Moscow – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and PhosAgro, one of the world's leading producers of mineral fertilisers, have launched the joint Soil Doctors Programme in sustainable agriculture.
Held online on 5 October, the programme’s launch ceremony 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 farmers' skills in sustainable soil management and establish regional networks of soil laboratories in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, with a particular focus on assessing fertilizer quality and safety. The programme will enable farmers to make informed decisions about improving soil fertility, maintaining soil health, obtaining a correct balance of nutrients, and protecting soil from pollution.
The project will develop soil testing kits and distribute them to 5,000 farmers in developing countries, and farmers will be given training on their correct use.
Eduardo Mansur, Director of the FAO's Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment, emphasised that “the programme’s launch will have a significant impact on crop production and promote sustainable soil use.”
“On behalf of the FAO, I would like to thank the Russian Federation and, in particular, PhosAgro, for believing in the idea behind the project – transferring best practice and knowledge from farmer to farmer – and for providing support and funding. 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 Eduardo Mansur.
Thanawat Tiesien, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the FAO and Chair of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), noted that the Soil Doctors Programme was launched for the first time in Thailand in 1992 and since then has been carried out successfully.
“We are honoured that the programme is acquiring an international scale owing to the support of the FAO and the Russian business sector. 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,” Thanawat Tiesien said.
Commenting on the programme’s launch, Siroj Loikov, First Deputy CEO of PhosAgro, thanked the FAO for the honour of being the first Russian company in the history of this UN organization to be selected to implement such a large-scale initiative in the field of soil protection.
“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 key to achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals,” stressed Loikov.
He recalled that in June, a regional network of soil laboratories in the Middle East and North Africa was launched under the joint programme between the FAO and PhosAgro. Developing and distributing soil testing kits to farmers will be another important step toward more sustainable farming.
“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.