The United Nations through the Food and Agriculture Organization designated December 5th as the International Day of Soils.
This year World Soil Day will be celebrated under the theme, “Be the solution to soil pollution.” This is done in order to focus attention on the importance of soil to the existence of mankind. Soil is the upper part of the earth’s surface; this is where plants are grown to sustain lives.
Below this lies the rocks from which soils are made. However, it takes thousands or even millions of years for rocks to be converted into soil but it can be lost within only a few hundred years. This means that every effort must be made to preserve what is available. Soil is made up of two main layers, top soil and sub soil.
The top soil is usually the most fertile part of the soil and normally contains the highest content of organic matter. We often take soil for granted because it is found almost everywhere even under the sea. Though it is always touted that SVG has some of the best soils in the world, this can quickly be erased by soil erosion and pollution.
Although soil erosion is a naturally occurring process that affects all landforms, it can be accelerated by bad farming practices and deforestation. In St Vincent and the Grenadines, soil erosion is very evident by the brown color of the rivers and the sea during and after heavy rainfall.
However, much of this can be prevented if serious attention is paid to the management of soils. Many of our soils are on hillsides and are highly susceptible to erosion, but if properly managed, erosion can be kept to a minimum. To prevent soil erosion we can practice contour farming, prevent farming on very steep slopes, plant vegetation (vetiver grass or trees) to stabilize slopes and prevent deforestation.
Soil pollution refers to the existence of toxic chemicals (pollutants or contaminants) in soil in high enough concentrations to present a risk to human health and/or the ecosystem. In cases where contaminants occur naturally in the soil, even when their levels are not high enough to pose a risk, it is still acknowledged that soil pollution occurs if the levels of the contaminants in soil exceed the levels that should naturally be present.
We can help to prevent soil pollution by doing the following: Promoting the use of bio fertilizers and bio pesticides, reducing toxic waste and paying attention to how we use and dispose pesticides.
Products such as engine oil and household products are also considered as soil pollutants. We can positively contribute to recycling waste by practicing composting, using reusable containers such as glass and promoting the use of cotton bags to help prevent deforestation.
Soil is very important to the existence of mankind. However, erosion and pollution can quickly degrade our soils.
We must continuously practice our soil conservation as well as protecting our soils from pollutants so that we can adequately sustain our ecosystems for generations to come.