Stouffville teen looks toward healthy soil as key to the future

Stouffville Grade 9 student Saanvi Tonse remembers vividly when she became involved in the Save Soil movement.

“It was an example given by the United Nations how back when our grandparents were young, if they ate an orange we would have to eat eight oranges now to receive the equivalent amount of nutrients,” she said. “That really struck me. I was astounded.”

So Saanvi made it her mission to start raising awareness about the crisis of soil degradation locally and around the world. She set up an Earth Day booth last year at Memorial Park promoting the Save Soil movement. She also presented at the Environmental Fair hosted by the Stouffville Lions Club.

Saanvi said she was showing people how our soil is composed of sand and organic matter and showed how when organic matter is taken away from the soil it turns to sand.

“The first step is to spread awareness. If you take just five minutes of your time to share this with your friends and family, it can make a big impact,” he said.

The importance of healthy soil in the long term shouldn’t be underestimated, Saanvi said. She pointed to the vast majority of civil wars in Africa being based around agriculture and food scarcity. “If we continue our way, it could lead to something like this with lots of mass migration and brutality,” he said.

Looking towards the future, Saanvi said planting more trees and plants attracts more animals to organic content in the soil, and then more animals spread natural fertilizer over the fields.

Agroforests and planting more cover crops were things she pointed to for improving soil health in the future.

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“There is a Japanese proverb that says: ‘there’s no point in planting seeds after you are hungry,’” she said, “meaning if we don’t take action now, there’s no point in doing it after there’s a disaster.”

Saanvi will once again be taking part in Earth Day festivities this year at the fair being hosted at the Leisure Centre. She will be holding a booth on Save Soil, and also partnering with Turtle Guardians this year.

“I will explain how our soil is degrading and how it is the most vital component of our ecosystem,” she said. Turtles play a key role in the ecosystem as they help purify water in wetlands.

Saanvi made a presentation at the Whitchurch-Stouffville council last month and the town raised a Save Soil flag at the Leisure Center on March 21.

“What you guys are doing for the Save Soil movement is to be commended,” Stouffville Mayor Iain Lovatt said.

The Save Soil movement was started 24 years ago by Yogi Sadhguru who has been continuously bringing the importance of soil and threat of soil extinction into the spotlight. For more information, you can visit consciousplanet.org.

One place in the midst of soil regeneration is a 27-acre field at the front of Willowgrove in Stouffville. That is where Ravi Gukathasan is turning the former farm field into a self-sustainable ecosystem using regenerative practices and native flora. “We need to give more to Mother Nature and take less,” Gukathasan said. When he took over the site, the soil wasn’t in great condition. “They grew corn and the soil was hard and compacted,” he said. “Within one year, we are seeing differences.”

His organization, 220KM, is an experiment of sorts for Gukathasan. He’s interested in what active carbon sequestration looks like after a 10-year period. “I don’t have expectations. I’m a scientist,” he explained.

Gukathasan also said he wanted to show that you can actually make money by regenerating the native ecosystem. He is paying Willowgrove the same rent they receive from local farmers with an eye toward making natural cosmetics, super flours and powders from native species.


STORY BEHIND THE STORY: For Earth Day, reporter Simon Martin went to see what a young person in Stouffville is doing to help the future of the planet.

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