Need to Know: World Soil Day

09 DEC 2021

Need to Know: World Soil Day

By United Nations

Naturally saline soils may support rich ecosystems, but natural processes such as droughts and human activities, especially improper irrigation, can increase how many salts are in soils, a process that is called salinization. Soil salinization breaks down our soils and reduces their ability to help our food grow.

Soil salinization and sodification are major soil degradation processes threatening ecosystem and are recognized as being among the most important problems at a global level for agricultural production, food security and sustainability in arid and semi-arid regions.

Salt-affected soils have serious impacts on soil functions, such as in the decrease in agricultural productivity, water quality, soil biodiversity, and soil erosion. Salt-affected soils have a decreased ability to act as a buffer and filter against pollutants. Salt-affected soils reduce both the ability of crops to take up water and the availability of micronutrients. They also concentrate ions that are toxic to plants and may degrade the soil structure. It is estimated that there are more than 833 million hectares of salt-affected soils around the globe (8.7 percent of the planet).

World Soil Day 2021 (#WorldSoilDay) and its campaign "Halt soil salinization, boost soil productivity" aims to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil salinization, increasing soil awareness and encouraging societies to improve soil health.

 

About World Soil Day

World Soil Day (WSD), held each year on December 5, is the United Nations Observance that celebrates healthy soils for a food-secure future.

An international day to celebrate Soil was recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002. Under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has supported the formal establishment of WSD as a global awareness raising platform. The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly. In December 2013, the UN General Assembly designated December 5, 2014 as the first official World Soil Day.

Below are 10 key facts about soil:

•  Soil is a living resource, home to more than a quarter (25%) of our planet’s biodiversity.

•  Up to 90% of living organisms live or spent part of their lifecycle in soils, yet we know only 1% of this hidden universe.

•  Soil biodiversity is an essential component of soil health. Healthy soils produces more nutritious and safer food: 95% of our food comes from soils.

•  Soils organisms help soils store carbon and reduce GHG emissions.

•  Soil biodiversity contributes to the remediation of soil pollution by breaking down contaminants.

•  Soils are vast, vital pharmacies, with almost all of the antibiotics that we take to help us fight infections having been made using soil micro-organisms?

•  In just 3 inches of soil, there are 13 quadrillion living organisms, weighing 100 million tonnes.

•  There are more organisms in one gram of healthy soils than there are people on Earth.

•  An earthworm can digest its own weight in soil every 24 hours: 50% of the planet soil passes through the gut of earthworms each year.

•  Soil organisms process 25,000 kg of organic matter in a surface area equivalent to a soccer field, which is the weight of 25 cars.

 

05 OCT 2021

Need to Know: 10 key facts about World Food Day

By United Nations & the Food and Agriculture Organization

A sustainable agri-food system is one in which a variety of sufficient, nutritious and safe foods is available at an affordable price to everyone, and nobody is hungry or suffers from any form of malnutrition. The shelves are stocked at the local market or food store, but less food is wasted and the food supply chain is more resilient to shocks such as extreme weather, price spikes or pandemics, all while limiting, rather than worsening, environmental degradation or climate change.

In fact, sustainable agri-food systems deliver food security and nutrition for all, without compromising the economic, social and environmental bases, for generations to come. They lead to better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all.

World Food Day takes place on October 16 , and is one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar, with hundreds of events and outreach activities taking place across 150 countries. See below for 10 key facts around global food issues.

  • More than 3 billion people (almost 40 percent of the world’s population) cannot afford a healthy diet.
  • Almost 2 billion people are overweight or obese due to a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.
  • Related healthcare costs could exceed US$1.3 trillion by 2030.
  • The world’s agri-food systems currently employ 1 billion people, more than any other sector.
  • Smallholder farmers produce more than 33 percent of the world’s food.
  • The world’s food systems currently account for more than 33 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Approximately 14 percent of food produced for human consumption is lost each year before it reaches the wholesale market, and another 17 percent is wasted at consumer level.
  • 10 percent of people are affected by unsafe food supplies contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances.
  • Today, just nine plant species account for 66 percent of total crop production, despite the fact that there are at least 30, 000 edible plants.
  • Our future food systems need to provide affordable and healthy diets for all and decent livelihoods for food system workers, while preserving natural resources and tackling challenges such as climate change.

03 OCT 2021

Why collective innovation is key to a sustainable future for MENA

By Prashant Saran / Director of Operations, Amazon MENA

You click ‘buy’ and a short while later your package arrives at your door – a simple, seamless experience that conceals the technology, scale, and operational excellence behind it.

At Amazon’s DXB3 fulfilment centre in Dubai, our largest in the UAE, our customer-obsessed employees pick and pack millions of products1 . More and more customers are demanding the convenience this sports stadium-sized space provides. But they are calling for it at a crucial moment for the planet.

That same fulfilment centre is now home to a glistening new solar photovoltaic rooftop2 . Expected to have an emissions-reducing impact equivalent to the planting of more than 40,000 tree seedlings, it is a fantastic achievement and an important milestone.

However, it is just the beginning of a long and complex journey in terms of what needs to be done to mitigate the severe repercussions of climate change. For Amazon, solar rooftops are only one part of our endeavour. We have committed to reducing the environmental impact of our operations in the MENA region at every stage3  − from our network of buildings, to our packaging, transportation, and last mile delivery.

But no one organisation, or country for that matter, can fight the climate crisis alone.

The scale and speed of change requires focused and simultaneous action across industries and nations. We have to work together to implement a collaborative cycle of change – one that encompasses innovative technology and business models, public policy environment to foster the innovation, and the businesses and organisations to adopt and implement them in their core strategy.

In short, the need to work together to solve this issue has never been more urgent.

An appetite for change

Scientists tell us that we have a small window of opportunity to make headway on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 20504 . In MENA, the situation is perhaps even starker – the region has been described as a climate change hotspot5  where summers warm faster than the rest of the world. The related impacts of failing to act − on living conditions, on agriculture, on water scarcity6  − will be felt across societies.

The MENA region clearly recognises the scale of this challenge. Across the countries where we operate – UAE7 , Saudi Arabia8  and Egypt9  – governments are indeed acting, and they have announced sustainability agendas with an intent to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy such as solar.

This is being backed financially, with institutions including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund10 , Mubadala and others integrating sustainability into their investment decisions11 . Mubadala subsidiary Masdar, for example, has invested nearly $20 billion globally in renewable and sustainable projects12 , including Saudi Arabia’s first wind farm13 .

This imperative for change has created a fertile environment for businesses to embrace innovations in technology and business models and drive the cycle that will help us achieve our climate goals.

The missing piece of the puzzle

Amazon’s MENA sustainability roadmap focuses on creating energy-efficient infrastructure, transforming our transportation network and reducing waste in our packaging. And while we’ve been inventing heavily in this area, this is also an area where we are calling for collaboration from innovators across the region.

This provides a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs and start-ups. Globally, there are compelling examples of how this can work with pay off for all parties involved.

Take our transportation network. In 2019, Amazon partnered with electric truck start-up Rivian after seeing the potential in its customisable skateboard platform14 . Together we developed a first-of-its-kind delivery vehicle, and an order for 100,000 electric vehicles was placed. Some of these vehicles are already delivering products in the US, and 10,000 in total will be on the road by 2022. Meanwhile, Rivian’s latest round of funding raised $2.65 billion15 .

On the infrastructure front, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund invested in CarbonCure16 . The company manufactures technologies that consume carbon dioxide in concrete during production, permanently sequestering the CO2 and enabling the reduction of cement content in mixes without compromising performance. Amazon will use the technology to help reduce the impact of many of its new buildings, including HQ2 in the US state of Virginia.

Calling all innovators


Technology innovators in MENA should take inspiration from these global examples. Green solutions that not only help the environment but also create value in terms of cost savings, new revenue streams, or improving supply chain resilience are the blueprint for success.

Amazon is a young company in this region and, as we continue to grow, we are committed to doing so sustainably and responsibly. We encourage local entrepreneurs, start-ups, and innovators to join us to help deliver the solutions that combat climate change and do so with innovations that are specifically designed to withstand our region’s unique climate conditions.

So, if you’re working on a game-changing innovation that could help as we progress along our roadmap, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

With swift, collective action between businesses, innovators, and governments, we can build an ecosystem of change that will secure a brighter future for our communities – and for the planet.

03 OCT 2021

Need to Know: 10 key facts about International Youth Day

By United Nations
International Youth Day 2021 takes place on August 12 – the annual celebration aims to bring youth issues to the attention of the international community and to highlight the potential of youth as active partners in the global society.

  • International Youth Day is celebrated annually on 12 August to bring youth issues to the attention of the international community and to celebrate the potential of youth as active partners in the global society.
  • The theme of International Youth Day 2021 is, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health,” with the aim of highlighting that the success of such a global effort will not be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people.
  • It has been acknowledged that there is a need for inclusive support mechanisms that ensure youth continue to amplify efforts collectively and individually to restore the planet and protect life, while integrating biodiversity in the transformation of food systems.
  • During the 2021 ECOSOC Youth Forum (EYF), the issues and priorities highlighted by young participants included the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly related to its effect on human health, the environment, and food systems.
  • As part of the official outcome recommendations of the EYF, young participants stressed the importance of working towards more equitable food systems.
  • In addition, they highlighted the need for youth to make informed decisions on food choices through increasing global education on the healthiest and most sustainable options for both individuals and the environment.
  • There were also recommendations on providing adequate capacity development with respect to the resilience of food systems, in particular during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in its aftermath.
  • Food systems include not only the basic elements of how we get food from farms to the table, but also all of the processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population, and the negative externalities that can be generated during the process, such as air and ocean pollution as well as desertification.
  • Through youth education, engagement, innovation and entrepreneurial solutions, this year’s International Youth Day aims to provide a platform for young people to continue the momentum from the EYF in the lead up to the high-level Food Systems Summit.
  • This year, International Youth Day will be virtually convened by DESA in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Major Group for Children and Youth.