Soil governance

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Soil governance refers to the policies, strategies, and the processes of decision-making employed by nation states and local governments regarding the use of soil. [1] Globally, governance of the soil has been limited to an agricultural perspective due to increased food insecurity from the most populated regions on earth. The Global Soil Partnership, [2] GSP, was initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and its members with the hope to improve governance of the limited soil resources of the planet in order to guarantee healthy and productive soils for a food-secure world, as well as support other essential ecosystem services.

A policy is a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. A policy is a statement of intent, and is implemented as a procedure or protocol. Policies are generally adopted by a governance body within an organization. Policies can assist in both subjective and objective decision making. Policies to assist in subjective decision making usually assist senior management with decisions that must be based on the relative merits of a number of factors, and as a result are often hard to test objectively, e.g. work-life balance policy. In contrast policies to assist in objective decision making are usually operational in nature and can be objectively tested, e.g. password policy.

Nation state Political term for a state that is based around a nation

A nation state is a state in which the great majority shares the same culture and is conscious of it. The nation state is an ideal in which cultural boundaries match up with political ones. According to one definition, "a nation state is a sovereign state of which most of its subjects are united also by factors which defined a nation such as language or common descent." It is a more precise concept than "country", since a country does not need to have a predominant ethnic group.

A local government is a form of public administration which, in a majority of contexts, exists as the lowest tier of administration within a given state. The term is used to contrast with offices at state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or federal government and also to supranational government which deals with governing institutions between states. Local governments generally act within powers delegated to them by legislation or directives of the higher level of government. In federal states, local government generally comprises the third tier of government, whereas in unitary states, local government usually occupies the second or third tier of government, often with greater powers than higher-level administrative divisions.

Contents

Governing the soil requires international and national collaboration between governments, local authorities, industries and citizens to ensure implementation of coherent policies that encourage practices and methodologies that regulate usage of the resource to avoid conflict between users to promote sustainable land management. [1] In the European Union's environmental policies, soil is recognized as a non-renewable resource, but its governance is maintained at a national level, unlike other non-renewable and climate sensitive resources. [3] In the developing world, soil governance is biased towards promoting sustainable agriculture and ensuring food security.

Sustainable land management (SLM) refers to practices and technologies that aim to integrate the management of land, water, biodiversity, and other environmental resources to meet human needs while ensuring the long-term sustainability of ecosystem services and livelihoods. The term sustainable land management is used, for example, in regional planning and soil or environmental protection, as well as in property and estate management.

European Union Economic and political union of European states

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It has an area of 4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) and an estimated population of about 513 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

Sustainable agriculture farming relying on ecosystem services for maintenance

Sustainable agriculture is farming in sustainable ways based on an understanding of ecosystem services, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It is a long-term methodological structure that incorporates profit, environmental stewardship, fairness, health, business and familial aspects on a farm setting. It is defined by 3 integral aspects which are: economic profit, environmental stewardship and social responsibility. Sustainability focuses on the business process and practice of a farm in general, rather than a specific agricultural product. The integrated economic, environmental, and social principles are incorporated into a “triple bottom line” (TBL); when the general impacts of the farm are assessed. Unlike a traditional approach where the profit-margin is the single major factor; Agriculture sustainability is also involved with the social and environmental factors.

Governance of the soil differs from soil management. Soil management involves practices and techniques used to increase and maintain soil fertility, structure, and carbon sequestration, etc. [4] Soil management techniques are heavily utilized in agriculture, because of the need to regulate the various practices, such as tillage techniques, fertilizer application and crop rotation (among others) by the various stakeholders involved. The need to monitor and avoid the negative effects of agricultural land use such as soil erosion has formed the basis of the discourse and awareness on soil governance, [1] and has also seen the emergence of science and technology as the link between soil management and governance. [5] Soil governance mechanisms are usually encapsulated within the context of land governance, with little focus on urban and industrial soil governance especially in developing countries that have rapid urbanization rates; [6] [7] thus, soil governance is highly interlinked with other atmospheric and anthropogenic processes which may contribute to the difficulty in distinguishing it as an entity.

Soil management is the application of operations, practices, and treatments to protect soil and enhance its performance. It includes soil conservation, soil amendment, and optimal soil health. In agriculture, some amount of soil management is needed both in nonorganic and organic types to prevent agricultural land from becoming poorly productive over decades. Organic farming in particular emphasizes optimal soil management, because it uses soil health as the exclusive or nearly exclusive source of its fertilization and pest control.

Soil fertility Ability of a soil to sustain agricultural plant growth

Soil fertility refers to the ability of soil to sustain agricultural plant growth, i.e. to provide plant habitat and result in sustained and consistent yields of high quality. A fertile soil has the following properties:

Soil structure describes the arrangement of the solid parts of the soil and of the pore space located between them. It is determined by how individual soil granules clump, bind together, and aggregate, resulting in the arrangement of soil pores between them. Soil structure has a major influence on water and air movement, biological activity, root growth and seedling emergence.

With an aim to make soil data available to all, the Food and Agriculture Organization and UNESCO created a global soil map in 1981 as the main information on the distribution of soil resources. Currently, under the GSP framework, a new global soil information system will be developed. [8]

UNESCO Specialised agency of the United Nations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration in education, sciences, and culture in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

In 2002, the International Union of Soil Sciences proposed December 5 to be "World Soil Day" to celebrate the importance of soil in our lives. Under the framework of the GSP, the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly in December 2013 designated December 5 as the World Soil Day and declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils with the aim to raise awareness on the importance of soils for ecosystem functions and food security . [9] [10]

Sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly

The Sixty-eighth Session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on 17 September 2013. The President of the United Nations General Assembly was chosen from the GRULAC with Antigua and Barbuda's John William Ashe being the consensus candidate, thus bypassing the need for an election.

Global Soil Partnership

Changes in land use, population growth, and the impacts of climate change have led to a gradual process of soil degradation. [11] [12] Soil degradation is a gradual process involving the natural and anthropogenic processes that result in the physical loss (erosion) and reduction in soil quality. [7] The recognition of anthropogenic effects on soil degradation has influenced discourse of urban soil management, and formulation of policies by regional organizations. [13] However, soil remains as the primary medium for food production, thus global soil governance is directed towards the impacts of soil degradation on food production and conflicts that arise between the need for human settlements and space available for food production. [7] The impacts of climate change also contribute to the conflict because carbon dioxide emissions have progressively led to higher average global temperatures, which has led to an increase in soil degradation through erosion, increased salinity, and a reduction in the flora and fauna that contribute to its quality. [14]

The Global Soil Partnership (GSP) [2] was launched in 2011. It is an initiative of the FAO and the European Commission that aims to "Support and facilitate joint efforts towards sustainable management of soil resources for food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation" and to update the 1982 World Soil Charter. [15] The World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (Rome, 1979), and the Plan of Action of the UN Conference on Desertification (Nairobi, 1977) to combat land degradation and desertification initiated international discourse on effective soil management and governance, however the initiatives were limited to the soil and its relation to agricultural productivity. [6]

The GSP's ultimate goal is to achieve food security and restoration of ecosystem services through conserving, enhancing, and restoring soil resources through productive and sustainable use. [16] In addition to being a global partnership, the GSP aims to create Regional Soil Partnerships (RSPs) to provide guidance on goals and priorities within specific regions and develop relevant activities within each region. [17]

The GSP meets in Plenary Assembly form to meet the different demands from each region. The First Plenary Assembly, held in June 2013 at the FAO's headquarters adopted the Rules of Procedure, nominated and established an Intergovernmental Technical Panel of Soils (ITPS), started thinking about the 5 pillars of action, supported the implementation of Regional Soil Partnerships and developed a GSP roadmap. [18] The Second Plenary Assembly will be held in July 2014.

Vision and mission

The vision of the GSP is to improve governance of soil resources to guarantee healthy and productive soils for a food-secure world and support other essential ecosystem services. [19]

The mission of the GSP is capacity building, facilitate and contribute to soil science and technologies for sustainable management of soil resources at all levels. [16]

Intergovernmental Panel of Soils (ITPS)

The Intergovernmental Panel of Soils represents all regions of the world and is composed of 27 soil expert representatives. The ITPS is here to advise the GSP on scientific and technical knowledge, advocate for the inclusion of sustainable soil management in different agendas, review the GSP's Plan of Action, follow up on the Plan of Action and request the formation of committees for exceptional cases. [20]

Five pillars of action

To achieve its vision and mandate, the GSP operates under five pillars of action: [21]

  1. Promote sustainable management of soil resources for soil protection, conservation and sustainable productivity. [22]
  2. Encourage investment, technical cooperation, policy, education awareness and extension in soil [23]
  3. Promote targeted soil research and development focusing on identified gaps and priorities and synergies with related productive, environmental and social development actions [24]
  4. Enhance the quantity and quality of soil data and information: data collection (generation), analysis, validation, reporting, monitoring and integration with other disciplines [25]
  5. Harmonization of methods, measurements and indicators for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources [26]

International Year of Soils

Logo of International Year of Soils 2015 Logo of International Year of Soils 2015.jpg
Logo of International Year of Soils 2015

The International Year of Soils, 2015 (IYS 2015) was declared by the Sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 2013 after recognizing December 5 as World Soil Day. [27]

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has been nominated to implement the IYS 2015, within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and in collaboration with Governments and the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The aim of the IYS is to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions. [28]

IYS objectives

The International Year of Soils aims to: [29]

Advocate for rapid capacity enhancement for soil information collection and monitoring at all levels (global, regional and national).

By region

In the European Union

The United Nations Earth Summit Conference on Environment and Development catalysed the formation of EU environmental policy into a policy that was centred on the environmental consequences of integration. [30] The conference organized by the United Nations saw the acceptance of various documents and charters governing the natural environment and sustainable development. [31] In its inception phase, EU environmental policy was a reaction to normalise competition with the markets. Having a common policy would ensure that member states were bound to directives that would regulate their production methods thus affect production output and competitive advantage. [32] Focus was directed on air pollution from industries, and other forms of tangible, measurable, and traceable pollution that could be isolated to an event or a process, such as acidification Swedish lakes in the 1970s and 1980s caused by high sulphur dioxide emissions from power plants. Such forms of pollution were often governed with bans, quotas and economic instruments such as taxes and fines. [32] With improvements in technology, access and delivery of information and changes in global conceptualisation of the environment, EU environmental policy has evolved to become more responsive and bespoke, and has also increased its scope to various sources and sinks of pollution. [33]

In 2006, the European Commission tabled a proposal to the European Parliament to establish a framework for soil protection within the union. Soil is recognised as a non-renewable resource because of its slow formation process. However—unlike other non-renewable resources, such as coal, that have explicit policies governing extraction methods, trading, and consumption in the EU—soil governance is contained within the contexts of environmental policies and regulation on various entities of the biosphere. The draft policy recognised that soil governance had been "scattered" in EU legislation, and lacked a cohesive isolated framework, therefore governance and management of the same resource was open to interpretation depending on the main resource and industry policy in question. [34] The policy sought to unify the "scattered" regulations because they lacked the mandate to "identify and cover all soil threats". This view was supported by extensive consultation between stakeholders and the European commission that started in February 2003, and saw member states convey their support for a framework based on regional action in 2004. [3] The framework was developed as a directive to member states; this form of legislation allows interpretation by stakeholders at national and local levels, and between networks thus complying with the subsidiarity principle. The principle provides that EU political decisions must be implemented at "the lowest possible administrative and political level, and as close to the citizens as possible", unless in areas where action by individual countries is insufficient. [35] It is under this principle that member states rejected the proposal to establish a framework for soil protection as the proposal argued that member states are unable to effectively monitor and manage their soils. Inconsistencies in national soil governance strategies and, classification and treatment of contaminants would disable the objectives of the proposal because of the complexities of trans-border soil pollution and management. Furthermore, soil degradation and mismanagement affects other environmental areas, and industries governed through EU legislation such as water, biodiversity, and food production, thus it was deemed appropriate to have uniform legislation across all entities. [3] Member states argued that soil management should not be negotiated at the European Regional level as they already had strong domestic policies regulating soil usage and management, therefore focus should be directed at strengthening local policies and regulatory institution. [36] Consequently, the EU does not have a cohesive soil governance policy and relies on environmental policies, and non-renewable resource policies and legislations of member states to guide utilisation, management and regulate pollutants of the soil.

In India

In terms of employment, the agricultural sector is one of the main sectors in the Indian economy. In 2010, the sector employed 58.2% of the nations workforce, and contributed 15.7% to the nations GDP. Cognisant of agriculture's role in the economy, the 11th five-year economic plan that runs from 2007-2012 recognises the importance of proper soil management in agriculture. Soil degradation through excessive and miscalculated fertiliser use because of emphasis on increased output has led to nearly two-thirds of India's farmlands to be classified as either degraded or sick. [37] In attempts to increase knowledge on soils and soil management, the government of Gujarat initiated the Soil Health Cards Programme in 2006 that was "expected to bridge the gap between Scientists, agricultural extension workers, farmers and input-output dealers". [38] The programme relies on technology to disseminate accountable and uncomplicated scientific information that is based on the farmers needs. Farmers take samples of their soil for analysis in a state run laboratory. Based on the sample, farmers get information on the soil mineral and water content, fertiliser application methods, and advice on what crops to grow.

In the pilot scheme, collected data was inputted into a web-based information system that included the Internet, intranet and GSWAN (Gujarat State Wide Area Network) to build up the state, and national database on soil health. [39] Increasing knowledge on soil management, increased output, and reduced costs for farmers and contributed to Gujarat's agriculture growth rate that was three times the national growth rate in 2009. [40] The success of the scheme has facilitated its implementation at a national level under the Ministry of Agriculture. Each state and union territory is responsible for the set-up and management of the soil testing facilities and maintaining the state soil database so that it is uniform and standardised. The testing, advisory and issuance processes involved are at multi-governance levels involving stakeholders from the private and public sectors. Government approved NGOs, community associations' farmers, the state administration and national administration are all involved in the scheme at different levels. The process begins with the farmers assisted by various NGOs and community groups and involves interactions with more NGOs and state officers at higher levels, as they are responsible for soil sample testing. [37] The impacts of increased global temperatures have had negative effects towards effective soil management techniques in the developing world. Changes in precipitation patterns and an increase in extreme events such as floods and drought have exacerbated issues such as desertification and soil erosion. The effects of such events are further aggravated by resource-deficient farmers and government officials who lack skills to prepare and manage their soils for disasters, and end up relying on relief aid for sustenance. [41] [42] Addressing the Impacts of desertification is a complex multi-level process because of the social, environmental and economic factors. [41]

The Republic of India ratified the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in 1984, and has since instituted the National Programme to Combat Desertification that utilises an integrated and holistic approach at governing the soil. Through various ministries the national programme aspires to implement the UNCCD by increasing capacity in soil and soil water management, improving access to micro-credit with a focus on women and marginalised groups, promoting alternative energy supplies to reduce reliance on wood increasing soil monitoring and strengthening legislation regarding land management in industrial and mining activities. [43] [44]

Impacts of industrialization and urbanization

In the developing world, industrialization and urbanization are emerging as significant contributors to land and soil degradation. Lack of sufficient knowledge in soil management and disregard for the environment has been identified as key reasons affecting urban soil degradation. [43] Industrialization alters the chemical aspects of the soil through pollution of heavy metals and effluents. Construction and landfills in urban areas affect soil through compaction and excavation, which affect natural processes such as water purification and storage. In the developing and developing world governance of soils in urban areas requires bespoke policies because of the nature of urban and industrial developments in the cities. [45] In Central Europe, governance of urban soils is facilitated by the urban soil management strategy that aims to design applicable soil management strategies in select European cities. Through networks created with universities and municipal authorities the project aims to research into and develop an interdisciplinary approach to manage urban soils,. [13] [46] In the developing world, urban and industrial soil governance is linked to sustainable development of cities to address urban poverty and responsible land use through effective waste management. Often, developing countries lack resources to implement policies governing settlements and industries, thus the soil and water are often heavily polluted. [11] Urban soil management uses an interdisciplinary approach to protect biodiversity reliant upon the soil and land, reduce pollution from industrial effluents, and increase resilience of the soil to stresses such as compaction from construction. [45] [46]

Role of science and technology

The global soil map is a global consortium between academic, regional and national scientific institutions coordinated by stakeholders according to the respective regions. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Remote sensing and emerging technologies a global soil map will be created to represent different soil types. [5] The consortium is led by the ISRIC-World Soil Information, whose mandate to increase knowledge on soils through data collection and dissemination and development of technologies and methodologies for digital soil mapping. GIS is used to display, analyse and collate soil data and processes, and also identify different types of soils through mapping and web-based software. [47] Soil Science is used in tandem with GIS to identify individual soil properties applicable to agricultural and urban soil management. The Soil Health Card Programme in India utilises soil science to advise farmers on fertiliser usage and crop rotations and records the data on a national network which can be used to map different soil types across the country.

Criticisms

Exponential population growth has led to discourses on maintaining food security through increased agricultural output. [11] Often emphasis is limited to increasing intensity of output through more intensive use of fertilisers, machinery, pesticides and other inputs. Because soil is the main medium in agriculture, soil governance has maintained a strong agricultural perspective. Urban soil governance is crucial in developing countries because of rapid urbanization and changing land use in rural areas. [48] Industrial activities such as mining dramatically alter the landscape and soil through generation of overburden and excavation; however governance remains biased towards agriculture and food production. The effects of climate change vis-à-vis desertification and increased soil erosion are not yet addressed in cohesive global policies, yet the scope and nature of the problem is global. The establishment of the GSP in 2011 has recognized the need for an interdisciplinary approach to soil governance underpinning the diverse ecosystem services and functions including the production of healthy food.

See also

USA

Related Research Articles

Desertification

Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry area of land becomes a desert, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife. It is caused by a variety of factors, such as through climate change and through the overexploitation of soil through human activity. When deserts appear automatically over the natural course of a planet's life cycle, then it can be called a natural phenomenon; however, when deserts emerge due to the rampant and unchecked depletion of nutrients in soil that are essential for it to remain arable, then a virtual "soil death" can be spoken of, which traces its cause back to human overexploitation. Desertification is a significant global ecological and environmental problem with far reaching consequences on socio-economic and political conditions.

Food and Agriculture Organization Specialised agency of the United Nations

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate arguments and debate policy.

Conservation agriculture (CA) can be defined by a statement given by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as “a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment”.

Global Environment Facility public funder of projects to improve the global environment

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems. The GEF unites 183 countries in partnership with international institutions, civil society organizations (CSOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. Since 1992, the GEF has provided over $17 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $88 billion in financing for more than 4000 projects in 170 countries. Through its Small Grants Programme (SGP), the GEF has invested $450million and leveraged similar levels of co financing supporting over 14,500 community based projects in over 125 countries.

Land degradation

Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. It is viewed as any change or disturbance to the land perceived to be deleterious or undesirable. Natural hazards are excluded as a cause; however human activities can indirectly affect phenomena such as floods and bush fires.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH or GIZ in short is a German development agency headquartered in Bonn and Eschborn that provides services in the field of international development cooperation. GIZ mainly implements technical cooperation projects of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), its main commissioning party, although it also works with the private sector and other national and supranational government organizations on a public benefit basis. In its activities GIZ seeks to follow the paradigm of sustainable development, which aims at economic development through social inclusion and environmental protection. GIZ offers consulting and capacity building services in a wide range of areas, including management consulting, rural development, sustainable infrastructure, security and peace-building, social development, governance and democracy, environment and climate change, and economic development and employment.

Great Green Wall initiative against desertification in Africa

The Great Green Wall, or Great Green Wall of the Sahara and the Sahel, is Africa's flagship initiative to combat the effects of climatic change and desertification. Led by the African Union, the initiative aims to transform the lives of millions of people by creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes across North Africa.

African environmental issues are caused by anthropogenic effects on the African natural environment and have major impacts on humans and nearly all forms of endemic life. Issues include desertification, problems with access to safe water supply, population explosion and fauna depletion. These issues are ultimately linked to over-population in Africa, as well as on a global scale. Nearly all of Africa's environmental problems are geographically variable and human induced, though not necessarily by Africans.

International Year of Forests world day

The year 2011 was declared the International Year of Forests by the United Nations to raise awareness and strengthen the sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations.

Information and communication technology in agriculture, also known as e-agriculture, focuses on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved information and communication processes. More specifically, e-agriculture involves the conceptualization, design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the rural domain, with a primary focus on agriculture. ICT includes devices, networks, mobiles, services and applications; these range from innovative Internet-era technologies and sensors to other pre-existing aids such as fixed telephones, televisions, radios and satellites. Provisions of standards, norms, methodologies, and tools as well as development of individual and institutional capacities, and policy support are all key components of e-agriculture.

United Nations Forum on Forests organization

The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) is a high-level intergovernmental policy forum. The forum includes all United Nations Member States and Permanent Observers, the UNFF Secretariat, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, Regional Organizations and Processes and Major Groups.

Deforestation in Nigeria

As of 2005, Nigeria has the highest rate of deforestation in the world according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Between 2000 and 2005 the country lost 55.7% of its primary forests, and the rate of forest change increased by 31.2% to 3.12% per annum. Forest has been cleared for logging, timber export, subsistence agriculture and notably the collection of wood for fuel which remains problematic in western Africa.

Environmental governance is a concept in political ecology and environmental policy that advocates sustainability as the supreme consideration for managing all human activities—political, social and economic. Governance includes government, business and civil society, and emphasizes whole system management. To capture this diverse range of elements, environmental governance often employs alternative systems of governance, for example watershed-based management.

International Day of Forests day for people work together to ensure forests are part of any future climate change strategies

The International Day of Forests was established on the 21st day of March, by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on November 28, 2012. Each year, various events celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests, and trees outside forests, for the benefit of current and future generations. Countries are encouraged to undertake efforts to organize local, national, and international activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns, on International Day of Forests. The Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization, facilitates the implementation of such events in collaboration with governments, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, and international, regional and subregional organizations. International Day of Forests was observed for the first time on March 21, 2013.

The water, energy and food security nexus according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), means that water security, energy security and food security are very much linked to one another, meaning that the actions in any one particular area often can have effects in one or both of the other areas. These three sectors are necessary for the benefit of human well-being, poverty reduction and sustainable development. As the world population is nearing 8 billion, increasing demands for basic services also rise, such as the growing desires for higher living standards and the need for more conscious stewardship of the vital resources required to achieve those services and these desires have become both more obvious and urgent.

Forest restoration

Forest restoration is defined as “actions to re-instate ecological processes, which accelerate recovery of forest structure, ecological functioning and biodiversity levels towards those typical of climax forest” i.e. the end-stage of natural forest succession. Climax forests are relatively stable ecosystems that have developed the maximum biomass, structural complexity and species diversity that are possible within the limits imposed by climate and soil and without continued disturbance from humans. Climax forest is therefore the target ecosystem, which defines the ultimate aim of forest restoration. Since climate is a major factor that determines climax forest composition, global climate change may result in changing restoration aims.

The International Year of Soils, 2015 was declared by the Sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly on December 20th, 2013 after recognizing December 5th as World Soil Day.

The desert-covered Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the geographically largest country in the Middle East. Moreover, it accounts for 65% of the overall population of the GCC countries and 42% of its GDP. Saudi Arabia does not have a strong history in environmentalism. Thus, as the number of population increases and the industrial activity grows, environmental issues pose a real challenge to the country. Lack of environmental policy can be linked to an enormous reliance on oil. Due to intense fossil fuel usage, Saudi Arabia has generated a number of environmental issues. Urbanization and high standards of living contribute to ground, water, and air pollution. Agriculture and overconsumption of natural resources cause deforestation and desertification. Likewise, Saudi Arabia’s oil industry subsidizes energy use and magnifies carbon dioxide emissions. These environmental issues cause a variety of health problems including asthma and cancer. Some environmental action is taking place such as the construction of a renewable energy industry. Policies and programs are also being developed to ensure environmental sustainability.

Environmental issues in Yemen

Yemen, one of the poorest developing countries in the Middle East, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea.
Yemen is encountering severe environmental issues in two aspects, water and land. In the aspect of water, Yemen has limited natural fresh water resources and inadequate supplies of potable water. As for the land, two main issues of Yemen are overgrazing and desertification. Yemen has signed several international agreements: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection.

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