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The Global Soil Doctors Programme promotes sustainable soil management in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is actively working towards fostering sustainable soil management. As part of this initiative, they have initiated the implementation of the Global Soil Doctors Programme (GSDP) through a Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project on integrated management for the sustainable development of the Venezuelan Andes. The implementation of the project is currently underway with the support of key stakeholders. These include the National Institute for Rural Development (MPPAT-INDER) (which acts as the national promoter of the GSDP), the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, the Ministry of Ecosocialism (MINEC), the Latin American Forestry Institute (IFLA), the Rómulo Gallegos National Experimental University of the Central Plains  (UNERG), the Foundation for the Technical Unification of Research, Training and Extension (UTICEX), the FAO country office in Venezuela and FAO’s Global Soil Partnership (GSP).


The programme was officially launched during the World Soil Day celebration on 5 December 2023, through an online webinar attended by around 70 people. Merxaida Márquez, representing MPPAT-INDER, emphasised that the programme will support various stakeholders in fostering rural development activities, focusing on sustainable soil management, knowledge generation and dissemination, soil conservation, and the enhancement of soil productivity through farmer-to-farmer training in Venezuela. Merxaida outlined the programme’s goals for the next three years, aiming to train 44 trainers, 122 soil doctors and over 1 100 farmers in 73 municipalities throughout the country.

Sixteen staff members of the GEF Andean Landscape project and IFLA were trained as soil doctor trainers between 6 and 8 December 2023. The three-day training focused primarily on understanding the role of soils in ecosystem services, with a comprehensive curriculum that included how to increase organic matter and biodiversity, and how to manage the soil amidst the most common degradation problems in the area (such as soil acidity, erosion, low soil cover, high inputs use, and low soil organic matter).

The training activities were complemented by a visual assessment of the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the soil, using educational soil kits provided by the GSP. This enabled the trainers to provide recommendations on sustainable soil management practices for vegetable crops, cocoa crops, and coffee crops. As a second step, the trainers trained the first 16 soil doctors from the municipalities of Campo Elías and Rangel in the state of Mérida, who will in turn train 40 farmers from their communities.

The implementation of the GSDP does not end with this pilot initiated in the state of Mérida. The national promoter, MPPAT-INDER, plans to expand the programme in January 2024. Fifteen new soil doctor trainers will be trained, who will in turn train 25 soil doctors. These trained soil doctors will educate 80 farmers nationwide. The upscaling of the programme will be supported by a close collaboration between MPPAT-INDER, UTICEX, MINEC and FAO Venezuela. Collaboration among all the relevant institutions will facilitate the exchange of knowledge, aligning project actions with national priorities. The goal is to enhance farmers' capacity to sustainably manage the agricultural soils of the country.