Sustainable Soil Management for a Healthy World

Sustainable Soil Management for a Healthy World

A seminar organized by KKL-JNF on soil conservation was held on June 18 at the Israel pavilion at Expo 2015, the theme of which was Healthy Soil, Healthy World.

The KKL-JNF seminar entitled Healthy Soil, Healthy World, which addressed soil conservation and land development, was held during the week of the World Day to Combat Desertification and was produced by the KKL-JNF Conferences and International Relations Department as part of a series of lectures, seminars and special events presented in the Israel pavilion at the Expo. The seminar was attended by scientists and land management experts, who presented actual success stories from all over the world, as well as findings from research studies and long term monitoring projects showing how one can cope with land preservation challenges that are prevalent worldwide.

In her opening greetings, Dr. Yukie Hori, Communication Team Leader and Spokesperson of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said, “We are facing a most important crossroad. The development goals of the millennium determined in the year 2000 have come to a conclusion, and now the world has to make decisions about a new global agenda in the field of land development. In the last fifteen years there has been a great deal of progress, but of course not all the news is good news. The latest report of the MDG (the Summit of the Millennium) shows little progress in the eradication of hunger, although this progress has not been the same in different regions and countries. About 842 million people, one out of eight people in the world, suffer from constant hunger. At present we need to reconsider our thinking and address new development issues.”

Dr. Hori said that 168 countries have declared themselves victims of desertification and that soil degradation is “a global problem that none of us can ignore.” She also stated, “We recognize the great effort of KKL-JNF in this field as expressed in the decision to host this seminar.”

The seminar program included lectures presented by international experts from a variety of organizations. Dr. Uriel Safriel, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and current Chair of the Committee of Science and Ecology of the UNCCD, spoke about neutrality, a new concept in the field of soil degradation, about what it means and how to achieve it. The term neutrality refers to neutralizing the negative effects caused by people (due to agricultural enterprises, felling trees, consumption of natural resources and so forth). Man receives services from the ecosystems around him, and should use nature so that we can utilize the profits and not the capital -meaning that if harm is caused to any system, we must return something for the sake of balance. Scientists all over the world are now talking about correct activity in order to minimize problems caused by agriculture.


Mr. Ki Chul Oh, the Secretary General of Green Asia Network (GAN), and Mr. Jaekwang Ko, the Program Director of GAN, presented their work in Mongolia.

Mr. Richard Mundy from the Conservation Organization for the Afghan Mountains (COAM) spoke about the challenges and projects of COAM in Afghanistan.

Mr. Sven Walter, Program Officer for Liaison, Land, Security and Resilience at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), spoke about sustainable management and land management for advancement of the resilience of local populations with the goal of increasing global security. He concluded by quoting Ms. Monique Barbut, who had said the previous day, “Soil that has been punished creates people who are punished.”

In a conversation with Mr. Walter and Ms. Monica Lumpia Gillis, Project Coordinator for the UNCCD Land, Security and Resilience Project, Ms. Gillis said that she had been impressed by the seminar and by the meeting with Dr. Safriel. “I have read many of his articles, and it was amazing to see him speak and hear his presentation. I liked all the KKL-JNF events, and I’m very glad I came here and found out about this organization”, she said. Mr. Walter added, “I didn’t know about KKL-JNF before the UN event that took place here yesterday. There is a lot to learn, and one learns by doing. This is certainly a place for learning.”

Mr. Itzhak Moshe, KKL-JNF Deputy Director of the Southern Region, spoke about the rehabilitation of damaged ecosystems in the Negev desert in Israel.

Ms. Nora Berrahmouni, the Forestry Manager at the FAO Forestry Department, spoke about work being done to combat desertification.

Dr. David Brand, KKL-JNF Chief Forester and Head of the Forestry Division, said that there is great importance in such encounters, which enable contact and dialogue among all those involved in the field, especially between scientists and policy makers, in order to improve our understanding about the ways of coping with global issues that challenge everyone. “This Expo,” said Dr. Brand, “addresses the issue of food security in the world, a topic directly related to sensible management of natural resources, to sustainable management, and this international exhibition is therefore a natural forum for such a seminar.

“A new term was used at this seminar—land degradation neutrality,” noted Dr. Brand, “and this a field in which KKL-JNF has had vast experience in the Negev, in both afforestation and in agriculture in arid regions, experience based on extensive knowledge gained at R&D stations. More than 40% of the earth’s land mass is defined as arid or semi-arid (like in Israel), and more than 35% of the world’s population is concentrated in these areas. KKL-JNF’s experience can assist countries dealing with similar challenges, and the exposure we had at the seminar is especially important for exposing our capabilities to world experts.”

Closing the seminar, Dr. Brand said, “I will be returning to Israel with a number of insights:

1. Soil preservation is a key issue in the field of arid regions.
2. We must invest in research and development for the sake of understanding the most correct way to balance our use of ecosystems.
3. We must transmit and share information and technologies with small farmers, since they are the ones protecting the environment.
4. We must promote education explaining the importance of soil development, an investment that is much less expensive than rehabilitating soil in damaged areas.”

Dr. Brand thanked all the participants and invited them to visit Israel to see KKL-JNF's work for themselves.