2020/06/17 Dresden, Germany
By Ying Liu
The world’s leading soil scientist, Prof. Rattan Lal, who had also formerly chaired UNU-FLORES’s International Advisory Committee (2014–2019), has been awarded the 2020 World Food Prize. Dubbed as the Nobel Prize in Agriculture, the award is the top international honour recognising the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by enhancing global food quality, quantity, or availability.
The World Food Prize Foundation announced it in a virtual ceremony from Washington on 11 June to honour Prof. Lal’s accomplishment. During his impressive career, Prof. Lal has developed and mainstreamed a soil-centric approach to growing food production while restoring and conserving natural resources and mitigating climate change.
“I believe soil is a living thing. That’s what soil health means; soil is life. Every living thing has rights. Therefore, soil also has rights. As long as you are consuming the natural resources – food, water, elements – coming from the soil, you owe it to soil to put something back, to give something back, whatever you can.”
– Prof. Rattan Lal
Prof. Lal’s research over 50 years and across four continents applies to 3.2 billion people (40% of the world’s population) affected by land degradation. More than 500 million smallholder farmers have taken advantage of the innovative soil-saving techniques promoted by Prof. Lal. His soil-centric approach is based on the premise that “the health of soil, plants, animals, people and the environment is one and indivisible.” Aligned with this principle, the food and nutritional security of more than 2 billion people have improved, and hundreds of millions of hectares of natural tropical ecosystems saved.
Prof. Lal’s valuable contributions towards enhancing the world’s soil and food systems are very much in line with this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (17 June) under the slogan “Food. Feed. Fibre.”. Observed every year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification, the Day is focused on the leading driver of desertification and land degradation this year: humanity’s relentless production and consumption.
In addition to clinching the 2018 GCHERA World Agriculture Prize and the 2017 Sustained Achievement Award, and now the 2020 World Food Prize, Prof. Lal has published a substantial number of journal articles and books and delivered keynote presentations.