What is climate-smart agriculture?
Healthy soil is fundamental: To food security, ecosystems and life. Soils help feed a global population that has increased to 7.3 billion people. Healthy soils provide a variety of vital ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, water regulation, flood protection, and habitats for biodiversity. Soil is also a huge component of the global carbon cycle. It holds more carbon than vegetation and accounts for 80% of the world’s terrestrial carbon stock.
Conventional farming practices, as well as overuse and cultivation of unsuitable land, deplete soil resources, cause land degradation and accelerate soil erosion. The forests that protect soil are disappearing—13 million hectares of forest are cut down annually and an estimated 75% of the world’s primary forest has been cleared. Two billion hectares of land have become profoundly degraded in the last 60 years, while a further 12 million hectares are being degraded annually.
Land degradation affects approximately 1.5 billion people. Smallholder farmers suffer the most because poor soil conditions, climate and weather variability, land tenure insecurity, and limited access to markets pressure them to make short-term trade-offs that compromise long-term gains. Soil degradation costs $70 per person each year, totaling $490 billion, excluding the indirect impacts of poor soils such as reduced water supply and declining crop yields, which in turn increases poverty, food insecurity and conflicts. Land degradation also leads to increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—soil erosion releases 0.8–1.2 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere each year.