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A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
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5 December 2016


World Soil Day 2016 and
the International Year of Pulses end of the year celebration


It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to celebrate the World Soil Day 2016 and the end of the International Year of Pulses.

I would like to start by paying tribute to His Majesty, late King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who was a soil scientist himself and a champion of soil conservation.

His dedication to soil improvement and sustainable soil management is well known.

His Majesty implemented more than 4 000 projects to support Thai farmers.

Earlier today, FAO Council observed a minute’s silence to honour His Majesty, who passed away in October, recognizing his enormous contributions to sustainable agriculture.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Just last week, FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) co-organized here in Rome a symposium to discuss sustainable food systems and nutrition.

One of the main conclusions was that healthy soils and healthy seeds are essential for producing healthy diets.

And pulses play an important role in this equation, especially to improve the quality of soils. This is a symbiosis for life, which is the theme of our event today.

Healthy soils are fundamental to produce clean water, preserve biodiversity, and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change, especially for poor family farmers of developing countries.

This is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals, and was highlighted during the recent UN Climate Conference in Marrakech, COP 22.

The cause of soils and their protection is high on the international agenda, and calls for collaborative and coordinated efforts.

In this Session of the FAO Council, Member Countries have endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management, which was developed by the FAO’s Global Soil Partnership.

These guidelines provide technical and policy recommendations on how to achieve sustainable soil management.

Their implementation can pave the way for boosting soil health, and unlocking soil’s potential to support mitigation and adaptation actions in a changing climate.

And to keep up the momentum of the International Year of Soils celebrated in 2015, we will award today, for the first time, the Glinka World Soil Prize.

This is in the honour of the Russian scientist Konstantin Glinka.

At the beginning of the last century, Glinka developed research and experiences to explore soil erosion and the principles of the geographical distribution of soils.      

This award aims to recognize the leadership and activities of individuals and organizations in the promotion of sustainable soil management.

I take this opportunity to thank the Government of the Russian Federation for the great support to establish the Glinka Prize, as well as to the Global Soil Partnership in general.

Ladies and gentlemen, 

The International Year of Pulses 2016 was launched to raise awareness of the benefits of pulses to eradicate rural poverty and hunger, to improve nutrition, and to protect the environment.

As I look back, I take pride in our many achievements, thanks to the support of donors for the International Year Trust Fund and the commitment of all stakeholders.

I also thank the members of the Steering Committee. They have shown admirable dedication and passion, under the guidance of the Co-Chairs from Pakistan and Turkey,

The International Year of Pulses has been successfully celebrated worldwide.

Five regional consultations were held to discuss opportunities and challenges.

Last month, a Global Dialogue organized here in FAO gathered member countries, research centres, civil society, academia and farmers’ organizations to identify priorities for action, in order to continue promoting pulses much beyond the International Year.

These efforts are just the beginning.

We need to continue to take action.

Pulses and soils have fundamental contributions to make on our common path to sustainable development.

Especially for many poor family farmers, who struggle in rural areas of developing countries, and are the bulk of the nearly 800 million people that still suffer from hunger and extreme poverty.

These people must be our fundamental target, as we focus on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Thank you very much for your attention.