The launch ceremony, held online on 5 October, brought together more than 500 participants, including representatives of business and international public organisations, industry experts and scientists, as well as regional government representatives.
The programme aims to develop the skills of farmers in sustainable soil management and to establish regional networks of soil laboratories in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, with a specific focus on assessing the quality and safety of fertilisers. The programme will allow farmers to make informed decisions on improving soil fertility, maintaining soil health, achieving a proper nutrient balance and protecting the soil from pollution.
The project will develop and distribute soil testing kits to 5,000 farmers in developing countries and provide training for farmers to use them correctly.
Eduardo Mansur, director of the office of climate change, biodiversity and environment of the FAO, stressed that the launch of the programme would have a major impact on crop production and promote sustainable land use.
“We want farmers to increase their production of environmentally friendly products. Our goal is the best plant cultivation, the best food and the best environment for a better life. This programme will enable farmers to make agricultural production more efficient and to grow food in an environmentally responsible way,” said Mansur.
Thanawat Tiesien, permanent representative of Thailand to the FAO and chair of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), noted that the Soil Doctors Programme was launched in Thailand for the first time in 1992 and has been successfully implemented since then.
“Thailand is happy to share our experience and knowledge. It takes a long time to restore degraded soils, but rebuilding the soil is something we must do for food security, public health and future generations,” Tiesien added.
The first deputy CEO of PhosAgro, Siroj Loikov, thanked the FAO for the honour of being the first Russian company in the history of the UN organisation to be chosen to implement such a large-scale soil protection initiative.
“As a global company supplying mineral fertilisers that have unique environmental characteristics and are free of toxic substances to 102 countries around the world, we believe that food security and soil health are critical to achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals,” stressed Loikov.
He recalled that, under the joint programme between the FAO and PhosAgro, a regional network of soil laboratories in the Middle East and North Africa was launched in June. Another important move towards more sustainable farming will be to develop and distribute soil testing kits to farmers.
“PhosAgro and the FAO share a common goal in that we firmly believe that farmers must be able to use their land efficiently with sustainable and efficient mineral fertilisers, grow quality agricultural products, maintain soil fertility and prevent soil degradation. People around the world must have access to safe food. We will therefore continue supporting the FAO’s initiatives to promote technology and knowledge for sustainable agriculture,” recapped Loikov.