Soil governance

Soil governance refers to the policies, strategies, and the processes of decision-making employed by nation states and local governments regarding the use of soil.[1] Globally, governance of the soil has been limited to an agricultural perspective due to increased food insecurity from the most populated regions on earth. The Global Soil Partnership,[2] GSP, was initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and its members with the hope to improve governance of the limited soil resources of the planet in order to guarantee healthy and productive soils for a food-secure world, as well as support other essential ecosystem services.

Governing the soil requires international and national collaboration between governments, local authorities, industries and citizens to ensure implementation of coherent policies that encourage practices and methodologies that regulate usage of the resource to avoid conflict between users to promote sustainable land management.[1] In the European Union's environmental policies, soil is recognized as a non-renewable resource, but its governance is maintained at a national level, unlike other non-renewable and climate sensitive resources.[3] In the developing world, soil governance is biased towards promoting sustainable agriculture and ensuring food security.

Governance of the soil differs from soil management. Soil management involves practices and techniques used to increase and maintain soil fertility, structure, and carbon sequestration, etc.[4] Soil management techniques are heavily utilized in agriculture, because of the need to regulate the various practices, such as tillage techniques, fertilizer application and crop rotation (among others) by the various stakeholders involved. The need to monitor and avoid the negative effects of agricultural land use such as soil erosion has formed the basis of the discourse and awareness on soil governance,[1] and has also seen the emergence of science and technology as the link between soil management and governance.[5] Soil governance mechanisms are usually encapsulated within the context of land governance, with little focus on urban and industrial soil governance especially in developing countries that have rapid urbanization rates;[6][7] thus, soil governance is highly interlinked with other atmospheric and anthropogenic processes which may contribute to the difficulty in distinguishing it as an entity.

With an aim to make soil data available to all, the Food and Agriculture Organization and UNESCO created a global soil map in 1981 as the main information on the distribution of soil resources. Currently, under the GSP framework, a new global soil information system will be developed.[8]

In 2002, the International Union of Soil Sciences proposed December 5 to be "World Soil Day" to celebrate the importance of soil in our lives. Under the framework of the GSP, the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly in December 2013 designated December 5 as the World Soil Day and declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils with the aim to raise awareness on the importance of soils for ecosystem functions and food security .[9][10]