FAO Liaison Office in New York
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Development from the ground up: World Soil Day event celebrates multiple roles of soil

5 December, New York The myriad ways healthy soils can support sustainable development were discussed in depth at the World Soil Day celebration at the United Nations Headquarters on 5 December in New York.


Co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Thailand, Colombia, Lesotho and the Netherlands to the United Nations, FAO and the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the event focused on the theme “Caring for the planet starts from the ground,” acknowledging the importance of soils for food security and nutrition, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and sustainable development.


"Soil conservation, preservation, restoration and sequestration of carbon into soils will put us in a far better position to meet these Goals and Targets by 2030. The protection of soil and land is key for solving a wide range of environmental, social and economic problems today,” said Ambassador Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations, opening the event.


For the Director of the FAO Liaison Office to the United Nations, Carla Mucavi, moderator of the event, the importance of soil for sustainable development, food security, climate change and health cannot be understated. She also noted that the discussions in the World Soil Day event would contribute to next year’s High-Level Political Forum that will address Sustainable Development Goal 15, among other SDGs that sustainable soils contribute to.


The event marked the launch of the “Global Soil Organic Carbon Map” and of the “The Global Assessment of the Impact of Plant Protection Products on Soil Functions and Soil Ecosystems”.


Yusuf Yigini, FAO Soil Mapping Specialist, presented the first global soil organic carbon map produced by a country-driven process. Yigini underscored the vital importance of soil organic carbon in the biosphere, as it serves a wide range of critical environmental functions, including soil structure, biodiversity, aeration and water retention. According to the map, soils hold 680 petagrams of organic carbon, more than what is held by vegetation globally.


Briefing the audience on “The Global Assessment of the Impact of Plant Protection Products on Soil Functions and Soil Ecosystems” was Gary Pierzynski, University Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University and an expert of the Global Soil Partnership’s Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS). Pierzynski noted that the judicious use of plant protection products could contribute to preserving soils and explained that soil management is sustainable if the services provided by soil are maintained or enhanced without significantly impairing either the soil functions that enable those services or biodiversity.


Krishna Nandhini, Deputy Chief of the UNCCD office in New York, stressed that addressing land degradation is instrumental to combating numerous global challenges. “Going land degradation neutral will enable the international community to address several global policy challenges that the world is facing today, especially food insecurity, poverty eradication, climate change adaptation, mitigation and resilience,” Nandhini said.


Didi Pershouse, soil expert from Soil Carbon Coalition, noted that “soil organisms are the quiet workers of the underground world, building the infrastructure we depend on for water, food and safety. The way we treat them will determine our future.”


World Soil Day is celebrated on December 5, date chosen to honor His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, a soil scientist. At the observance, Mr. Satira Udomsri, Expert on Soil Survey and Classification from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives of Thailand, recalled a statement by the late King of Thailand in which he highlighted, in 1978, that “our environment…is not only about the fineness but also the necessity for our living. Good protection of our environment is regarded as preserving the future of our next generation, too.”


National views

Ambassador Carlos Arturo Morales López, Deputy Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations, underlined at the event Colombia’s commitment to promoting sustainable use of soils.

Ms. Sandra Pellegrom, Head of Development for Humanitarian Affairs and Human Rights Section at the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations, highlighted the importance of sustainability for the Netherlands and the need for partnerships to ensure sustainable use of our soils.

Ambassador Kelebone Maope, Permanent Representative of Lesotho to the United Nations, delivered the closing remarks. “Soils are the foundation of our existence and need to be maintained and protected in the context of climate change,” Maope said.


Relevant links


Event photos

Concept note and programme

Statement by Thailand

Statement by Russia

Statement by Lesotho

Presentation by Satira Udomsri

Presentation by Yusuf Yigini

Presentation by Gary Pirzynski

Presentation by Didi Pershouse

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