FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Thailand celebrates World Soil Day on His Majesty the King’s birthday

FAO HQ Rome plans workshop on securing healthy soils for a food secure world

04/12/2012 Bangkok, Thailand

In recognition of the crucial role played by soils in promoting food security and particularly in light of the enormous challenges that soils face when it comes to sustainable management and protection, FAO will observe World Soil Day on 5 December 2012 for the first time, which is also the 85th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. Earlier this year, His Majesty the King was honoured as the first recipient of the Humanitarian Soil Scientist award for his dedication to soil resource management. The award was presented to His Majesty by Stephen Northcliff, Chairman of the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) on 16 April 2012.

The 17th World Congress of Soil Science, held in Bangkok in August 2002, recognised His Majesty the King’s ingenuity in solving various soil problems and soil use to help in cultivation and the IUSS subsequently passed a resolution in 2002 proposing 5 December, His Majesty the King’s birthday, as World Soil Day, honouring His Majesty’s promotion of soil science and soil resource conservation. On this day, the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to the human wellbeing through its contribution to food, water and energy security and its role in mitigating biodiversity loss and climate change are to be celebrated.

Yesterday the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the Land and Development Department and the Soil and Fertilizer Society of Thailand co-hosted a "grand celebration" , at Siam Paragon Complex in honour of His Majesty receiving the IUSS "Humanitarian Soil Scientist" award and to commemorate World Soil Day. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn opened the event, which was also addressed by Yukol Laemlamthong, Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives and Jae E. Yang, Professor and President of the IUSS.

Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, said: "FAO appreciates the lead that His Majesty the King has taken on this issue, which has helped to develop further methods to improve sustainable soil management. The World Soil Day theme for this year is Securing healthy soils for a food secure world. It reflects FAO’s concern to have soils placed at the top of the development agenda worldwide. Soil is a finite natural resource. On a human time-scale it is non-renewable and despite the essential role that soil plays for human livelihoods, there is increasing soil degradation because of inappropriate management practices and population pressures are driving unsustainable intensification and inadequate governance of this essential resource. We need to turn this around and there isn’t much time to succeed."

Despite efforts by IUSS and soil scientists around the world, in recent decades soils have been seen as a second-tier priority in international and national decision making processes. Soil degradation is a silent process that does not easily command the attention of decision makers. Yet, soils are a critical resource for addressing current and future pressures on limited resources. It is also fundamental to meeting the world’s growing food demands heightened by the planet’s expanding population. Recognition, advocacy and support for the sustainable management of soils form the only viable path if healthy soils for a food secure world are to be guaranteed.

However, the tide may be changing because agriculture and food security are again at the top of the policy agenda. The food price crisis, increasing threats to production from climate change that led to unreliable rains, flooding or extended drought, and the fact that more than 50 percent of the world’s population now live in urban areas, all this is leading to a renewed appreciation of the importance of soil.

Associated with World Soil Day, FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy is offering a 3-day technical workshop on Sustainable Soil Management, which will be held in Sheikh Zayed Centre. The Workshop is expected to launch a state of the art report on global and regional soil information.

FAO, under the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, and with the full support expressed by its country members during the 144th FAO Council 11-15 June 2012, has requested the 38th session of the FAO Conference in June 2013 to endorse the proposal to establish 5 December as World Soil Day, and to reques the Director-General of FAO to formally request the UN Secretary-General to table the proposal at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

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