Monday 13 April 2020


Soil resources are at the center of spurring economic growth across the globe, because in addition to other benefits, soils anchor the well being of natural and human resources that foster strengthened global economies. The soil is so important that it contributes meaningfully to at least six (6) of the seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the achievement of the United Nation’s agenda for sustainable development by the year 2030.

Story Beneath Out Feet: The Soil Is Alive! - Door County Pulse
Source: doorcountypulse
I bet a lot of us have never thought so highly of the soils we trample upon daily and pay little attention to? Well, this article seeks to enlighten readers on the relationship or the place of soils in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

SDG 1 – No Poverty: the first on the United Nations SDG’s is the achievement of a world with no poverty by ending all forms of poverty everywhere including in developing nations of the world. Agriculture owing to its numerous benefits plays a major role in eradicating poverty especially amongst the rural population who depend mainly on agricultural activities for survival and improved livelihoods. Beyond increasing farmer’s income, in eradicating poverty, agriculture lowers food price volatility, increases food supply, creates more job opportunities and contributes to nation building. However, it is also pertinent to note that in agreement with Parikh and James (2012), soils have an underlying role as the foundation for agriculture and agricultural production, which makes soil resources a major role player in eradicating poverty globally.

SDG 2 – Zero Hunger: According to Kopittke, Menzies, Wang, McKenna and Lombi (2019), soils account for 98.8% of the food produced globally.  The Sustainable Development Goal 2 seeks to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. This invariably implies that if soils are the largest medium for sustainable food production across the globe, then they have a direct impact on the achievement of food and nutrition security, considering that soil-less agriculture by itself may not be sufficient to meet up with the increase in global food demands as a result of industrialization and rapidly increasing human population. It is based on this that Soil Scientists make a common chant – “No soil, No food production”.

SDG 3 – Good Health and Well Being: how can we “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” if there is not enough nutritious food to cater to human nutrient needs, or if our degrading environmental resources put us at risk of water pollution, flooding, soil erosion, desertification and so on? Beyond contributing to economic growth through increased agricultural production, healthy soils have a major role to play in the preservation of environmental resources, as they contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation, ensure the availability of clean air by providing a medium for tree growth, storage of carbon, regulate temperature and basically serves as foundation for ecosystem functionalities, thus ensuring that humans across the globe maintain good health and well being.

SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitization: soil is an integral part of the water cycle. According to Sindelar (2015) for Soil Science Society of America, the aforementioned is seen in the soils functionality of capturing water, serving as a natural water reservoir, as well as a natural filter in ensuring that clean water is available for all, at all times, thus contributing to the achievement of SDG 6 which seeks to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. Target 6.3 identifies the need to improve water quality by reducing pollution and this can be achieved through healthy soils, as soils that are polluted invariably lead to polluted water bodies through surface runoffs thus endangering humans and the environment.

SDG 13  - Climate Action: the European Environment Agency in a publication released in 2019, stated that soils and climate change have a conjunct relationship because soils are the second largest Carbon sink, giving soils the opportunity to naturally trap carbon stocks. In addition, soils provide a platform for plant growth in the form of trees and generally, crop covers that ensure that carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and stored. This enables soils to contribute meaningfully to “taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”. In climate change adaptation, healthy soils with high organic matter content have the potentials to hold water in terms of excessive rainfall, thus hindering floods and soil erosion and emphasizing the role of soils in both climate change adaptation and mitigation.

SDG 15 – Life on Land: this goal seeks to “protect, store and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, more sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”. Globally, nutrient imbalance; acidification; organic carbon loss; soil leaching; soil erosion and so on are major threats and causal factors of land degradation (FAO, 2015). This puts land/soil resources at risk in meeting environmental and economic needs (through progressive and sustainable agriculture). This invariably implies that to ensure that there is life on land, soil resources need to be protected and put to efficient use and this can be achieved through the promotion of sustainable soil management practices such as precision nutrient management in the form of soil analysis; application of site specific fertilizer products; ensuring soils are protected through cover cropping and so on. On the other aspects of the goal, soils are required to sustainably manage forests because it is the medium upon which forests are formed. Combating desertification also requires soils for afforestation and reforestation and other methods of cover cropping to serve as wind breaks.

The role of soils in the achievement of these SDGs further emphasizes the important role soils have to play in human existence. This calls for collective actions to ensure that soil resources are effectively managed as earlier stated to ensure that by 2030, we have a world void of poverty, food and nutrition secured that will ensure healthy living with reversed effects of climate change.


European Environment Agency (2019): Soil, Land and Climate Change. An article published on the European Environment Agency website.
Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO (2015): Status of the World’s Soil Resources: Main Report
Kopittke, P. M., Menzies, N. W., Wang, P., McKenna, B. A.&Lombi, E. (2019): Soil and the Intensification of Agriculture for Global Food Security. Environmental International, Vol. 132.
Parikh, S. J. & James, B. R. (2012) Soil: The Foundation of Agriculture. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):2
Sindelar, M. (2015): Soils Overview: Soils Clean and Capture Water. Soil Science Society of America, April, 2015.
Soil Science Society of America (2013): Why is Soil Important?
Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform: Sustainable Development Goals.


Ogbole Esther

'As an agricultural enthusiast, I have long had a passion for contributing my quota to the growth and development of the Nigeria agricultural sector and this birthed an interest in research to see what and how precisely agricultural strategies are implemented in developed economies of the world and how they can be adapted to suit the Nigerian scenario''.


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