10 June 2021

A videogame style cartoon shows kids why soil can’t handle a game over


Understanding soil and its pivotal role in food security. And protecting its life. A new FAO video provides an essential lesson

by Matteo Cavallito


“Mom, why is soil so important?”. It’s hard to answer such a question when confronted with a 5-year-old kid. Yet involving the new generations in this struggle for land health is essential to change the course. So why not create a cartoon ” response “? A FAO project called “Integrated Natural Resources Management” and funded by the Global Environment Facility definitely dit it. Dedicated to rural areas of Ukraine (but also suitable for many other countries, including Italy) the video “Mission: Keep soil alive!” runs for two minutes showing the importance and the fragility of soil.

The initiative is part of the broader program of the Global Soil Partnership, which is also responsible for the recent protocol for the evaluation of sustainable soil management which aims to provide a framework, based on a series of indicators, for government officials, NGOs and other parties involved in development projects. With the goal of assessing the validity of land management practices.

From misleading prosperity to game over

Animated images speak clearly. A farmer chases away the animals and so begins to disturb the ecosystem balance. But this is just the beginning. Over time, unsustainable farming practices give the illusion of prosperity and then ultimately damage the land. Yields decline, and eventually consumers become angry and scream against the wrong target: an increasingly tortured land. Game over, just like a videogame. So we better take a step back, and pay attention to the most important message: the survival of the soil is up to those who manage it. And the end of its life cycle has an enormous impact on all of us.

95% of our food is connected to soil

Numbers don’t lie. Soil, as FAO already explained, hosts 25% of global biodiversity and provides various resources (from food to shelter and many more) to 40% of land animals. Moreover, land itself is essential for food systems. “It is estimated that 95 percent of our food is directly or indirectly produced in soils” says the organization. But intensive land use and unsustainable management practices and deforestation “leads to soil sealing, pollution, increases fire frequency”. That’s why “we need to focus on preserving our soils”. Before it’s too late.