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Ambassador report

Ambassador report

[Ambassador report] Soil Chronicles Part 2

by Rosa Domingos | 07-12-2018 22:05 Comments 3 Comments recommendations 0 recommendations

In the last report on “Soil Chronicles Part 1”, I mentioned what soil is and what comprises it, I also mentioned their function in the ecosystem, in this report, I would like to delve further into what is soil degradation and the causes of it. Lastly I would like to mention a few countries that have seriously have adverse land degradation.

Soil is the Earth’s fragile skin that anchors all life on Earth. It is comprised of countless species that create a dynamic and complex ecosystem and is among the most precious resources to humans. To date, about half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years. In addition to erosion, soil quality is affected just by agriculture, but by other aspects overgrazing, waste spillages, compaction, loss of soil structure, nutrient degradation, and soil salinity. These are very real and at times severe issues (Soil Erosion and Land Degradation, n/a).

The effects of soil erosion go beyond the loss of fertile land. It has led to increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers, clogging these waterways and causing declines in fish and other species. And degraded lands are also often less able to hold onto water, which can worsen flooding (Soil Erosion and Land Degradation, n/a).

So let’s get to the first topic of the day…

What is soil degradation?

Soil degradation is the decline in soil condition caused by its improper use or poor management, usually for agricultural, industrial or urban sectors. It is a serious environmental problem, where decline in soil quality is seen physically, chemically and biologically. It can be the loss of organic matter, decline in soil fertility, and structural condition, erosion, adverse changes in salinity, acidity or alkalinity, and the effects of toxic chemicals, pollutants or excessive flooding (Soil degradation, 2018).

Soil erosion in Sub-Saharan Africa (Watts, 2017).

Unsustainable land use, including overgrazing, also reduces the quality of soil. Utilisation of crop residues for fuel and other uses hinders the natural processes of land rejuvenation and disturbs the sustainability of land resources (Soil degradation, 2018).

Land degradation can cause malnutrition through reduced food productivity, particularly among children under five years of age. It also contributes to desertification, impaired water supply, poor sanitation conditions and reduced water quality. The lack of waste disposal systems leading to soil degradation also leads to the proliferation of disease vectors and generates other public health concerns. Land degradation can also cause erosion and landslides (Soil degradation, 2018).

How Soil has deteriorated over the years.

Consequences of land degradation include reduced productivity, farmer migration, food insecurity, ecosystem failure, and biodiversity decline.
Prior to the release of the report (Land degradation on the rise) , U.N. Environment Program-funded research had estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of the world's 1.5 billion hectares of cropland suffered from some level of degradation. Now, using satellite imagery for the years between 1981 and 2003, the FAO researchers estimate that 24 percent of all land surface area is depleted (Block,n/a).

Gully erosion(Watts, 2017).

Cropland occupies only 12 percent of global land area, but it accounted for 20 percent of the land considered degraded. When this occurs, the poor often struggle to raise enough money for the fertilizers that could avoid reduced yields (Watts, 2017).

Farming methods are generally the cause for degradation. Excessive tillage and removal of vegetation often encourage soil erosion by exposing the soil to rain and wind. Overgrazing by cattle and the build-up of salt on irrigated land are major contributors, as well (MAJOR RISKS RESULTING FROM HUMAN ACTIVITIES, n/a).

Examples of countries

Degradation has historically been considered a problem of tropical, developing nations; Sub-Saharan Africa is still most severely affected. The region contains 13 percent of global degraded area, while nations such as Swaziland are almost entirely located on degraded soil. The degradation that has occurred over the past 23 years, however, mostly affects new areas. According to the report, released the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, termed “Land degradation on the rise”, nations such as China, Argentina, and South Africa are now facing greater problems than before (Block,n/a).



Of the 80 countries substantially affected by land degradation, 36 are situated in Africa. In Lesotho, for example, over 100 km2 (approximately 2% of the total land area) has been degraded due to overgrazing and incorrect farming practices, as well as mismanagement of rangeland and residues from chemicals/pesticides (MAJOR RISKS RESULTING FROM HUMAN ACTIVITIES, n/a).

A 1994 UN Convention to Combat Desertification, signed by 191 nations, agreed to promote sustainable development in affected areas. But funding has so far been lacking. 

Barriers made from local vegetation are erected to halt the spread of sand dunes. Desertification and other forms of land degradation now affect nearly a quarter of the world’s land resources (Watts, 2017).

It is clear that land soil degradation is taking hold of many nations, Africa being the worst hit continent. And what is sad in the midst of all this is that constant passiveness and absences of intervention by signatory nations have stalled progress on land degradation (Block,n/a).


On the third and final segment of Soil Chronicles, I will be taking alot at all the innovative and ground breaking (see what I did there? ‘ground’ and ‘breaking’…Hehe) ideas and projects that have been solely focused on soil restoration and sustainable use of soil in the agricultural and industrial, urban and rural sectors…

See you guys there!

Reference list:

Block,. B. N/a. Land Degradation Worse Than Previously Reported. [Online]. Available: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5820. N/a. Accessed: Dec 7, 2018.

MAJOR RISKS RESULTING FROM HUMAN ACTIVITIES,. N/a. [Online]. Available:http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/1
0665/177155/Synt_R_5.pdfsequence=5&isAllowed=y. N/a. Accessed: Dec 7, 2018.

Watts,. J. 2017. Third of Earth's soil is acutely degraded due to agriculture. [Online]. Available:https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/12/third-of-earths-soil-acutely-degraded-due-to-agriculture-study. Sep 12, 2017. Accessed: Dec 7, 2018.

Soil Degradation,. N/a. [Online]. Available: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/land-and-soil/soil-degradation. N/a. Accessed: Dec 7, 2018.

Soil Erosion and Degradation. N/a. [Online]. Available: https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/soil-erosion-and-degradation. N/a. Accessed: Dec 7, 2018. 


Kushal Naharki

  • Kushal Naharki says :
    Thank for such as wonderful report @Rosa. Now my expectation from third part of the report has geared up to the next level.
    Posted 14-12-2018 00:02

Gyeongrin mentor

  • Gyeongrin mentor says :
    Hello Rosa!

    Soil Chronicles Part 1 was SO awesome and I was waiting for the new one. Part 2 is also so great. Thank you for sharing this amazing report.

    Soil degradation is surely a important issue. It was my first time to know the present condition of soil degradation all over the world. Soil may be a common natural object, but it is important as the other fundamental resources. Also is so related to human life. Soil pollution is different from other pollution. It is difficult to redintegrate the contaminated land. Restoring soil pollution using microorganism is now developing, but it costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time. I hope we can prevent soil pollution personally and systematically.

    Thank you for your report!
    Posted 10-12-2018 15:47

Deepak  Subedi

  • Deepak Subedi says :
    Hello Rosa, Namaste
    I hope you are fit, fine and healthy

    Why ? How ? You always write such a mesmerising reports.
    Part one was super and this is excellent.
    Soil degradation is one of the serious problems. Soil fertility and texture play great role for human life, without soil we cannot imagine our life.
    I believe various chemical such as insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, plastic Pollution is greatly deterioting soil.
    We must stop plastic Pollution and go organic farming.

    Thank you so much for such a great and beautiful report :)

    Posted 07-12-2018 22:54

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