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UN-aided summit to boost fertilizer use in Africa

UN-aided summit aims to boost organic and inorganic fertilizer use in Africa

With two major multilateral African organizations having called for a summit to boost organic and inorganic fertilizer use on the continent, a five-day high-level meeting will start tomorrow in Nigeria, one of the co-sponsors, the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said.

African soils lose the equivalent of over $4 billion worth of nutrients each year and a move toward reducing hunger on the continent must begin by remedying this severe depletion, IFAD said. No region in the world has boosted agricultural production without increasing fertilizer use, along with introducing improved irrigation and new seeds.

In parts of Asia and Latin America, where the Green Revolution boosted crop yields in the 1960s and 1970s, farmers now use an annual average of 140 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare of crops. In sub-Saharan Africa, farmers apply an average of 8 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare per year, according to IFAD.

The African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) called for the African Fertilizer Summit, which is being organized with the aid of the International Fertilizer Development Centre, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom.

A background paper for the summit says: “Ideally, mineral fertilizers should be used together with organic fertilizers, which improve soil structure and the soil’s water-holding capacity. Combined use may reduce the total cost of improving soil fertility.”

IFAD said it is taking part in the summit to ensure that the needs of African small farmers, particularly the poorest, are taken into account when action plans are drawn up.

“IFAD supports the use of smart subsidies for the African fertilizer sector in certain situations, to enable the poorest farmers to access fertilizers. The subsidies must be effectively targeted to ensure that they benefit the right people, avoid resource capture by powerful interests and stimulate, rather than undermine, private sector market development for fertilizers.”

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