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Legarda Calls for Greater Action to Stop Soil Degradation

December 4, 2015

In observance of the World Soil Day (December 5), Senator Loren Legarda stressed the need for collective action on sustainable land use and protection of soil, a nearly forgotten resource, to halt and reverse land degradation.

“This celebration is not only an excellent opportunity to highlight the importance of soil but also serves as a warning for all of us that soil degradation is a rapidly increasing problem all over the world,” said Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change.

“We often take soil for granted without realizing the importance of this non-renewable resource. Without healthy soils, there would be no life because it is the foundation for food, animal feed, fuel and medicine. Hence, we need to develop and adopt good farming practices essential for mitigating soil degradation,” she stressed.

Some 33 per cent of global soils are already degraded through urbanization. Soil erosion, nutrient depletion, salinity, aridification and contamination are additional threats. In the Philippines, around 33 million hectares or 45 percent of arable lands are affected by soil degradation making them unsustainable and less productive.

To address this situation, Legarda filed Senate Bill No. 337, the Soil and Water Conservation Act, which aims to promote soil and water conservation technologies and approaches for sustainable land management.

Legarda warned that the current land degradation is likely to contribute to widespread and severe poverty in the rural areas.

She noted that a 2010 report by the Bureau of Soils and Water Management of the Department of Agriculture estimated that 13 million hectares of arable land in the Philippines are either moderately or severely eroded because of massive deforestation and adoption of unsustainable land management practices in the upland areas.

Legarda said that this condition is further compounded by the unabated use of urea in modern farming, which has led to actual soil degradation.

“The degradation of soil in our farmlands will eventually lead to lower agricultural output despite the application of modern farming practices. This will affect not only the livelihood of our farmers but also our food supply,” she added.

With this, Legarda proposed a measure that will support Sustainable Land Management (SLM) programs for livelihood improvement, particularly that of upland farmers and indigenous peoples, and for the prevention of land degradation and the protection of the environment and natural resource base.

SB 337 calls for the creation of the National Soil and Water Conservation Program which will establish synergy between agricultural productivity improvement and sustainable land management through the promotion and implementation of soil and water conservation technologies and approaches.

It also seeks the establishment of Soil and Water Conservation Guided Farms (SWCGF) that will serve as model farms to showcase soil and water conservation approaches and technologies in the uplands.

The bill also proposes the construction of small-scale rainwater harvesting structures to store rainwater and surface runoff within watersheds.