Improving Soil Health and Soil Security for Food and Nutrition Security in Nepal

Soil health and soil security are intrinsically interconnected with food and nutrition security. Hence, their improvement is necessary for a normal functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, including but not limited to increasing biodiversity and crop productivity and improving people’s livelihoods. This chapter reviews the soil fertility status across various agro-ecological or geographic regions of Nepal, soil-related constraints to crop production, factors affecting soil fertility decline, improved soil management practices, soil-related policies and strategies, and contribution of soil to food and nutrition security in the country. Comparisons with South Asian literature are also made wherever relevant. Soils show spatial variability across agro-ecological or geographic regions. Soils across hills and mountains are light-textured, shallow, and susceptible to erosion while low-lying areas including Terai have heavy textured soils with greater depth, and prone to flooding. Majority of the soils in the country are acidic, low in organic carbon and total nitrogen, and deficient in zinc, boron, and molybdenum. Soil fertility is in declining trend mainly due to soil nutrient mining, depletion of soil organic matter, soil erosion in hills and mountains, and inappropriate use of chemical fertilizers in Terai region. Long-term cropping systems experiments conducted across research centers and farmers’ fields have indicated that integrated nutrient management with organic inputs and inorganic fertilizers is necessary for maintaining soil nutrient balance and enhancing productivity, profitability, and sustainability of cropping systems. The contribution of soil to food and nutrition security is discussed in relation to the importance of improved soil management practices including the use of organic inputs (manures, compost, residues), inorganic fertilizers, legumes in crop rotation, green manures, cover crops, and mulching, in-situ manuring, strip cropping, hedgerow/alley cropping, and practicing reduced or minimum tillage within the framework of integrated plant nutrient management. Improving soil information systems and site-specific nutrient management using digital technologies such as digital soil maps, mobile soil testing labs, and Nutrient Expert-based site-specific nutrient recommendations are also discussed. The chapter also highlights policy implications and recommendations for increasing food security through maintaining soil health and soil security and achieving various SDGs, in particular SDG #2 (end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition), #6 (water quality), #13(climate action), and #15 (life on land) in Nepal.
Food security, Nutrient management