Last updated February 26, 2019

Article Highlights: 

  • Present condition of global food demand
  • Future of food and soil health.
  • Land distribution
  • Soil: Pollution and Erosion
  • .Case Study

According to the report of the United Nations World Population Prospects The 2015 Revision, the world has gained 1 billion more people in the span of last 12 years, making the world population 7.3 billion in mid-2015. However, the population increase rate has decreased in recent decades which is an indicator of slow population growth. The United Nations estimates that the planet may have 8.5 billion people within 2030, 9.7 billion people in 2050, and 11.2 billion humans by 2100. Africa and Asia will be responsible for the majority of population growth in the near future. Countries like India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh accounts the world’s half population. The quality of living habits and standard expected to increase in near future in other developing and poorest countries. This will lead to a significant amount of worldwide demands of supplements like milk, protein, cereals, meat, drinks, vegetables will drive food demand crazy. 

worldwide population growth and future prediction
worldwide population growth and future prediction

Agriculture patterns need to be changed to meet worldwide food demand. A sharp increase in crop production requires an increase in productive agriculture land, use of available agricultural lands by use of modern irrigation model, new irrigation projects, use of best fertilizers and use of science and innovations in agriculture. Meanwhile, the concern is how to meet worldwide food demand by current slow rate. Climate change is making every day challenging for local farmers to produce enough food for all people. Rising global average temperature, shifting weather pattern, and water scarcity is problems challenges to solve for climate scientists and biologists to develop environment-friendly sustainable crops. Researchers have strongly agreed that climate change plays a vital role for water scarcity, global temperature increase which will be expected to impact major productive lands close to the Equator. For example, Mato Grosso, Brazilian state will produce an 18% to 23% less soy and corn by 2050, due to climate change.Although many reports have highlighted the need of major reformation in agriculture patterns, responsible stakeholders (farmers, government, non-profit organizations, private funding, modern research) should function together for food sustainability and soil health. Researchers also fear that how the world can produce enough food for 9.3 billion people by 2050, while simultaneously minimizing global environmental impacts. Dependency on land is increasing every day. The increase in food production means the more use of land. Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations (FAO) estimates that 95% of food world consumes is directly or indirectly produced on our soils.

Soil health and Food safety go together.

A journey of health food starts with healthy soils. Soils are a key foundation for food security and mitigating the effects of climate change. It will not be a controversy if I said the foundation of life on earth is soil. Soils are the storage room for living organisms, plants, animals, and people, soils provide us every elements, components, and ecology we need to survive. FAO has initiated healthy soil as a basis for healthy food. We can maintain soil’s health from pollution, erosion, chemicals, pesticides, etc. The process of maintaining soils health by a sustainable approach to resources and use of modern science to keep soil healthy and productive is called soil health management.

The soil is the foundation of life on earth. It is biologically active porous media found on the upper layer of the earth crust. The soil is a resource bank for nutrients, water, air, and microbes, without these elements life on earth would be impossible. The soil is so important that it filters rainwater to fresh water by absorbing them and pumping water into underground aquifers (flowing layer of pure drinking water deep under our feet). Moreover, the soil is recycling center for wastes produced by humans, animals, dead plants, etc. soil breakdowns organic waste into nutrients, carbon and decomposes rotten raw with the help of microbes to balance the ecosystem. Formation of soil on large scale takes the process of a long time period. It evolved through weathering of rocks. The variation like biological, climatic environment, geologic and topographic factors can influence the soil formation process. Since soils, muds or land we see usually ordinary, there is a lack of awareness and practical necessity of soil management. Because the formation of the soil is a long process, we need to put serious concerns on soil health. After industrial revolutions, every aspect of nature and biodiversity is affected by human activity. The extensive use of chemicals (pesticides & fertilizers), land pollutions, erosions, urbanizations causing extreme pressure on soils. Moreover, with those challenges, climate change is a big equation to solve for healthy soil and food security.

Worldwide Land distribution Summary

In aspects of agricultural purpose Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations (FAO and) World Bank has divided the land into Arable land and non-arable land. Arable land includes the land under temporary agricultural products. However, there is more cultivatable land that has the potential for large food production. Non – arable land includes land that has woody vegetation like coffee, rubber, nuts, grazing area, natural grasslands, and meadows.  These lands are very vulnerable to climate change and crop production mostly depends on favorable weather. On the other hand, hard geography, irrigation problems, drainage, climate, and excessive wetness makes non-arable land difficult for farming. According to the FAO, In 2013, only 1407 million hectors land is arable out of 4924 million hectors used for agriculture.

Arable land distribution in world per capital.
Arable land distribution in world per capital

Soil health management is vital for food security


Soil health is directly connected with human health and health of all organism on the planet. Healthy soils are a key factor for sustainable development and food security, Modern agriculture pattern, industrialization, mining, deforestation, urbanization, climate change has seriously affected soil health. Wastes disposed into land makes soil polluted, Soil pollution is invisible and devastating to the environment, river basin, water ecology and has significant impacts for all forms of life on the planet. Soil pollution is contamination of toxic chemicals in soil, high enough amount to pose risk on human health and every ecosystem. Source of contamination can be human or natural. Soil pollution is the process of chain reaction on ecosystems which can destroy biodiversity, soil nutrients, microorganisms, underground water, plants, animals and human health. Soils contain a large number of vital components of life. For example, metals, salts proteins, carbons, water, DNA, microbes, and other essentials life components, these compounds are called contaminants. When any particle, chemical, compounds are added to the natural soil properties it is called soil pollution. Soil pollution can occur naturally and anthropogenic (man-made). 

Natural contamination of soil is rare case and result of an excessive amount of natural accumulation of one chemical for example deposition of chlorine in sewer leaks. This combination of compounds can produce poisons compounds like chloroform. Additionally, human influence soil pollution is responsible for heavy contaminations of soil. The deadly elements like Lead (Pb), Mercury (Hg), Copper (Cu), Nickel (Ni), Zinc (ZN), Arsenic (As) has serious concerns on human health and ecological health. The leakage of petroleum products on arable land and ocean, wastes (everything you can think of), pesticides, plastics, every chemical we use will end up in our land and water. Furthermore, poor landfill management, leakage, mining, modern agriculture, and industrialization have put serious pressure on land. For example, every day 1.7 billion Coca-Cola products served around the world. As every industrial and human waste end up in the landfill, atmosphere soils, and water, thousands of chemicals produced on industrial purpose are introduced into the soil without awareness or lack of responsibility.  Sewage and wastewater of megacity, pesticides, fertilizers, mining residue, landfill management, plastic are paving the way for harmful chemicals to enter our food chains which will result from a tremendous impact on ecology and human health and makes our life difficult. Another way we want to enjoy a good life.


Human greed has reached the supreme height. Human has overused every natural resource and taken for granted. Deforestation, urbanizations, agriculture practice, large industrial projects, mining, and various human activities are responsible for the faster rate of soil year. Every rainy season our fertile soils begin a long journey to the ocean due to rain. The Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations (FAO) states that about 33 percent of all soils are degraded by erosion and pollution. Like you soil has a resistance against pollutant which is called buffering capacity.
Human activities have increased 10-40 percent of soil erosion as per FAO. Soil erosion media are air, water, snow, human cause, etc. On the other hand, climate factors like amount of rainfall, wind speed, geographical area, soil structure, and composition are other factors that are influencing soil erosion. Soil erosion is a slow process but human activities like agriculture practice, irrigation, commercial use of land, deforestation mostly contributes around 24 billion tons of topsoil erosion swept away every year. Topsoil is fertile soil rich with organic compounds, nutrients, water, and environment to grow our food. Due to erosion, about 7.6 million tons less cereal produced annually which could go up to 253 million tons of cereals by 2050 as well as 1.5 million sq. km. of arable land (size of India). It means immediate action to reduce soil erosion and pollution to meet global food demand and soil health quality.

Case Study: How industries can impact landscape, soils, and ecosystems?

The Ok Tedi Mine, Papua New Guinea

The use of copper metal in human history dated back to 10000 years ago in the Middle East. 3000 years ago, Native Americans used ornaments and made tools for their survival and protection from copper. Copper is available in large solid state which is handy and useful compared to the other metals like gold, silver, iron so people are quick to explore underground storage of copper for commercial mining.

The Ok Tedi Mine, Papua New Guinea is one of the super large copper mines in the world. More than 16.8 million metric tons of copper ore (raw metal, materials from earth) extracted to melt to produce 4.6 million metric tons of copper, 12.6 million ounces of gold, and 30.2 ounces of silver between 1987-2016. (Environmental Anthropology, From Pigs to Policies, 3rd edition, Patricia K.). For these values of metals, 60 billion metric tons of rocks were moved which will impact on rainforests, land, and environments. The erosion is a big problem for Ok Tedi river which flows with mud and rocks particles of mines.  The Ok Tedi is a tributary river of Fly River. Fly River is one of the large rivers in this tropical region. With a contribution of Ok Tedi mines and heavy rainfall, soil runoff (erosion) rate is highest in the world.

Papua New Guinea government agreed to proceed without the dam despite several issues and concerns. The tailing dam would retain the mining waste from river systems limiting environmental damage in upper Ok Tedi region. It is reported that significant effects of erosion were seen in banana gardens of Middle Fly canoe, 300 miles downstream, furthermore, Fly River is the shelter for thousands of Australian birds- tall egrets, glossy ibis, etc. and the impact of mining and erosion is significant to these ecosystems. The first big sign of environmental impact was a spill of cyanide in Ok Tedi River, June 1984. The chemical used in gold extraction spilled into river poisoning fish, crocodiles and other water ecology and seen floating at the Ok Tedi downstream. With continued pressure in the environment by a mining company in later years made the large area of forest and garden, dry rock covered ground and River Ok Tedi is biologically dead with copper and other mining chemicals. In 2013, Middle Fry River mine chemical waste drainage formed an acid sulfide in a river which risks thousands of river ecosystems.

How to conserve soils?

When buffering capacity of soil exceeds by a high level of contamination, harmful particles will enter the food chain. Large megacity is producing mountains of garbage every day that end up in landfills and soil. Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations (FAO) estimates 80 % of these wastes could be recycled. Planet Earth 🌎 is like no other. This planet sustains us👨‍👩‍👧‍👧, every creature and everything we share with it. But more than that, It 🌏 inspires us to sustain us in it. Up until now, many of us, have taken it for granted🙏. But it’s not too late ⏱️ to protect the source of our creativity and humbleness.  This planet is suffocating because of our increasing desire for fast fashion, 👗👚👘🧦🧤 making it one of the world’s biggest polluters.

The Copenhagen Fashion Summit reported that fashion is responsible for 92 million tons of solid waste 🗑️🚮dumped in landfills each year and it is also the 2nd-biggest consumer of water, producing 20% of wastewater while also generates more greenhouse gas than all international flights and post shipping combined. Each year over 100 billion items of clothing are produced globally, using thousands of different chemicals. Yet 3 out of 5 clothing items 👗👟👞👠🧤 end up in the landfill within 12 months. Moreover, Super Business intuition is more responsible for billions of tons of waste every year. Soil pollution and erosion will eventually lead more pollutions, chemicals, and trash to our soils and can destroy the whole story of living things.

We can change the soil management practice for sustainable food and soil future. Reduce, reuse and recycle is life formula for and a master key to sustainable living. Reducing the amount of waste means the less amount of contaminations in the soil. Big brands need to start an innovative project of waste management that follows sustainability to manage soil pollution and soil health. For example, the no-waste economy must be applied to fashion, just as it is in foods to reduce deforestation, wastewater, chemicals, and overall pollution. To tackle soil erosion, we must plant more trees, protect forests, landscapes, gardening, and love nature. Use of available resource of knowledge and experience, the scientific recommended method of landscape management, bio-engineering will certainly help to stop soil erosion. The blend of modern agriculture methods and tactical use of traditional agricultural practice could prove the key for soil conservations. Crop rotation, modern irrigation systems, sustainable use of fertilizers and chemicals, promotion of the organic product, planting more tree are only alternative to conserve our remaining soil.

How to obtain food security?

As each tiktok sound that needle of the clock makes reminds the urgency of fulfilling the food demand of the world which becomes more complex by the mix up of climate change issues. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) publish research which states that to fulfill human demand by 2030, we need 50 percent more energy, 30% more freshwater, 50% more food on a global scale. The mix-up of climate change, growing populations, and other human-induced factors made food security problems more terrific, challenging, and complex. Climate change is a reality and its impact on food production, weather patterns, the ecological balance remains the main challenge to win for food security and environmental health. Feeding 9.3 billion people will be only possible if all people have easy (physical and economic) access to enough nutrients and a balance dietary food needs at any time for an active healthy life, all over the world. Food security is determined by the availability of land, resources, financial access and proper utilization of food land and resources. World Bank and FAO estimate almost 1 billion people face hunger through lack of macronutrients in the world.  Additional 1 billion people manage to survive with a lack of enough food and nutrients, leading to both adverse health and progress outcomes.

Africans countries and Asian countries will be the areas most affected by soil pollution and food scarcity as a result of excessive use of pesticides, fertilizers, chemicals to produce more crops, in long time frame these chemicals will end up with ocean cycle to make a problem worse. However, areas with large modern agriculture patterns are likely to suffer crop epidemics, extreme weather, water shortage, erosion and other adverse effects of climate change putting food security in danger. The decrease in food production means the decrease in economic growth FAO predicted that Africa lost 127 billion of GDP in 2016 due to soil pollutions. World Bank, FAO, governments and responsible stakeholders are working to neutralize the effects of soil pollutions and erosion to make sure nobody dies due to hunger. The promotion of local and sustainable farming, the use of modern science and technology will be crucial for food security.  Use of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides in a correct way certainly helps to grow more food. Use of modern machinery and model in agriculture to reduce the cost of human resources is vital for food security.

The first goal of Millennium development goal (MDG) is to eradicate hunger and poverty form the world.  This goal is simple as seems but becomes complex in a practical phase. To meet the first goal of MDG research panel effectively paired other MDG goals with the first goal. The relationship between food security outcomes and the environment is composite. Food safety is not only dependable on human efforts but greatly drives the fact of loss of ecological resources. Changes in the pattern of land use, vegetation cover, agricultural efforts, and land management practices are the key driver of food security and soil conservation. Use of genetic engineering and advance biological knowledge is vital for food security. Genetic science practice in agriculture providing us exciting innovation of new agricultural patterns, concise use of fertilizers, hybrid species of a crop that can adapt to climate change.  Sustainable approach on living habits, thinking perspective and quick action will certainly promote sustainable food future, soils, forest, sustainable food future, and balance environment systems which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. The soil is our silent ally in the face of climate change”


4 thoughts on “Soil health and why it is important for food security? Can we live better?”

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