Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 29 June 2015 - "Please take care of our planet. Cultivate it, pass it on responsibly, so we may do the same. Please look after our soil." This was the urgent plea, on behalf of the Youth Food Movement and the world's children, of 20-year-old Nyakallo Makgoba at the closing ceremony of the Celebrating Soil! Celebrating Life! conference in Amsterdam last Friday.
Amsterdam Declaration focuses on need for immediate action to safeguard soils - vital for food supplies - for future generations
Speaking at the UN-backed event on the importance of living soil in securing food supplies, Nyakallo Makgoba and Joszi Smeets of the Youth Food Movement demanded delegates, including ministers, royalty and business leaders, act now to stop to soil erosion and degradation.
The appeal was met with a deeply felt moment of silence. Then, when eight-year old Meike from the Netherlands raised the Amsterdam Declaration above her head, and parted the crowds, leading the way out, the room burst into thunderous applause.
The moment made clear what the event was really about, this encounter of spiritual leaders, NGO figureheads, business leaders and activists, including Vandana Shiva, former Ministers of Agriculture of Germany and Bhutan, and high functionaries of the FAO.
Organised as part of the Save Our Soils¹ campaign and the 2015 International Year of Soils, the Celebrating Soil! Celebrating Life! congress took place in Amsterdam’s Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) from 26-27 June. The event highlighted the fact soils are being lost at a rate of 24 billion tons per year, at an economic value of €1.5 trillion (1012) euros.
These are no mere statistics - delegates heard that without fertile soil, climate goals and food security are totally hopeless. While such facts and support by stars like Julia Roberts have given the campaign weight, in the end it was the face-to-face appeal by the next generation which made the biggest impact.
As part of the Save Our Soils ‘Amsterdam’ Declaration, many of the VIP's and 200 campaign partners present at the Conference have contributed ideas and commitments, making a promise to younger generations to do everything in their power to save fertile soils.
The Declaration makes a strong case for organic farming and other forms of conservation agriculture, stating that, “Policy makers, governments, the business world and civil
society should recognise these forms of agriculture as a fundamental solution for
biodiversity, the climate and food security.”
One of the contributors, Renate Künast, former Minister of Agriculture in Germany, stated: “We will make soil a criterion in international law and global agendas.”
The promise of the next generation was strengthened earlier that day, when a remarkable group of VIP's carried out a guerrilla gardening action on the Amsterdam pavement in front of the congress premises. Among them were author and activist Vandana Shiva, Volkert Engelsman (CEO Nature & More), Chief Arvol Looking Horse (spiritual leader of the Sioux) and Joszi Smeets (the young director of the Youth Food Movement).
Wielding spades, they ripped out slabs of the Amsterdam pavement in a symbolic gesture, exposing the barren sand beneath, before adding compost and planting organic seeds. Speaking during the action, Vandana Silva said: “Livings soils and living seeds are the foundation of our society.”
Volkert Engelsman, the Dutch entrepreneur who started the Save Our Soils campaign in a joint effort with FAO and IFOAM, expressed gratefulness and hope for the future after the event: “Farmers who look after their soils are the true doctors of the future. But consumers are the ‘sleeping giant’ in this story: only if they decide to fill their shopping bags with products that sustain soil health, will change take place.”
He added: “What gives me hope is that young thought leaders all agree that organic and sustainable agriculture is the way to go. We, as the ruling generation, must therefore take responsibility.”
About Save Our Soils
The Save our Soils campaign (www.saveoursoils.com) was set up by Dutch organic fresh produce specialist Nature & More and the FAO (Food & Agricultural organisation of the United Nations) in order to raise awareness about the importance of healthy soils¹. The campaign has been boosted by celebrity endorsements from the likes of the Dalai Lama, the former Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Julia Roberts.
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