Nigeria has made history by clinching the prestigious 2021 King Bhumibol World Soil Day Award, following the assessment and evaluation of forty (40) other applicants from across the globe.
The award, which was won by the Nigeria Institute of Soil Science (NISS), drew a lot of accolades on the occasion of the World Soil Day in Thailand. The Award was presented by Her Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of the KIngdom of Thailand to His Excellency Mr. Oma Djebah, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Kingdom of Thailand.
Ambassador Djebah received the award on behalf of the NISS. The presentation of the prestigious award was made at a colourful ceremony at the Roi Et Land Development Station, Roi Et Province in Thailand. The 2021 ceremony revolves around the theme Halt Soil Salinization, Boost Soil Productivity.
The ceremony was well attended by dignitaries from relevant institutions and agencies, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific in addition to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Director General of Land Development Department, Governor of Roi Et Province, Chief Judge of Roi Et province, Army Area Commander, and Commissioner of Provincial Police Region.
Owing to scheduling difficulties associated with Covid-19 travel restrictions, the Registrar/CEO of NISS, Prof Victor O. Chude, was not able to be at the ceremony, thus necessitating the stepping in of Ambassador Djebah. Speaking after receiving the award, the Ambassador of Nigeria to Thailand expressed appreciation to the Royal family for keeping the legacy of King Bhumibol Adulyadej alive and commended the award selection panel for their professionalism and objectivity.
Previous winners of this prestigious award included Pakistan (2018), India (2019) and Costa Rica (2020), the determination of which was made by a high-level panel of experts from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Global Soil Partnership (GSP) and other reputable global partners. The year 2021 marks the first time in the history of the award that an African country has won it.
It would be recalled that the UN General Assembly decided in December 2013 to officially designate 5 December as World Soil Day to acknowledge the lifelong work and commitment of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand who has significantly contributed to improving the quality of lives of millions through sustainable soil management.
The World Soil Day celebration in Thailand is an annual event that began in 2017/2018 in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO)’s Global Soil Partnership (GSP). Inputs from candidates are pre-screened by Secretariat and short-listed candidates are assessed by the GSP selection committee in order to designate a winner.
The selection of the 2021 winner began in 2020 under the theme: “Keep Soil Alive, Protect Soil Biodiversity” with candidates from about forty (40) countries. Nigeria emerged winner based on NISS report that included educational programs such as “Catch Them Young Initiative”; stakeholders’ rally and road walk to mark the 2020 World Soil Day; experts’ dialogue under the chairmanship of NISS Governing Council Vice Chairman Prof. G.I.C Nwaka; screening of video on soil such as “Do You Know the Dangers of Eroded Soil”? as well as drama presentation titled “Healthy Soils for a Healthy Living” amongst other activities.
The event and Nigeria’s emergence as winner of the award have provided a prospect to foster partnership between Nigerian and Thai institutions in areas of soil research and management, in line with the Federal Government’s economic diversification towards revamping the agricultural sector with the hope that relevant authorities will leverage on it for a greater cooperation for the purposes of soil improvement and enhanced agricultural productivity.