Africa soils have least fertility

Experts from global agriculture bodies have said the newly launched African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (Afap) stands to promote agricultural productivity in Africa through the use of sufficient fertilisers to help heal its nutrient- depleted soils.

Afap is an independent non-profit entity founded by a partnership of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), African Development Bank (AfDB), International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC), Agricultural Market Development Trust (Agmark) and the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (Agra).

It is aimed at establishing more competitive, sustainable and responsible fertilizer markets to promote African small-scale farmers through effective agribusinesses.

The call from experts comes after a study commissioned by the Department of Soil Health for the Agra revealed that the Green Revolution tripled staple crop production in Asia and Latin America and has since by-passed sub-Saharan Africa whose per capita food production in the region has decreased over the past 30 years.

They have since called on the need for increased use of both organic and inorganic fertilisers to help revive the continent’s agricultural renaissance aimed at arresting food shortages.

The 2008/09 study attributed the drop to poor farming practices which include the reported decimal use of fertilisers in the region, in comparison to global consumption of the input, as one of the main factors threatening food security.

Agra’s director for soil health Dr Bashir Jama, explained that fertiliser use in the sub-Saharan Africa is far much below than the 50 kilogrammes per hectare as set by the Abuja Declaration in 2006.

“The region uses only ten percent of the ingredient’s world consumption and that greatly contributes to the perennial food shortages. For example, in Tanzania; fertiliser use averages nine kilogrammes per hectare. This usually emanates from the exorbitant prices which hinder small-scale farmers from accessing fertiliser.” Dr Jama said.

The report bills South Asia as the world’s largest consumer of fertilisers at 134 kilogrammes per hectare against the world’s average of 108 kilogrammes. In contrast, the study pities Africa at 20 kg per hectare, with its sub-Saharan region accounts for only eight per cent per hectare.

However, speaking during Afap’s official launch held on Wednesday on the sidelines of this year’s African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Arusha, Tanzania; vice president for the body, Professor Richard Mkandawire told delegates that this could be history if member countries adopt and embrace the innovation in their respective development agendas.

Professor Mkandawire said Afap also stands to unite the expertise and dedication of the public and private sectors to increase fertiliser affordability and accessibility for African smallholder farmers in a bid to boost agricultural productivity.

“The innovation provides a mechanism for involving private agribusiness in development agendas. These agendas are aimed at reducing poverty and hunger by growing Africa’s agricultural sector. In particular, Afap is working to introduce new fertilizers to new markets. We also plan to provide expansion assistance to suppliers already in business. ” He said.

The work on Afap rests on principles established by African leaders in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (Caadp), said Mkandawire, who before taking the job at Afap, was part of the leadership that established the Caadp agenda.

Afap plans to increase the number of fertiliser users by 15 percent and at least double total fertiliser use in the countries where it works in three years.

The establishment of the scheme is expected to enable countries, businesses and farmers to achieve desirable use of fertilizers in the region and help restore life in most African soils said to be depleted of their nutrients.

Meanwhile, Agra has committed to providing Afap with US$ 25 million (about K6.25 billion ) to establish a regional fertiliser and agribusiness development unit, coordinate with partners, and begin direct financial, technical and managerial support to the fertiliser industry in the first three pilot countries of Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania. 

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