Equivalent of one football field of earth erodes every five seconds, FAO warns

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The equivalent of one football field of earth erodes every five seconds, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on Wednesday, in an effort to protect soil and help farmers globally.

The FAO said that 90 percent of the planet’s topsoil will be at risk by 2050, adding that it would take around a thousand years to create just a few centimeters of topsoil and help land restoration.

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The UN agency called for more action by countries and partners who signed up to its Global Soil Partnership over the past decade. Established in 2012, the GSP is a globally recognized mechanism to promote sustainable soil management and governance to guarantee productive soils to ensure food security, climate change adaption and sustainable development.

This is a particularly pressing issue given the worsening state of food security across the world and the fact that the world relies on soil for 95 percent of the food that is consumed.

Without change, degrading soils will hamper ecosystems across the world and put food security at an even greater risk, the UN agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

The FAO has called on civilians, governments and international institutions to take grater action to monitor and care for soil.

The GSP has partnered with farmers and local governments to enhance soil health, and has a range of initiatives to address climate change-related challenges, to recarbonize soil, and improve the amount of organic matter in soil, among others.

Costa Rica and Mexico have signed up for these pilot schemes and trained farmers in the use of best practices which include using so-called “cover crops” that prevent erosion, crop rotation and tree planting.

The GSP has also expanded data collection in the form of digital soil mapping, offering a new way to inform policymakers of relevant soil conditions and empower them to make informed decisions on managing soil degradation.

While the GSP’s work represents the efforts of mostly non-state partners, state policymakers are necessary actors in implementing a sustainable soil policy, FAO said, calling for urgent government action.

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