Improving soil health for farmers and ecosystems (iSQAPER)

Soil health is of great importance for both ecosystems and agricultural and food-production systems. Both ENDS promotes sustainable land use and fair land governance, this way contributing to better soil health.

Good soil quality is of fundamental importance to both local and global food production and to ecosystem resilience. Agricultural soils world-wide are under pressure due to agricultural, food, cattle feed, biofuel and trade policies. Soil health is being threatened by deforestation, intensification of agriculture and land degradation through use of pesticides and fertilizers. This results in loss of fertility and degradation, leading to productivity decline. All this is made even worse by climate change.

Reliable knowledge and data help land users assess the health of their soils and make well-informed decisions about its use. When information on sustainable land use practices is easily available, it supports farmers in improving their soil quality.

In a project called iSQAPER (Interactive Soil Quality Assessment for agricultural Productivity and Environmental Resilience) Both ENDS combines forces with many universities, research institutes and NGO's to improve soil health in Europe and China. iSQAPER aims to provide innovative methods to improve soil quality in different pedo-climatic zones. To this end, an app will be developed by farmers, scientists, practitioners, agricultural service providers and policy makers, which can be used on mobile devices anywhere in the world to gather location-specific soil health information and sustainable land use options.

Connecting science, policy and civil society

In the project many scientific institutions are involved, and therefore Both ENDS has an added value. We bring in knowledge about policy and policy processes at the international level and about the experiences of worldwide civil society.

Within the iSQAPER project, we deliver policy analysis, for example of the land-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's). At the same time, we bring the scientific insights from iSQAPER to international conferences such as the UNCCD or the Global Land Forum.

The importance of land rights for soil health

Within iSQAPER and towards policy makers, we continuously stress that land tenure policies also influences the sustainable use of land and soil health. Access to, ownership and control over land is inherently part of a successful implementation of sustainable land management. Sustainability often requires a long-term vision towards the land, the production on the land and the health of the soil. The investments needed are also long-term: change agricultural practices, plant trees, improve fertility. Insecurity over land rights withholds land users from these long-term investments.

International guidelines such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) stress the importance of good land governance by governments and the improvement of land rights for small-scale farmers, pastoralists, forest peoples, fishermen, youth, indigenous peoples and poor communities. These guidelines from the UN Committee on World Food Security have been adopted by all UN Member States. Both ENDS therefore considers the VGGT as a great opportunity to guarantee land rights for all farmers and pastoralists and to enable them to manage their lands in a sustainable way.

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