Nazeer Ahmad (Date of Birth: 27th Jan 1932)

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Nazeer Ahmad was born on January 27th 1932 in Dundee, Guyana. As a child, he helped his father on the family’s subsistence farm. He attended the Novar Canadian Mission School and Berbice High School. After only three years in high school, he wrote the Cambridge School Certificate and was accepted at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture (ICTA) in Trinidad.

Though he wanted to study medicine, he welcomed the offer of a government scholarship to study at ICTA, graduating with the Diploma in Agriculture (1951) and Postgraduate Associateship (1952). He completed a master’s degree at the University 0f British Columbia, Canada (1955) and later his doctorate in soil science from Nottingham University, U.K. in 1957.

Ahmad was then appointed Head of the Division of Agricultural Chemistry in Guyana. He organised a country-wide soil and land use study to improve Guyana’s agricultural productivity and later he did similar surveys throughout the Commonwealth Caribbean. His study of the efficiency of nitrogen uptake from artificial fertilisers in crop plants confirmed the importance of nitrogen in Caribbean soils and promoted the planting of leguminous plants for soil enrichment.

His pioneering work on the properties of clay soils gained him international recognition. He served as a consultant on soil and land use problems for many international agencies in almost every developing country in the world. His research was published in the definitive book “Vertisols and Technologies for their improvement” and in over 100 refereed publications.

From 1962, he provided 35 years’ service to the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine. He established new soil science courses in the Faculty of Agriculture, built well-equipped soil science laboratories, and trained over 90 postgraduate students. He was appointed Fulbright Professor of Tropical Soil Science at the University of Illinois, USA (1982) and was named Professor Emeritus of Soil Science at UWI (1996).

Ahmad was Director of the National Agricultural Research Institute, Guyana (1995-2000) and served the International Board for Soil Research and Management and the International Society of Soil Science. In 1995, he became the first Caribbean scientist to receive the International Institute for Co-operation in Agriculture’s Gold Medal in Agriculture for his outstanding research on the soils of Latin America and the Caribbean. Though retired, he is still active as an international consultant in soil science.