Unlocking the potential of Africa’s soils for a food secure continent

Unlocking the potential of Africa’s soils for a food secure continent

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Africa is the only continent endowed with natural ingredients that can easily be used to greatly expand agricultural production. Africa has 60 percent of the world’s available arable land, the largest share globally, and suitable for agricultural production expansion, and abundant untapped water resources. Agriculture is the source of livelihood for 70 percent of the population on the continent. The African Union Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) adopted in 2003, is Africa’s policy framework for agricultural transformation, wealth creation, food security and nutrition, economic growth and prosperity for all.

CAADP advocates for member states to place emphasis on African ownership and African leadership to set the agricultural agenda and the stage for agricultural change. African governments are expected to increased investment level in agriculture by allocating at least 10% of national budgets to agriculture and rural development, and to achieve agricultural growth rates of at least 6% per annum. Over the years, African leaders have committed to prioritize food security, a commitment reinforced through the development of Africa’s Common Position on Food Systems, to help deliver on targets of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 which seeks to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

The convening of the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit is therefore timely for a comprehensive review of the state of Africa’s soil health to recalibrate the strategies being deployed to boost the productivity of soils towards higher and sustainable gains in crop yields, economic growth, and the overall well-being of the African citizenry. The Summit hosted in Nairobi, Kenya from the 7th -9th May 2024, is held under the theme “Listen to the Land” which seeks to evaluate the state of Africa’s soil health, while reviewing the progress made since previous commitments by African leaders to boost fertilizer use for agricultural growth in Africa. The theme is a Call to Action for stakeholders to pay attention to the needs of the land in terms of soil nutrients, soil moisture, essential minerals, soil organisms, impact of climate change, and consider adopting regenerative practices, policies and approaches that will improve the long term value of land as a critical asset for farmers. The goal is to unlock the potential of Africa feeding Africa, and Africa feeding the world.

In June 2006, the Heads of State and Governments of the African Union endorsed the Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the Africa Green Revolution, a continental strategy to reverse the worrying trend of poor productivity of the African soils. The Declaration focused on key targets required for agricultural growth, food security, and rural development in Africa, with a focus on the role of fertilizers. It recommended raising the use of fertilizers from 8 kg/(nutrients) per hectare to 50 kg (nutrients) per hectare in 10 years, and the establishment of an African Fertilizer Financing Mechanism to improve agricultural productivity by providing financing required to boost fertilizer use in Africa as mandated in the Abuja Declaration.

In September 2020, the African Union Commission (AUC) created the Soil Initiative for Africa (SIA) as an ambitious effort to improve the continent’s soil condition through scaling proven technologies (including expanded fertilizer application). In recent years, there has been an increase in the utilization of African mineral resources for fertilizer production. However, majority of this production is exported which motivates rethinking of long-term investments in fertilizer production plants and blending facilities. Similarly, African governments have demonstrated more openness to private sector-led fertilizer markets by creating conducive policy and regulatory environments.

This calls for regional cooperation in fertilizer policy, research and development, investment pooling for production capacity, facilitating cross-border trade, and promoting collaborative research, capacity building, and sharing of best practices for agricultural development. It will also be prudent to identify local organic sources that can be leveraged locally to manufacture and blend fertilizers to decrease the overdependence on global markets while shortening the supply chain. A significant $15billion of private sector investment will be needed to increase the local manufacturing of mineral fertilizers. For accelerated impact, the target is to triple the local production of organic and inorganic fertilizers by 2033.

Consolidation of financial tools like trade credit guarantees, working capital, and targeted subsidies is therefore necessary in order to minimize market distortions, lower expenses, encourage innovations and fortify input supply chains. The AFSH will also focus on creation of green and decent jobs, which is critical to accelerating youths and women engagement in the agricultural sector, thereby addressing the Africa’s unemployment crisis. Also important, is gender inclusion in agricultural resources. This has been larking, with women owning less than 20% of the land they cultivate while earning 30% less than their male counterparts. It’s imperative to involve women in shaping strategies and policies that improve access and influence for Africa’s soil health transformation to enhance food security.

There is a dire need to expand the last-mile delivery system in Africa, shortening the distances that farmers travel to access fertilizer and other critical farm inputs as well as advisory services. The target is that by 2033, at least 70% of the farmers in Africa should be linked to accessible and affordable input markets as well as agricultural extension services. The continent has many success stories to share and is actively and collectively addressing the issues under its 50-year development plan, Agenda 2063.

For all the details and developments of the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit, visit Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health (AFSH) Summit 2024 | African Union (au.int). You can also follow the opening sessions of the three-day summit LIVE on links availed on the website.

To share your thoughts, opinions and comments, use the hashtags #ListenToTheLand #SoilHealth #AFSH24 #Agenda2063.

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Molalet Tsedeke | Directorate of Information and Communication; African Union Commission | E-mail: molalett@africa-union.org | Tel: +251 11 518 2014/ +251 11 5182518 | Mobile: +132022159152

Ms. Doreen Apollos | Directorate of Information and Communication; African Union Commission | E-mail: ApollosD@africa-union.org

Mrs Wynne Musabayana| Head of Communication | African Union Commission | email: MusabayanaW@africa-union.org

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