The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says it is committed to providing technical assistance towards controlling soil erosion and environmental degradation in the country.
Suffyan Koroma, FAO Representative in Nigeria and ECOWAS, said the organisation was committed to working with government and private organisations to stop land degradation, promote soil conservation, improve soil fertility and productivity, and promote food security.
Koroma gave the assurance at the “Experts Dialogue’’, part of activities to commemorate the World Soil Day (WSD), organised by the Nigerian Institute of Soil Science (NISS), in collaboration with FAO and the Soil Science Society of Nigeria (SSSN).
The theme for 2019 is “Stop soil erosion, save our future”.
He noted that FAO and NISS had a long-standing relationship and a shared commitment to protect Nigeria’s soil, increase agricultural production and ensure a secure future for the coming generation.
He said: “Each time you step on soil, it takes 200 to 400 years to form the ones under your feet. So, do all you can to save some good ones for the next generation, their survival depends on it.
According to Koroma, the ability of households to comfortably feed their children with diverse diets begins with being food secure.
“To achieve this, we must strive to control land degradation, even as the population of Nigeria grows and the need to conserve fertile lands mounts.
“Combating erosion should be our starting point. To achieve this requires thorough evaluation of the various strategies for soil fertility improvement and soil conservation techniques in the country.
“To reduce erosion rates on farmlands, reliable and proven soil conservation technologies must be adopted, and these include ridge planting, no-till cultivation, crop rotation, mulches, living mulches, agro-forestry, terracing, contour planting, cover cropping and installation of windbreaks.
“I implore all organisations to work towards including soil erosion management and control in future project plans with specific budget lines.
“We must work to ensure that people have safe and nutritious food without endangering essential ecosystems services,” he said.
He further noted that the WSD celebration was a reminder of the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and a vital contributor to human survival.
“Stop Soil Erosion, Save Our Future” reminds us of the non-renewability of soil and the need to preserve it for a sustainable future, as its loss or degradation is not recoverable in a lifetime.
“Every five seconds, the equivalent of a soccer pitch is eroded globally, affecting soil fertility, as well as global food security and safety. As the world population expands, the need for enhanced awareness to tackle the concern is most desired.
“In Nigeria, 70 per cent of land is used for agricultural activities. Land serves as source of water and foster agro-forestry, as well as non agro-forestry exploration.
“However, low productivity due to degradation, deforestation, erosion, inappropriate agricultural practices, overgrazing and weak institutions is experienced.
“Nigeria has the highest rate of deforestation of primary forest in Africa with annual losses estimated at 11.1 per cent between 2000 and 2008.
“Desertification in the northern part of Nigeria is advancing consistently at the rate of 0.6 kilometre per annum with as much as 351,000sq km regarded as potential desertification area,” he said.
The FAO official said several studies had demonstrated that the soil removed by either water or wind erosion is 1.3 to five times richer in organic matter than the soil left behind.
“This is not good for our mission to achieving food security in Nigeria.”
Koroma said based on this year’s theme, FAO would raise awareness on the importance of sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being.
According to him, this will be through encouraging people to engage in activities that will improve soil; and mobilising political will as well as resources to raise soil profiles.
By Felicia Imohimi