The 2023 World Food Forum (WFF), which is taking place in Rome, Italy, this week, has highlighted how improving soil health and avoiding soil degradation can help address food insecurity and environmental challenges.

The WFF‘s science and information forum met today (Thursday, October 19) to discuss how new technologies for soil and water management can help to tackle and adapt to climate change.

The forum, which is hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), showcased field examples, strategies, and management options in integrated and water management that have a direct impact on the livelihoods of small and medium holder farmers and their communities around the world.

Speaking at the forum, FAO director-general Qu Dongyu said: “We need to develop and strengthen integrated information systems to address pressing multisectoral challenges, which should be available to all, especially to farmers who are the custodians of our natural resources, as well as their final controllers.”

The forum heard that soil degradation, loss of water quality, and water scarcity are on the rise globally, limiting access to fertile and productive soils and water resources and contributing to food and nutrition insecurity.

Among the solutions highlighted at the science and innovation forum were innovations in re-carbonising soils, improving soil health, and enhancing water use efficiency.

As well as that, the forum discussed strategies for promoting integrated governance of natural resources and managing water scarcity, with the aim of strengthening the resilience of agri-food systems.

According to the FAO, average global crop yields could increase by 80% with more efficient water use, judicious fertiliser use, reduced pesticide use, and improvements in soil health.

The forum called for integrated, “climate-smart” land, soil, and water management technologies and practices, saying these are essential for improving efficiency and enhancing water and land productivity.

The forum also drew attention to the need for sustainable management of ecosystems in source areas and upper catchments, such as mountains, grasslands, and forests, which are deemed to be vital for ensuring a reliable and healthy water supply.

The forum called for governance actions to support innovative technologies like precision agriculture, remote sensing, and data analytics, which could enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of integrated soil and water management.