???Enhancing Soils Anywhere Enhances Life Everywhere’. This is the message the international community is urging citizens and Governments around the globe to consider in light of the importance of soil biodiversity to a nation’s survival.

And when World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed internationally tomorrow, environment officials here will be joining the appeal for Barbadians to consider the importance of soil biodiversity in the enrichment, recovery and rehabilitation of degraded land. Householders are also being invited to consider how sustainable land management practices in their communities impact access to, and the availability of the benefits from soil biodiversity today, as well as in the future.??

With the natural formation process for two metres of topsoil taking up to 500 years in some instances, the call for the protection of the island’s soil diversity from threat or decline must be heeded.?? And while natural occurrences like landslides and soil erosion do play a major part in land degradation, human intervention in the form of unsustainable land use and inappropriate farming practices, the obstruction of natural water flows due to urban development and the use of heavy machinery leading to soil compaction, are among the major threats.

"In many parts of the world, land is increasingly becoming privatised, which means soil management is getting privatised too. ??But soil biodiversity knows no borders or ownership boundaries. Therefore, the actions by some may matter a great deal for everyone else," a Ministry official warned.

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 17 the "World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought" to promote public awareness on the issue, and the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought in those countries experiencing serious drought, and or desertification, particularly in Africa.

The international observation has become even more critical, with 2010 having been designated International Year of Biodiversity in celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity to our lives.

To this end, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will make biodiversity the focus of tomorrow’s international observance.

As the key environmental agency with responsibility for biodiversity matters, Government’s National Heritage Department (NHD), is also expected to continue its outreach efforts in earnest.

In keeping with the global "Green Wave" programme, a multi-year global campaign which enables??children and youth to make a difference – "one school, one tree, one step at a time," the??department has embarked on a series of tree planting exercises at two of its adopted primary schools, in addition to other awareness efforts.

Having already partnered with the Wesley Hall Infants School’s Environmental Club in this regard, NHD Director Steve Devonish, and his team, will tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. plant a local tree to mark World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought at the Holy Innocents Primary School, in St. Thomas.

The department also has a number of exciting initiatives in train which will be rolled out in the coming months.

According to the UNCCD, as specialists on land matters, the Convention’s biodiversity public awareness will focus on soil biodiversity, namely the wealth and variety of life forms that reside in the soil, which, though not visible to the naked eye, are the secret to healthy and rich soils.

"There is a close relationship between livelihood and ecosystem well-being, and soils that are rich in biodiversity. Healthy soils produce life, and yet soil health depends a lot on how individuals use their land. What we do to our soils determines the quality and quantity of the food we eat and how our ecosystems serve us. Our increasing ecological interdependence also means "enhancing soils anywhere enhances life everywhere," the UNCCD asserted.

Having experienced drought conditions earlier this year, Barbadians have been given a proverbial "wake up call" in relation to the importance of???? conserving one’s natural resources. The idea then, is to take this sensitivity a step further in terms of soil and land preservation – the keys to food security, and the development of services not yet discovered. cgaskin@barbados.gov.bb

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