Often overlooked, soil is the basis for food, feed, fuel and fibre production, and for services to ecosystems and human well-being. We need it to grow crops, protect biodiversity and to ensure water quality and supply. However, degraded soil affects nearly 1/3 of the earth’s land area, reducing topsoil, depleting nutrients and resulting in enormous environmental, social and economic costs.
Recognising this, we continuously work with farmers to ensure best practices for soil protection are implemented in supply chains. An example of this is our third party grower onion and tomato operations in California, USA, where we promote soil health through crop rotation with different plant root systems. In doing so, nutrients are conserved and re-introduced, reducing the need for pesticides and fertilisers.
For many smallholders, soils are exhausted due to poor soil management practices, population pressure on land, expensive chemical fertilisers, and labour-intensive organic nutrients. In many cases, Olam is supporting smallholders through an integrated soil fertility management programme to improve access to fertilisers and soil management techniques to improve yields and at the same time help the farmer to save money.
This is achieved by training and supporting farmers in 3 activity areas:
1. Increasing organic matter through compost, household waste, rotting leaves, and pulp.
2. Protecting the soil through mulching (to reduce evaporation and increase organic matter), planting agroforestry trees for shade and leaf fall, and intercropping with leguminous trees and food crops.
3. Appropriate application of inorganic fertilisers, coupled with access to these fertilisers on both cash and credit.