Healthy Soil, Healthy Life: Why Soil Management in South Africa is Important

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The human population is ever increasing which leads to a decrease in the number of resources which are available and important to humans such as water, land and nutrients. The climate is also ever changing, which limits the ability for humans to produce and increase the production of food meanwhile keeping the natural resources at a sustainable level. In addition, the issues which degrade the land such as soil erosion, the loss of organic matter, and many others.

These issues are related to soil and they lead to the degradation in quality of the environment at the same time decreasing the livelihood of thousands of people(Bouma et al, 2017). The following essay will look at why soil conservation and management are important in achieving sustainable development goals in South Africa. But first it will attempt to define what sustainable development goals are and which ones this essay will focus on which are deeply related to soil. These are water security, climate, reducing poverty, zero hunger, health and well being and biodiversity as they are somehow related to soil directly or indirectly.

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According to dpicampaigns(n.d.) sustainable development goals are defined as goals which will help improve the future for all living things and better the living standards around the globe, these goals talk about issues which are related to the degradation of the environment, poverty, peace and justice. Soil management it is applying practices, treating soil if it happens to be damaged in order for it to perform in its best way be it fertility or soil mechanics.

Water security or resources

Protecting the soil, it means that its ability to provide clean water for all living in South Africa including for agriculture purposes and the ecosystems this is important such that is helps to achieve sustainable goals (Keesstra et al, 2019). Soils are important in storing and transmitting water to plants, groundwater and the atmosphere they also have the ability to filter water(Keesstra et al, 2019). Soils are also bioreactors which have charged surfaces whereby the soil microbes are able to process the contaminants and nutrients which act as a medium that supports plant growth, cycles water and nutrients to different ecosystem (Keesstra et al, 2019).

 The availability of water and sanitation is also achieved through taking care of soil and managing it because if it is contaminated therefore it will not be able to provide clean, uncontaminated fresh water. Agriculture uses water which comes from the river, dams, reservoirs and ground water to irrigate the crops hence managing soil to keep and store water increases the amounts which will be needed for the use of agriculture. Therefore, by taking care of soil in South Africa the sixth sustainable goal which is clean water and sanitation will be achieved.


According to Smith(2014) topsoil’s are responsible for holding 3 times as much carbon as the atmosphere, therefore estimating and predicting climate changes is very important to soil. Losing carbon stocks, it results in an increase in carbon in the atmosphere, so if soil is well managed in South Africa it can be able to hold as much carbon as it possibly can. This has a positive impact on the atmosphere as there will be a decrease in carbon in the atmosphere which means one less Greenhouse gas to worry about. 

An increase in temperature leads to an increase in decomposition but this only increases moist soil excluding land and soils which are dry(Keesstra et al, 2016). This will result in an increase in the production of plants in which in return they will increase the inputs of carbon in the soil. So, precipitation plays a vital role in this, as areas which receives less rain fall will be dry and will not experience the increase in carbon inputs in the soil and areas which have higher rainfall with high temperatures will experience it. 

So, given that soils consist of few different parts which are well connected which are, temperature and moisture and the productivity in agriculture which goes with the level of decomposition. So, Greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in carbon stocks can be reduced by taking care of the soil and we'll managing it as they are affected by the climate(Sal, 2004). So, soils provide another solution in dealing with climate change(Tonneijck et al, 2010) and also help meet the sustainable development goals in South Africa because it states, 'take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact'.


This sustainable development goal its main aim it is to try and manage the forest and desertification and it aims to try to stop and reverse the degradation of the land. Soils play a vital role in the ecosystem as many organisms are found in the soil such organisms are fungi, viruses, bacteria, mites and many more others(Keesstra et al, 2016). There is an ever-increasing evidence that soils play a vital role in the biogeochemical cycle, above ground cycle and the control of plants, animals and human diseases.

 Most plants species grow in the soil and soil is always the determinant of nutrients which are available for plants. A lot of animals feed on these plants for food. Soil prevents certain type of species from growing as the environment is not suitable for them, it can do this through poor aeration, waterlogging, acidity. Such enables the distribution of organisms and animals as plants which grow in certain types of soils are shelters to some animals and provide food for them.

So if there is loss of soil on the land this means that all the organism which live on the soil they either die or get lost in the system, meaning that there will be a loss in biodiversity in which it will have an impact on the control of animals, plants and humans diseases as the control of such diseases will decrease(Wall et al, 2015). So in order to prevent the degradation of soil and keeping the soil in good condition, measures such as reduction of tillage of soil, increasing of the soil organic matter, controlling erosion on land and also preventing soil sealing and surface mining(Keesstra et al, 2016) have to be taken into account and by applying such methods on soil it helps South Africa to achieve sustainable development goals.

Zero hunger 

In order to achieve zero hunger in South Africa as a sustainable goal, the first step should be improving the quality and the health of the soil(Onwanga, 2019). If soils are healthy, they will be able to produce plants and vegetation which are healthy, which humans and animals together with other ecosystems will be able to feed on. The health of soils it is linked to the management of soil organic carbon pool, therefore if soil it is supplied with sufficient micro and macro nutrients it will be healthy and the health of soil is a strong in determining the amount of food production in a global scale(Onwanga, 2019). Healthy soils and water retention increase the amount of yield and the resilience in agriculture (Onwanga,2019) which is important in achieving the sustainable goal of zero hunger as many people will have food if yield is increased.


The relationship which links soil and poverty it is that of meeting food security in the rural areas which are poverty stricken(Radosavjevic et al, 2019). If soil quality is not as high as it should be therefore it will lead to artificial fertilizers not to be able to work and will fail as soil is compromised(Radosavjevic, 2019).

Through healthy soils, the agricultural sector will be able to grow which will trigger the development of the economy in other parts which are outside agriculture(Onwanga,2019). This will increase job opportunities which will help combat poverty like it is stated in the sustainable development goals. An increase in productivity in agriculture due to healthy soils, will lead to increase income for farmers, it will also increase food supply in South Africa while also decreasing food prices which is vital for reducing poverty. This will also provide employment to people and mostly live in poverty and in rural areas(Onwanga,2019).

The relationship between soils, agriculture and economy at large has allowed countries like South Africa which are mostly developing nations to grow economically(Onwanga,2019). These countries to grow due to soil and its importance in agriculture and people will benefit from such, with better job opportunities and better payments which are vital in helping tackling poverty in humans.

Good Health and well being 

The relationship between health and soil has been there for a very long time(Keesstra et al, 2016). In this current time the health department tries by all its efforts to increase human life expectancy, avoid the spread of disease and promote and improve health of individuals, this is done by organizing activities in the society(Keesstra et al, 2016). Soil have the ability to support life as the health of humans can be affected through the quality, quantity and safety of food and water which are produced by soils(Keesstra et al, 2016).

Human pathogens such as virus and bacteria they are kept and suppressed in the soil therefore they cannot be able to affect humans from there(Keesstra et al, 2016) but soils which contains a lot of chemicals and nutrients which are not needed they are increase the chances of survival of human pathogens as they thrive in such environments(Keesstra et al, 2016). So, by keeping the soil healthy it impacts on the health on humans in a positive manner and by that it will help South Africa meet the sustainable development goal which is related to the health.

Soils it is also the where most sources for powerful antibiotics are found, such antibiotics are used to treat patients and other diseases which are very hard to treat disease such as tuberculosis and cancer. The exposure to soil lead to people who have asthma to get worse so by keeping soils healthy this can be avoided and therefore help keep people healthy while meeting the sustainable development goal of health.

The role of soil in the energy cycle is very important as soil have the ability to sequester carbon dioxide from plants used for energy(Earth science week, n.d). Soil grown grains, residues, and even oil can be used to produce energy such as ethanol or biodiesel(Earth science week, n.d). Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into plants in a form of biomass and into soils in a form of organic or inorganic compound is known as carbon dioxide sequestration(Earth science week, n.d). To maximize sequestration, land management practices have to occur, these land management practices, they increase the storage of carbon in the soil, and decrease the loss of carbon in soil disturbances, conservation tillage is one such management method(Earth science week, n.d).

Improved water and nutrients, conservation tillage enables the cropland to be a net carbon sink(Earth science week, n.d), plants can also be a carbon sink. Energy such as biofuels can be produced by plant material and the land is needed for such to occur and the supply of biofuels made from plants depends on the soil(Earth science week, n.d). Soils which are more fertile will produce more biomass than those which are not fertile. Biofuels are low cost which help in achieving the seventh sustainable goal in South Africa which talks about affordability and clean energy, so by properly managing soils such goal can be achieved.


In concluding this essay aimed to look at why soil is important in achieving sustainable goals in South Africa. It was found that by protecting soil, its ability to produce clean water is increase as water and thus can be to water plants and also provide clean water and sanitations to all living in South Africa. Soil was also found that it is able to regulate the temperature as soil is able to absorb carbo dioxide which lessens the amount in the atmosphere.

Soil it is where most of the earths biodiversity is found as it contains a lot of organisms and also due to inability of some plants to grow on some type of soil it allows different organism at different place as these organism use such plants to eat or live on. In achieving zero hunger, there is a need for soils to be healthy and well conserve as they will maximise the maximum yield when agricultural occurs in which a lot of people are fed through.

Decreasing poverty through agriculture requires health soil, so that yield can increase and whenever that happen, job opportunities occur, food supply increase and other areas in the economy get a boost thereby reducing poverty in the country sustainably. Good Health and well being is achieved through soil as most of antibiotics sources can be found through soils and soils have the ability to suppress human pathogen, by this the health of humans is preserved.

Soil also plays a role in production of energy as biodiesel and ethanol can produced from plant material which grows through soil and also soil plays a role in production and supply of such energy.

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