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28578: Sprague (Article) SOIL

From: Jeb Sprague <jebsprague@mac.com>

Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) Founded in Haiti.
July 2006

Visit the SOIL Website at http://www.oursoil.org

Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is a non-profit
organization with a mission to support research and implementation of
community based approaches to soil fertility, erosion control, and
water source protection in Haiti. Our goal is to promote integrated
approaches to the problems of poverty, public health, agricultural
productivity, and environmental destruction developed through
collaborative relationships between community organizations in Haiti
and academics and activists internationally. Building communities,
building the soil, building the grassroots.

Maintaining soil is the essence of sustainability from both
environmental and social perspectives. The basic elements that make
up living matter all come from, and return to, the soil.  Nutrients
from the soil are constantly flowing through all living organisms.
Healthy soil retains and cleanses water resources and protects
communities from natural disasters.  All of humanity is dependant on
soil, biologically, economically, socially, and spiritually.  Human
health, livelihood, and wellbeing are inextricably linked to the soil.

Increased global consumption of food and fiber has diminished soil
resources and increased environmental pollution.  Nutrient and
chemical runoff from industrialized crop and livestock production and
human waste pollute water supplies, with serious regional
environmental, health, and social implications.  Deforestation,
driven by localized poverty and charcoal demand and global demand for
forest resources, has led to serious erosion.  Fertile soil needed
for productive farming is washed into aquatic systems, where it
displaces fishstocks in a cycle that continually reduces local food
production. In addition, the denuded mountainsides no longer protect
communities from landslides and floods.
Increased soil fertility is also critical to income generation,
particularly in impoverished agricultural communities, which
constitute approximately 2.4 billion people worldwide. In contrast to
industrialized farming systems, these communities rarely have access
to the commercial fertilizers that are used by wealthier farmers to
maintain soil fertility and increase production, making it difficult
for poor farmers to compete in the global market.  Each year hundreds
of thousands of farmers are forced to leave their land and seek work
in the cities, no longer able to support their families through
farming. Cities do not have adequate jobs or services to absorb the
flow of internally displaced refugees and, in many communities, poor
water and sanitation contribute to the spread disease and drive
families deeper into poverty.

Given their importance to human health, livelihood and wellbeing,
access to soil fertility and water resources are politically and
socially regulated and, much like oil, are increasingly controlled by
capital markets. Poor farmers are unable to afford prime agricultural
land, irrigation or inputs and much of the world does not have access
to safe drinking water resources.  The cycle of poverty is perpetuated.

SOIL seeks to support and engage in collaborative community-based
education and implementation projects which utilize local creativity,
resources, and labor to enhance soil fertility, improve crop yields,
limit erosion, protect water resources, and create livelihood
opportunities for impoverished communities in Haiti.
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