How to save soil – Fighting soil degradation

There is a grassroots campaign coming out of India to stop soil degradation and promote soil revitalization. The hashtag #SaveSoil has been getting substantial attention among the environmentally minded on social media, but just what is it?

degraded soil

The save soil movement

The save soil movement was initiated by Indian spiritual leader Sadhguru. It is meant to address the soil crisis that has hit India hard. But the goal is that it will span worldwide, and it’s getting attention across the globe. Soil degradation is a serious issue faced around the world, and this campaign is sorely needed.

The goal is to push governments and other organizations to institute policies that will increase the organic content in the soil needed for cultivation.

The United Nations, WHO, Italy, Czech Republic and many others are slowly coming around to this, but action is desperately needed.

Why Do We Need to Save the Soil?

Without soil that is rich and fertile, we can’t grow anything. It’s really that simple.

Around 75% of the land area on Earth has already been degraded according to the European Commission. In addition, 1 billion people are threatened by increasing desertification in more than 100 countries on all continents.

With a growing population, we need to produce more food. With less area to grow, that becomes a massive challenge that we need to face.

The cause of soil degradation

There are two main causes of soil degradation: Human and climatic.

The climatic variations are due to climate change, such as increases in drought and global moisture loss.

The human activities are by far the biggest reason. These can again be broken down into the following five categories:


Overgrazing occurs when plants and vegetation is grazed by animals for long periods of time, or if the areas do not have time to recover between grazing.

This kills the fauna by not letting any of the minerals go back into the earth in which it came from, making it inhospitable for the native plants. This can also cause invasive species to take their place, further adding to the destruction of the existing eco-system.

In Asia and Africa, this is by far the most important cause of human-induced soil degradation.


Deforestation refers to when forests are cleared by human activity. The permanent clearing of forests is a massive issue, especially in rainforests, which contain so much of the earth’s animals and plants.

As of 2022, 31% of the land surface on earth is covered by forests. This is down 33% from the time before expansion of agriculture, with more than half of that loss coming in the last century. More than 18,000,000 hectares or 180,000 km² is cleared yearly. That is more than the total land area of Missouri or the country of Bangladesh.

Agricultural activities

Agricultural activities refer to the transformation of natural vegetation for use in agriculture. A lot of this is due to not taking properly care of the soil by using inappropriate machinery or farming in areas that are not suited due to little rainfall. When there’s no new minerals entering the system through rain or plant degradation, the soil will die quickly.

On top of the massive areas degraded by agricultural activities, there is also a much larger area that is depleting because of agricultural mismanagement. That means farmers are not changing what is planted to keep nutrients in the soil, which then kills it slowly. The effects of this will be seen over the next years and decades. And it could be really bad.

deforestation in the amazon

Overexploitation of vegetation for domestic use

All around the globe people are cutting down plants for use without making sure the vegetation can regrow. This is a big problem in South America, where shrubs are often used for firewood in the dry land areas of Bolivia and Argentina.

Bio-industrial activities

While the other cause are factors in pure degradation, the pollution of the soil stems from bio-industrial activities. This is a problem mainly located in Europe, with 21 of the 23 million hectares of degradation located in the European continent.

Bio-industrial in this case refers to overuse of pesticides, manure, and pollution due to human created waste, which seeds into the water, causing issues with the soil.

The effects of soil degradation

With nearly a third of the world’s soil degraded to a certain degree, it is a very real threat to global food supplies. This again would increase emissions and could cause mass migration as people need to move in search of food and water.

Soil is a non-renewable resource, which is home to countless plants, animals, and organisms you can’t see with your eyes. This is often ignored, but it is key to sustaining life across the globe.


Erosion is another consequence of soil degradation. When soil is used in manners it should not be, such as forests on hills becoming farmland, the soil will slowly erode. This could cause the sediment to flow into streams and rivers, polluting the drinking water and killing fish and other species who need these water sources to survive.

When soil dies, it becomes desert. And that is an increasing threat to humanity.

How does soil revitalization help the environment?

With climate change an ever more imminent threat, revitalizing the soil is an important step. When soil degrades, it loses its capacity to store carbon. The life underground is the reason why the soil exists, and we must support this to keep soil vital.

Desertification also leads to mass migration in search of water and food, which is a looming catastrophe, especially in areas of Africa. We need to make sure people do not need to move, which would put further pressures on other ecosystems, compounding our issues further.

Methods of soil revitalization

There are many methods to help save soil, both direct and indirect. Let’s take a look at some of the most important ones.

Organic farming

With industrial farming advancing, the quality of soil has been declining at a rapid rate. The farms are now built with a single purpose, and this means that the natural eco-system of trees and animals roaming fields is a thing of the past.

Manure from animals, as well as leaves from trees are crucial in replenishing minerals in the soil. In essence: Nothing goes back in the soil.

Trees also brings shade, which helps the soil from drying out. And with drinking water in ever higher demand with the growth of the population, that is an important effect that we need to consider as well.

agroforestry in action


As mentioned above, tree-based agriculture needs to become a more prevalent thing within agriculture. We are not capable of producing new rain forests to replace the ones that have been removed over the past centuries. That would take hundreds of years.

What we are able to is make it more lucrative for farmers to grow trees. It has multiple benefits: It adds shade to fight drought, it helps the topsoil revitalize, and it harnesses carbon. Carbon capture in soil will also be improved as the soil is improved.

Reducing meat consumption

Farming animals is much more resource intensive than farming plants for human consumption. As we feed the animals, part of the efficiency is lost on the way. A reduction of meat consumption is crucial for reaching climate targets and will lessen the pressure on agriculture to expand into forests and previously untapped sources of land.

In order to do this, vegetarian options will have to be more visible and improved upon. We’ve already come a long way in increasing the quality of vegetarian restaurants and sustainable food offerings in supermarkets, but we still have a long way to go.

Lab-grown meat

Lab-grown meat is on its way into society as well, and the price of this meat is consistently falling, and will at some point be cheaper than the regularly farmed meat.

If everyone cut down on meat consumption, the climate footprint we leave would lessen considerably, and allow farming in more organic ways to preserve the crucial soil.


Hydroponics refers to the growing of seeds in nutrient-rich water without the need for any soil. This is a certain way of producing what you want, because there’s no need for the soil, which you can never really control fully. In areas where soil is salty, growing certain plants is hard, and with soil degradation, it is becoming even harder. With hydroponics, this problem will be solved, and we can allow the soil to regrow.

To sum it up…

We need to save soil. And we need to do it now. There are plenty of solutions ready to go, and we need to adopt these as soon as possible. Leaving soil to degrade will have massive consequences beyond just food security. Mass migration is potentially an event that could lead to conflicts which further enhances the problem. Act now.