UN soil expert urges Africa to increase funding for soil research

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-06 00:10:36|Editor: yan
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NAIROBI, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- A United Nation soil scientist on Tuesday called on African countries to increase their budgetary allocations to purchase soil research equipment that could help improve food productivity.

Daniel Pennock, the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said timely research is required to help protect products on the environment and human health due to the increasing use of plant protection products (PPP).

"The research institutions in the continent need support to conduct relevant research that could help monitor the increasing use of Plant Protection Products (PPP) that is a widespread concern to food productivity," Pennock said during the launch of the assessment report at the ongoing UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) conference in Nairobi.

He said that since 95 percent of food comes from soil, it is important that soils are kept healthy to produce healthy crops that in turn nourish people and animals.

The scientist noted that despite these regulatory safeguards, the introduction of new PPP and the adoption of existing ones continue to cause concerns globally.

He observed that soil management through retention of reactive pesticides within the soil until degradation can occur and minimize surface runoff and leaching so that pesticides are not transported to surface waters.

"In the context of sustainable soil management, soil scientists should be supported with latest equipment to enable them make informed decisions in the countries," he added.

Pennock said it is essential that regulatory systems be based on current and reliable scientific evidence so as to ensure that the continent has food sustainability.

A global assessment ITPS conducted on the impact of PPP on soil functions and soil ecosystems revealed that the world's soils require sustainable management through nutrient cycling, he said.

The assessment was meant to provide global scientific opinion on the effects of PPP on soil functions and biodiversity. The team assessed the impacts of PPP on soil organisms, biodiversity, water quality and soil erosion.

"The scientists and institutions exist to help revamp the soil concerns but, funding towards research work is lacking," he added.

Carlos Martin-Novella, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions confirmed that pesticides and chemicals that were introduced with good intention have persistently remained risky despite the ban.

Martin-Novella said that the convention has developed a number of initiatives that are aimed at managing the chemicals and improving people's health.

These initiatives include exchange of information and development of guidelines to help prevent soil pollution from them.

In the sub-Saharan region more than 180 million people who are relying on depleted soil to grow food are well behind in meeting food security.

The economic loss associated with land degradation in sub Saharan Africa is estimated at 68 billion U.S dollars per year.