17 May 2022

FAO is launching a photo contest dedicated to soil issues


Soil value is the focus of #Soils4Nutrition, the new photo contest launched by FAO. From war consequences to the micronutrient challenge, food security is increasingly in the spotlight. Submission closes on July 10

by Matteo Cavallito


Portraying the importance of soil and raising awareness about the dangers that threaten its balance. That is the goal of the #Soils4Nutrition photo contest, launched by the FAO in the framework of the Global Symposium on Soils for Nutrition scheduled for July 26-29. The event, which will take place online, is part of the initiatives of the Global Soil Partnership, launched in 2012 by the UN organization.

Four key themes in the contest

“Participants are invited to post their photos on social media accounts, using the competition hashtags: #Soils4Nutrition and #GlobalSoilPartnership #UNFAO,” says the organization. “The FAO corporate social media may share and retweet the winning photos on corporate accounts.” Four themes will inspire the images:

  • Importance of soils for food security, nutritious food and healthy diets;
  • Nutrient deficiencies in crop;
  • Danger of soil nutrient losses/ nutritional imbalances;
  • Techniques and management practices to improve soil

The issues are still fueling the debate on soil conservation and food security.

Food security at center of discussions

The issue has come powerfully back into the spotlight in recent months as war in Ukraine escalated. Indeed, among the direct consequences of the Russian invasion, the shrinking agricultural production and disruptions on the supply chain stand out, analysts say. Both issues deeply impact the balance of the global food system.

However, the conflict between Moscow and Kiev isn’t the only problem. In fact, what is also threatening food security in developing countries is the persistence of a chronic and widespread issue on a large scale: micronutrient deficiency. To date, says FAO, 30 percent of the world’s population does not take in sufficient amounts of essential elements and substances such as iron, zinc, folate, vitamins and more. This is a consequence of under varied diets but also of the effects of soil degradation.

Soil protection is crucial

When soil health declines, in fact, nutrient depletion is inevitable. Crops lose essential elements, limiting the physical and mental potential of younger individuals. “In the poorest parts of India and China,” the British broadcaster BBC reminds, “millions of children have their lives stunted through lack of iron. In South Asia, an estimated 50% of pregnant women have iron deficiency, and it is also prevalent in South America and sub-Saharan Africa.”

To tackle nutrient hunger, the FAO says, we need to move toward sustainable agricultural models thus ensuring food production as well as “protecting environmental resources, including soil, and provide economic profitability while maintaining social equity,” according to a common definition.

That means implementing practices such as crop rotation, reducing erosion and enriching the presence of organic matter. All these strategies are based primarily on protecting soil health.

The winner will be announced at the end of July

There is time until July 10 to submit your photographic work by sending material to the initiative’s official address (full details here). A jury composed of an independent panel of people with different areas of expertise in photography will select the 10 best works that will be displayed on the websites and social channels of the United Nations and FAO. The authors will receive an award, gadgets and FAO publications and will will have their entries exposed on the websites and social media channels of the United Nations and FAO. Finally, public voting will choose the best photo from the 10 shortlisted entries. The winner will be announced on July 29.