Soil health underpins the resilience of food and forage production and other key ecosystem services that support agricultural livelihoods and is often threatened in the regions where the CRFS works. The Soils Cross-Cutting project, based at Colorado State University, seeks to support and connect the efforts of CRFS projects to build soil health and conserve soils in smallholder contexts through:
- Developing and connecting project partners to a soil health assessment tool kit that can be used to assess soil contexts and measure progress in building soil health (see smallholder-sha.org).
- Carrying out research in coordination with graduate students and project staff of key projects with a strong focus on soil health.
- Backstopping the activities of projects and CRFS regional leadership in the three world regions regarding soils research design and soils issues.
- Connecting the CRFS to other global efforts to foster soil health as part of addressing the climate crisis and supporting sustainable food systems that prioritize the participation and livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
Now in Phase II, the soils cross-cutting project continues to support projects in the three CRFS regions around issues of agroecological management and soil health, with the aim of strengthening smallholder livelihoods and farming system resilience. The project team has transitioned from piloting the soil health tool kit to the design and refinement of a more useable, validated product and public good. The team continues to work with the three communities of practice as well as cross-cutting projects (Research Methods, Agroecological Assessment) and other partners to advance strategies that promote food systems sustainability. They are continuing to provide soils research design support to a range of projects, with emphasis on the “agroecology hub” projects recently established in the East & Southern Africa CoP as well as other partners in the Andes and West Africa. The expectation is that capacity-building and farmer learning using the soil tool kit manual and videos on the project website at smallholder-sha.org and research strategies for soils will be able to expand the impact of the hubs, farmer research networks, and other networks and platforms.
Globally, there is growing enthusiasm about building and benefiting from soil organic matter to sustain farm productivity and to reduce atmospheric carbon in the form of greenhouse gases. The Soils Cross-Cutting project will also link with broader efforts to build soil health worldwide via the Global Alliance for the Future of Food and other global outreach by the CRFS.