Soil Not Oil:Right livelihood Laureate Vandana Shiva to Speak at the Right Livelihood College in Port Harcourt

By Zahra Molo
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On July 23, to mark the UN International Year of the Soil and the decades long struggle against oil extraction in the Niger Delta, 1993 Right Livelihood Laureate, Vandana Shiva, will give a lecture at the Right Livelihood College in Port Harcourt. The event, organized in collaboration with Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and 2010 Right Livelihood Laureate, Nnimmo Bassey, will be followed on July 24 by a seed democracy workshop in collaboration with Ogoni women and a press conference in Abuja on July 27.

The UN has chosen 2015 as the International Year of the Soil with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of soil for human life, food security, climate change adaptation and sustainable development. In the Niger Delta, oil extraction has severely contaminated the soil. A 2011 United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) assessment of the environment of Ogoniland found that, in over 40 locations tested, the soil is polluted with hydrocarbons up to a depth of 5 metres and all the water bodies are polluted.

“With oil spills occurring with a disturbing frequency of almost one a day, the soil and waters of the Niger Delta are being severely degraded, thus raising challenges for the production of wholesome food,” said Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF . “Vandana Shiva's visit is timely and we expect that she will raise critical issues on the need to preserve our soils, seeds and food systems, rather than allowing them to be destroyed by the irresponsible activities of oil companies in their bid to extract resources of diminishing value.”

Vandana Shiva, a physicist, philosopher, feminist, activist and author, has dedicated her life to defending small farmers’ rights and the rights of people to forests, biodiversity, water, seeds and land. Her organization, Navdanya , which means “nine seeds,” has been actively involved in rejuvenating indigenous culture and knowledge, and setting up seed banks across India, training farmers in sustainable agriculture and seed sovereignty.

“I am honoured to have the opportunity to visit Ogoniland and pay tribute to the many defenders of the earth, including Ken Saro Wiwa,” she said. “We need to move urgently from an age of oil, with its wars and violence against the earth and its people, to an age of soil - of peace with the earth and between people. Soil, not oil, holds the future for humanity.”

Schedule of events

  • Thursday, July 23, 9 am: Right Livelihood lecture, International Students Conference Hall, University of Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt
  • Friday, July 24, 9 am: Seed democracy workshop and garden of hope, Ken Saro-Wiwa Peace Centre, Bori, Ogoni
  • Saturday, July 25, 10 am: Seed democracy, environmental monitoring, Erema, Rivers State
  • Monday, July 27, 10 am: Press conference, Sheha Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja