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A nation that rebuilds its soils rebuilds itself- an engineer's perspective

Johnson, Karen L.; Gray, Neil D.; Stone, Wendy; Kelly, Bryce F.J.; Fitzsimons, Mark F.; Clarke, Cathy; Blake, Lynsay; Chivasa, Stephen; Mtambanengwe, Florence; Mapfumo, Paul; Baker, Andy; Beckmann, Sabrina; Dominelli, Lena; Neal, Andrew L.; Gwandu, Tariro

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Neil D. Gray

Wendy Stone

Bryce F.J. Kelly

Mark F. Fitzsimons

Cathy Clarke

Lynsay Blake

Florence Mtambanengwe

Paul Mapfumo

Andy Baker

Sabrina Beckmann

Lena Dominelli

Andrew L. Neal

Tariro Gwandu


Nations can build and rebuild degraded soils to help address climate change and potentially improve the nutritional content of food if we change policies that allow the addition of safe mineral and organic wastes to soil. We present a framework that facilitates the transition from intensive conventional to more regenerative farming practices by considering soil's natural cycle. Our paper is presented in three parts. Firstly, we consider that 'soil is living'; just like humans, the soil biome needs a balanced diet of macro and micronutrients as well as a nurturing environment. We simplify the soil science and take a systems approach which focuses on restoring soil's natural cycle to benefit both health (by increasing micronutrients in soil) and wealth (through climate change adaptation and mitigation). Secondly, we consider the scale of the problem of soil degradation and the timescales involved in rebuilding soils and barriers to implementation. Thirdly, we propose a potential framework which enables communities to identify what might be missing from soil's natural cycle. This framework helps communities consider how they might change soil texture by addition and manipulation of both minerals and organic matter. We present an educational tool, ‘soil in a jar’ based on a narrative of nurturing soil which is designed to engage and inspire society to get their hands dirty. Communities can use the framework to produce locally specific solutions to restore their soil's natural cycle and rebuild their local and national economies.


Johnson, K. L., Gray, N. D., Stone, W., Kelly, B. F., Fitzsimons, M. F., Clarke, C., …Gwandu, T. (2022). A nation that rebuilds its soils rebuilds itself- an engineer's perspective. Soil security, 7, Article 100060.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 22, 2022
Online Publication Date Apr 11, 2022
Publication Date 2022-06
Deposit Date Jun 15, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 15, 2022
Journal Soil Security
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Article Number 100060


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