As Nigeria join the rest of the world to mark the 2021 World Soil Day, The Food and Agriculture (FAO), and experts in the agricultural sector have warned against unsustainable agricultural practices and the over-exploiration of natural resources.
This, is even as they also pointed out the danger of practices that salinate the soil which poses a major risk to food security worldwide.
They gave the warning on Saturday during the 2021 World Soil Day celebration in Abuja with the theme: “Halt Soil Salinisation, Boost Soil Productivity”.
Director-General of FAO, QU Dongyu, in a statement stressed that the growing population is putting increased pressure on soils and causing alarming rates of soil degradation globally.
According to him, “Over 833 million hectares of soils worldwide are already salt-affected, as shown on the Global salt-affected soils map launched by FAO in October.
He noted that estimates indicate that more than 10 percent of cropland is salt-affected, which poses a major risk to food security worldwide.
The Director-General however underlined the importance of generating reliable soil data as he announced the official launch of the Global Soil Laboratory Assessment Report.
He said: “A joint effort by 241 laboratories in 142 countries, it is led by FAO’s Global Soil Partnership (GSP) and its Global Soil Laboratory Network (GLOSOLAN) composed of more than 760 laboratories worldwide.
“Collecting soil data and building sufficient capacity in the soil laboratories of FAO Member countries is essential to manage soil-affected land resources and pave the foundation towards digital agriculture in the future.
Minister of agriculture and rural development, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, noted that the accumulation of excessive soluble salt such as sodium, magnesium and calcium in the soil could lead to nutrient imbalance, loss of soil fertility and desertification of arable lands.
The Minister who was represented by Mrs. Funke Bamidele, said Nigerians must halt soil salinisation in order to boost soil productivity especially in the dry regions of the country.
Abubukar called on Nigerian soil scientists to work with stakeholders to carry out focused research that would address the soil-related problems affecting agriculture and promote measures that would mitigate soil salinisation.
Also, Vice president, Nigeria Institute of Soil Science (NISS), Professor Geoffrey Nwaka, said farmers are not being trained properly on how to use the soil due to lack of extension workers.
Nwaka noted that wrong use of fertiliser, lack of knowledge of the soil, and climate change are the major challenges confronting food production in Nigeria.
He said: “We have mismanaged our soils because of lack of knowledge, what we are seeing is salinization of the soils.
“This problem of salinisation is mainly in the areas where there are no rainfalls, our farmers are not being trained properly on how to use the soil due to lack of extension workers.
“This has reduced the harvest, food production is getting less despite the fact that a lot of effort is being put into it and more people are farming”.
He further called on the need to train more extension workers who are knowledgeable in soil management to work with the farmers.