in promoting sustainable management practices and the use of appropriate technologies

Its main objective is to raise awareness on the added value of soil resources and trigger policy action to promote and implement sustainable soil management (SSM) for enhanced food security and nutrition, sustainable water management, climate change mitigation and adaptation and poverty reduction in the NENA region.

The publication consolidates regional and country-specific data from a number of sources to analyze the close links between soil health and food security and nutrition, water scarcity, climate change mitigation and adaptation and involuntary migration.

Soil degradation in NENA is driven by multiple and complex variables; threatening food security and water availability, increasing social economic inequality and depleting ecosystems, particularly through desertification. For this reason, it is fundamental that inclusive agricultural/environmental policies which include SSM fit within a broader natural resource management agenda, one that integrates water security, climate change adaptation and domestic crop production priorities.

Among notable findings for the region, the brief cites:

  • an estimated loss of USD 9 billion per year from land degradation;
  • worst-case scenario projections of a 10-20% reduction in crop yields by 2050; and
  • high migration rates from non-conflict zone countries linked to environmental resource depletion or degradation, and
  • food price shocks and shortages.

The brief notes that the co-benefits arising from effective and sustainable management of soil resources are cross-cutting and directly related to climate change and food security priorities. It outlines the link between healthy soils with at least nine SDGs: SDG 1 (no poverty); SDG 2 (zero hunger); SDG 3 (good health and well-being); SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation); SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth); SDG 13 (climate action); SDG 14 (life below water); SDG 15 (life on land); and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals).

The policy brief is the first of four planned publications being developed by the GSP to provide policy makers in all regions with evidence-based recommendations to support the promotion of SSM and healthy soils (IISD)

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