The SOIL Fund: Addressing erosion around the world
Erosion and sedimentation threaten food security, impede basic transportation, and even cause loss of life and property when catastrophic slope failures bury communities. Massive soil erosion and river sedimentation can result from large-scale deforestation and unsustainable agriculture practices, which is a current issue in the Amazon
. However, this is a global
challenge that the International Erosion Control Association (IECA) is working
to address. IECA is a non-profit, member-supported organization that provides
education, resource information, and business opportunities for professionals
in the erosion and sediment control industry. basin of South America
What is the SOIL Fund?
At IECA’s annual conference in 2008, several members formed a charitable arm within the organization, which became known as the Save Our International Land (SOIL) Fund. Management of the SOIL Fund is carried out by a committee of geographically diverse erosion control professionals who develop procedures, promote the fund’s work, approve projects, raise funds, and manage financial resources.
The name “SOIL Fund” emphasizes the worldwide focus of the fund’s activities. With the support of IECA membership, the fund provides technical assistance for programs and projects that address soil erosion and sedimentation through applied technology, education, and research.
To date, all projects have been located in developing countries, although the committee is open to helping underserved communities in developed countries as well. The fund has also avoided supporting large projects using high-tech imported materials, and instead focuses on the use of local equipment and materials to promote sustainability.
SOIL Fund Past Projects
In 2009, the fund conducted its first project in the
village of Tsuraku
at the edge of the Amazon basin rainforest in . Two SOIL Fund teams provided erosion and
sediment control guidance for a pipeline installation through the jungle from a
water intake structure to a water storage tank and village school. Ecuador
In 2010 and 2011, a SOIL Fund team established a banana orchard on
Easter Island – a Chilean territory in the South
Pacific. The goal of this project was to show local residents how idle,
deforested, eroded land could be used to cultivate a cash crop with a ready
market on the Chilean mainland.
Planting banana trees for a reforestation demonstration project on
Easter Island in the South
Pacific. Photo by Pablo
In 2011, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) asked for SOIL Fund assistance with erosion problems in
Malingua Pamba, Ecuador –
a rural agricultural community in the Andes. EWB was assisting the community in developing a
potable water system. Approximately 75 eroded sites in the community were
visited to create a report recommending low-tech solutions for erosion
mitigation. In 2012 and 2013, EWB erosion control teams assisted the community
with installation of structural best management practices using local materials
and planting native vegetation at several high-priority sites along local roads
and in agricultural fields.
Volunteers from the Malingua Pamba community in
and Engineers without Borders stabilizing an eroded slope above an important
village access road in 2013. Volunteers planted Sigsig, a native grass
with a long root system, at this site. Photo by Laura Backus. Ecuador
The SOIL Fund faces three challenges in meeting its goal of supporting projects that improve the lives of people around the world who are directly affected by erosion and sedimentation. The first is finding appropriate projects to support in motivated communities. Additionally, many of the proposals received include budgets for local salaries, administration, and expenses that are far beyond the scope and funding capability of the organization.
The second challenge is finding dedicated volunteer leaders for each SOIL Fund project. Though there is a requirement that an IECA member lead projects, nonmember participation also is welcome. The fund looks for committed volunteers to conduct preliminary assessments, train local workers, supervise community projects, and carry out applied research. It also needs volunteers who provide support with skills such as geographic information systems and fundraising.
The final challenge is, of course, money. In the past, the SOIL Fund has relied on member contributions and the proceeds from silent auctions held during IECA’s annual conferences. However, raising more than $2,000 to $3,000 per year this way is difficult and limits the fund to one small project at a time. To increase financial resources, the SOIL Fund committee has started to approach erosion and sediment control equipment manufacturers, product distributors, and environmental consulting firms to consider the SOIL Fund as part of their corporate giving programs – a charitable cause relating directly to their industry. The committee also has asked IECA’s regional chapters for financial assistance and to consider “adopting” SOIL Fund projects, a program in which a chapter could raise money for a project and have volunteers from the chapter provide the technical assistance.
The SOIL Fund encourages IECA chapters and individual IECA members to identify worthy projects and provide technical assistance to further international erosion and sediment control. The first step is to submit a SOIL Fund Pre-Application. Non-IECA members can apply for technical assistance from the SOIL Fund on behalf of a community using the Request for Technical Assistance form. Both of these forms and information on making a donation to the SOIL Fund are available at: www.ieca.org/soil.
Disclosure: This article was excerpted from a feature article published in World Water Storm Water Management Magazine, published in April/May 2015. It can be viewed here.
Author’s Note: Will Mahoney is a registered professional geologist and a certified professional in stormwater quality with 35 years of experience as an environmental scientist. His Denver-based consulting firm, Environmental Services International LLC, in
Colorado, focuses on environmental compliance
for oil and gas production and pipeline construction projects. USA