The role of soils in the achievement of sustainable development goals

The role of soils in the achievement of sustainable development goals

Soils are a vital natural resource for achieving many of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. From food production to climate change mitigation, soils play a key role in achieving these goals.

In particular, soils contribute significantly to the achievement of the following sustainable development goals (Bouma and Veerman, 2022):

  • SDG 2: ‘Zero Hunger’: Soils are essential for food production and food security. Healthy soils are critical for crop growth and nutrition, and the lack of healthy soils can lead to reduced food production and food insecurity.
  • SDG 3: Health and well-being: Soil health has a direct impact on human health. Contaminated soils can affect the quality of the food produced on them, which can have negative consequences for human health.
  • SDG 6: Ensure access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation: Soils are essential for water quality. Well-managed soils act as a natural filter for water, reducing the amount of pollutants entering water bodies.
  • SDG 12: Sustainable consumption and production: Sustainable production is highly dependent on healthy soils. Healthy soils enable the sustainable production of food and other natural resources, which is essential to ensure a sustainable future for all.
  • SDG 13: Climate action: Soils play an important role in sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Healthy soils can store large amounts of carbon, helping to mitigate climate change.
  • SDG 15: Life on land: Soil health is fundamental to conserving biodiversity and protecting terrestrial ecosystems. Soils are home to a large number of species, and their degradation can have serious consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

How to reach these goals?

To achieve sustainable development goals related to soil health, it is necessary to promote sustainable management practices and soil conservation. Some strategies that can contribute to achieving these goals are described below:

  • Promotion of sustainable agricultural practices: Agriculture is one of the most important activities affecting soil health. Sustainable agricultural practices, such as crop rotation, reduced use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, and the use of conservation agriculture techniques, can improve soil health and increase agricultural productivity.
  • Protect and restore natural ecosystems: Natural ecosystems, such as forests and grasslands, also play an important role in soil health. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems can improve soil quality and reduce erosion.
  • Promote integrated management of natural resources: Integrated natural resource management takes into account the social, economic and environmental aspects of natural resource management, including soils. This strategy can help ensure that soil management is sustainable and equitable.
  • Promote education and public awareness: Education and public awareness are key to promoting sustainable soil management practices. Training and outreach programmes can be implemented to promote knowledge and adoption of sustainable practices in communities.
  • Implement appropriate policies and regulations: Appropriate policies and regulations can be effective in promoting sustainable soil management. This can include the implementation of incentives for the adoption of sustainable practices as well as the application of regulatory measures to prevent harmful practices.

In summary, to achieve sustainable development goals related to soil health, it is necessary to implement a combination of sustainable agricultural practices, protect and restore natural ecosystems, promote integrated natural resource management, promote public education and awareness, and implement appropriate policies and regulations. Cooperation and partnership between different actors, such as the public sector, the private sector and civil society, is essential to achieve sustainable soil management and sustainable development goals.


Bouma, J.; Veerman, C.P. Developing Management Practices in: “Living Labs” That Result in Healthy Soils for the Future, Contributing to Sustainable Development. Land 202211,2178. land11122178

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