Soil and food scarcity

The visit of Sadhguru, in the company of Soca star Machel Montano, has given a welcome boost to a subject that does tend to be mentioned, much less dominate, our headlines even though food scarcity and food security frequently do: soil. India born and based Sadhguru has used the world-wide platform afforded by his Isha Foundation since the new millennium to raise awareness to the need to “SaveSoil” if we are to save the world from catastrophic hunger within a few decades.
When you do think about it, we should all appreciate the critical importance of soil to food production since both the plant and animal source of foods depend on soil as the beginning of the food chain. But we literally “walk all over it”, oblivious to its importance. From our primary school social studies classes, we are taught that soil is that thin covering of the earth’s crust that was formed over the eons through weathering of the original rocks. But that weathering would have only produced one type of soil – sand. It was with the introduction of life on our planet that the soil as we know it was produced by living organisms with organic materials formed by unicellular bacteria to earthworms.
Over the past few decades, we have been gradually made aware of the effect of climate change on the temperature of the atmosphere due to its increased CO2. But there has been a parallel process of “desertification” that has been caused by not just the lack of water, whether from falling water tables as in California or India due to irrigation demands, but to the death of the microscopic organisms that feed on the organic matter in soil and provide nutrients for plants. These soils provide anchorage for the plants that provide our foods.
In a presentation to the UN Energy Assembly (UNEA) a member of Isha Foundation had provided the rationale for their SaveSoil initiative. “Soil degradation is a worldwide phenomenon. 62% of Indian soil is turning to sand. Africa could lose two-thirds of its arable lands by 2030; the US has already lost 50% of its top soil, Europe has 75% of its soil with insufficient organic content.” Experts have warned that at current rates of soil degradation, 90% of earth’s soil could be degraded by 2050.
Highlighting the urgent need to address a root cause of food and water scarcity, climate change, biodiversity loss, the representative said all these challenges are related to what he termed the “meta problem” – soil degradation. He said that human activity has “brought this life-making material to the verge of extinction” and detailed his organization’s efforts to address the challenge. “We seek to educate and empower citizens across all countries of the world and we are working with governments to initiate policy-driven action to revitalize soil.”
The trip by Sadhguru to Guyana and the Caribbean is part of the SaveSoil Movement’s aims to reach 3.5 billion people globally with its message which includes working with governments across the world to bring the focus to the urgent need to Save Soil. As part of the Movement Sadhguru will travel 30,000 km across 27 countries in 100 days to raise awareness and build consensus for urgent policy action to address soil extinction.
From our Guyanese perspective, many may be complacent because more than 80% of our country is covered by forests while our coastland is composed of rich alluvial soil brought down from our rivers and also by the Atlantic from the Amazon. But our forest soil is very thin, especially in our mountainous regions, having been formed generally from decaying plant matter through the eons. Haiti is an example of the rapid deforestation and desertification that can occur unless we are careful with our land use.
The PPP government had taken a lead in Climate Change initiatives with our Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) as far back as 2009 and the initiatives proposed by the SaveSoil Movement complement the revamped Climate Change programme of the government. SaveSoil!