Lobby for healthy Soil

Fertile ground
Photo: C. Fischer

Not only is fertile soil the basis for healthy nutrition, but it is also an important factor in counteracting global warming. Projects such as Bodenfruchtbarkeitsfonds (Soil Fertility Fund) or the “Soil Ambassadors” allow Bio-Stiftung Schweiz (Swiss Organic Foundation) to provide farmers with support to improve the quality of their farmland.

The humus layer, which is formed from dead organic matter, is crucial: in addition to nutrients, it also stores water and binds carbon in the soil. However, modern agriculture is taking a heavy toll on it and leaching it out – even in organic farming, where topsoil quality is also tending to decline. Founded in 2014 by Bio-Stiftung Schweiz, the Bodenfruchtbarkeitsfonds fund provides 30 organic farms in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein with financial and technical assistance to build up or maintain the health of their soil.

These and other activities are made possible by the operational, non-profit foundation based in Arlesheim near Basel (Switzerland) on a project basis through grants and donations. Since 1987, it has been committed to environmentally sound farming and environmentally friendly consumerism, among other things, through various funds with different focal points. After an initial pilot period, the Software AG Foundation is also sponsoring several modules in the second Bodenfruchtbarkeitsfonds phase. “The key is to provide the involved farms with support and advice”, explains SAGST project manager Markus Kleikemper. “One way is to use a spade to take samples from the soil, which can then be analysed to determine its condition.” In combination with development discussions, this gives the farmers concrete input on how they can further care for their fields.

Additional areas of activity are educational offers for children and youth at the “Untere Tüfleten” school farm near Dornach, as well as the training of new “soil ambassadors”. The corresponding programme is one year long and consists of multi-day courses at the school farm and at Hofgut Rengoldshausen. The participants learn how to assess the soil using the spade method and what promotes humus formation. After completing the programme, they are available as information disseminators, for example, at the regularly organised farm days.

“In the course of the social debate on climate protection and sustainability, the importance of healthy, fertile soil is finally becoming more widely recognised”, says Kleikemper. “As a result, Bio-Stiftung Schweiz’s activities and initiatives, such as the Bodenfruchtbarkeitsfonds fund, are attracting growing interest.” Another project has also been produced with the support of SAGST: a brochure entitled “Trittst im Alpengift daher!” that aims to raise awareness of the sometimes intensive use of pesticides on alpine pastures. This publication can be downloaded free of charge from the Bio-Stiftung Schweiz website. A printed version can also be ordered for a contribution towards costs.