Soil conservation becomes heart of the matter in land of sand

Kids become soil scientists as part of Dubai Municipality’s awareness drive to mark World Soil Day at Kite Beach

Dubai: Kids visiting Dubai’s Kite Beach this weekend can turn soil scientists for a day and learn about soil conservation in a fun and engaging way.

For the very fact that there is hardly any soil in the land of sand, the World Soil Day has become an important occasion for Dubai to spread awareness about soil conservation.

The World Soil Day, which falls on December 5, is observed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations to bring together communities to raise awareness on the importance of healthy soil and advocating for the sustainable management of soil resources.

This year’s theme — “Caring for the Planet Starts from the Ground” — centres on encouraging people to understand how crucially soil health is connected to our own health.

More than 80 per cent of the soil in the UAE is sandy. Only 13 per cent of the soil in the country is suitable for irrigated farming, according to the national soil map.

About 7 per cent of potential agricultural land is in Northern Emirates, especially in Ras Al Khaimah, and 5.4 per cent is in Abu Dhabi emirate.

Considering the scarcity of this natural resource, which is vital for plant growth, the Environment Department of Dubai Municipality is marking the World Soil Day at Kite Beach.

The three-day community awareness programme being held from 3pm to 7pm started on Thursday. The event includes a series of performances, workshops and interactive activities, mainly targeting children.

Some of the activities include soil experiments for children and adults that demonstrate basic soil principles such as the formation and content of soil and how readily it erodes.

Children are invited to join the scientists in creating their own experiment by comparing the soil run-off from a vegetated sample of soil, a semi-vegetated sample and a sample with no vegetation at all.

Another major lesson kids get to learn is how plant roots bind the soil and protect it from eroding. They are also learning how to make their own soil profiles — where groups of children get to be soil scientists and create the perfect soil profile to plant their plant.

There are planting workshops which encourage children and families to plant their gardens and provide them with tips on how best to do this. The main stage on the beach displays soil cartoons and movies, where families can relax on the beanbags and watch.

“Soil is a massively undervalued resource,” said Dena Haleem, senior Environmental Research and Studies officer at municipality’s Environment Department.

“It is non-renewable. Our food, water and climate depend on it,” she pointed out.

“There is very less fertile soil in Dubai. That makes it even more important for us to preserve it. So we are trying to make young generation understand the importance of preserving soil by arranging these fun and engaging activities.”

Science experts from Nutty Scientists, a science education centre in Dubai, has joined hands with the municipality to showcase through interesting activities that soil is a very important resource that people disregard a lot.

“By letting them do role playing of soil scientists, we are teaching them about different layers of the soil, soil as a filter, soil erosion, how flooding happens, how planting more can help reduce erosion etc,” said Shahd Najmus, science instructor from Nutty Scientists.

The Food Safety Department of the municipality has also arranged activities that highlight the importance of soil in nutrition of food items and for food security.

Kids are taught how to make soil sustainable by using organic, household residues and how microbes, ladybugs, caterpillars and other organisms are important for soil fertility, said Shugufta M. Zubair, senior food safety awareness support officer at the department.

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