Water and soils are limited and endangered resources. It is estimated that at least a quarter of the usable earth surface is affected by strong degradation to an extent which is substantially reducing the potential production of biomass for food, feeding as well as for resources for materials and bio-energy. In the context of an ever-growing world population this is a serious threat. While the world population in the past four decades grew from 3 to over 7.4 billion people, the agricultural area increased by only 8%, mainly through the transformation of forest into arable land. Land consumption through urbanization is further reducing the fertile cultivation area. According to climate projections for the coming decades, rainfall patterns and temperature distributions will also change significantly.
The 22 participants from 19 countries in this short course, which started October 11th, will deal intensively with the connections between land use and nutrient cycles in the context of water catchment areas as well as at a global level. They will be enabled to develop concepts for soil and water protection as an integral part of sustainable land management.
One of the first stops within the intense 4-weeks programme was the headquarters of the German Environment Agency (UBA) in Dessau. Here experts of the agency introduced the group to topics like land-take, soil protection and monitoring, as well as water reuse in the European Union among other things.
There are 3 more weeks ahead to discuss the value and importance of soil as a vital and finite resource for everybody: policy makers, development planners, soil scientists, agricultural extension officers, students and other practitioners.
photos by UN Photo & Anna Görner (CIPSEM)