Toronto, February 13, 2023 – Although soils host a quarter of all global biodiversity, management intensification and habitat loss are generating a loss of biodiversity on agricultural lands at an alarming rate. However, there is good news and it’s right under our feet. Research shows that improving soil health on agricultural lands offers one of the largest and most immediate opportunities to improve biodiversity and mitigate climate change in Canada. Today, to support this effort, the Weston Family Foundation, through the Weston Family Soil Health Initiative, is announcing $10 million in funding to help promote more adaptive and resilient agricultural lands.
Launched in the spring of 2022, The Weston Family Soil Health Initiative, seeks to expand the adoption of ecologically based beneficial management practices (BMPs) including cover cropping, nutrient management (4R principles) and crop diversification/rotation that increase soil organic matter to improve biodiversity and resiliency on agricultural lands across Canada. Healthy soil organic matter helps to improve water retention, supports carbon sequestration, and makes agro-ecosystems more resilient and better able to recover and adapt to environmental stresses such as drought and floods.
“It is clear, through the high-quality applications we received, that soil health is of growing importance in the agriculture sector and that there are scientifically proven yet underutilized approaches to increasing soil organic matter on Canada’s farmlands,” says Emma Adamo, Chair, Weston Family Foundation. “Our Foundation is committed to supporting landscape-level efforts to find solutions to our environmental challenges and, ultimately, improve the well-being of Canadians.”
The $10 million in funding over five years has been awarded to eight agricultural and conservation organizations working to promote soil health BMPs through incentivizing stewardship, supporting outreach and education, and supporting market-based approaches towards adoption. Awarded projects include an innovative reverse auction model for BMP adoption, field-tested hubs to evaluate cover crop management strategies, and a first-of-its-kind network of First Nations soil health Learning Circles that will co-develop land-based training workshops with First Nations land managers and the farmers that farm their land on BMPs that can improve soil health, including crop diversification, reduced inputs and landscape diversification. Details on the funded projects can be found at https://westonfoundation.ca/project/weston-family-soil-health-initiative/
Improving agricultural management practices, particularly those that are nature-based, are now globally recognized as one of the most effective solutions to improve resiliency and to reduce biodiversity loss. “Agricultural lands represent 154 million acres of the Canadian landscape and Canadians should be increasingly concerned by the rate at which our agricultural soils are deteriorating,” says Michael Bradstreet, Chair of the Weston Family Soil Health Initiative external advisory panel and former Senior Vice-president, Conservation at Nature Conservancy of Canada. “We have an opportunity to address the gap in Canada by helping to mobilize the sector to increase the adoption of soil health improving practices.”
ABOUT THE WESTON FAMILY SOIL HEALTH INITIATIVE:
The Weston Family Soil Health Initiative is a five-year, $10 million funding opportunity that aims to expand the adoption of ecologically based beneficial management practices (BMPs) that increase soil organic matter to improve biodiversity and resiliency on agricultural lands across Canada.
For more information about the Weston Family Soil Health Initiative, please visit https://westonfoundation.ca/project/weston-family-soil-health-initiative/ and follow us on Twitter @westonfamilyfdn.
ABOUT THE WESTON FAMILY FOUNDATION:
At the Weston Family Foundation (formerly The W. Garfield Weston Foundation), more than 60 years of philanthropy has taught us that there’s a relationship between healthy landscapes and healthy people. That’s why we champion world-class health research and innovation with the same passion that we support initiatives to protect and restore biodiversity on our unique landscapes. We take a collaborative approach to philanthropy, working alongside forward-thinking partners to advance Canada and create lasting impacts. We aspire to do more than provide funding; we want to enable others to find transformational ways to improve the well-being of Canadians.
Weston Family Foundation