Key Highlights from Day 2 of the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit  

On the second day of the summit, AGRA, through her thought leaders, participated in various side events as panellists and some gave keynote addresses on an array of topics reflecting our commitment to sustainably grow Africa’s Food Systems.

Addressing Farmers Needs for Fertilizer: Cost Quality and Effectiveness

The session titled,“Addressing Farmers Needs for Fertilizer: Cost Quality and Effectiveness” featured Prof Jean Jacques Muhinda, East and Southern Africa Regional Director for AGRA both as a keynote speaker and a panellist.

Throughout the discussion, various speakers shed light on the pressing issues surrounding fertilizer accessibility and utilisation in Africa.

It was established that many African countries have fallen short of the Abuja targets for fertilizer consumption, despite a growing demand for it- African consumption of inorganic fertilizers represents 3% of the world.

Notably, 90% of the fertilizer used in Sub-Saharan Africa is imported, underlining the region’s reliance on external sources for fertilizers.

Speakers also delved into the intricacies of fertilizer use efficiency, stressing the importance of factors like soil organic matter and pH levels in optimising its effectiveness. Innovative solutions, including digital technologies and tailored fertilizer blends, were explored as means to enhance efficiency and improve crop yields sustainably.

Furthermore, the session underscored the holistic nature of agricultural sustainability, emphasising that fertilizer alone cannot ensure desired outcomes. Addressing underlying soil issues, such as acidity and carbon levels, emerged as a priority for achieving long-term agricultural resilience.

Demystifying Soil Health in Africa

In this discussion, the key message was that if “we improve soil health we can improve water management in Africa since water is a very key component in farming.” The necessity of realistic measures for improving soil health in Africa became apparent. Fertilizer management has evolved as an important component in increasing agricultural output, highlighting the requirement for essential nutrients to promote crop cultivation. Understanding the current state of the soil is critical for effective farming methods.

The various panellists present, from KALRO,ICRAF and APNI agreed on  the significance of soil health and noted the need for a comprehensive understanding of Africa’s unique soil conditions, including issues such as salinity and terrain type.

AGRA’s Dr. Tilahun Amede, reflecting on the collective obstacles faced, put emphasis on the considerable challenges posed by limited government resources, particularly in fertilizer manufacturing, compounded by a lack of information for effective soil regeneration.

We need to understand local soil conditions to maximise soil and fertilizer efficiency. Bridging the “last-mile gap” is vital, which necessitates specific solutions that address the accessibility and price problems of farmers in various regions. By tackling these multiple difficulties and employing specialized measures, Africa can make great progress toward improving soil health and assuring sustainable agriculture practices.

Organics is How…?

The “Organics is How” event, moderated by Assan Ng’ombe, explored the current state of organic fertilizers in Africa. It was agreed that we are beginning to move beyond policy discussions to address practical challenges and opportunities.

In the session, a pertinent question arose; what is the investment readiness for organics and how do we leverage its potential to bolster soil health and crop yields?

It was evident there is a clear demand for organic fertilizers, particularly in Africa, especially considering the high prices of inorganic fertilizers render them unaffordable for small-scale farmers.

However, it arose that for the widespread adoption of organic fertilizers in agriculture, collaborative action-informed decision-making and a supportive regulatory environment are needed. It is essential for farmers to recognize the importance of organic fertilizers to achieve their yield targets. This can only be achieved if we work with governments and policymakers to ensure that we have enough organic fertilizers and that knowledge is disseminated to the farmer.

By addressing knowledge gaps, enhancing investment readiness, and diversifying supply sources, we can unlock the full potential of organic fertilizers to sustainably nourish our soils and improve food security.

Soil Matters: Cultivating Change for Africa’s Food SystemsTransformation through Evidence-based Policy and Practice

The discussion was centred on the central message, that healthy soils are the bedrock of Africa’s agricultural potential. But unlocking this potential requires a multi-pronged approach, and the panellists shed light on key areas for action.
The importance of integrating and scaling up funding systems to enhance market access in Africa’s agriculture sector led this discussion. The conversation acknowledged that present finance mechanisms are constrained, and blending various funding sources with fresh approaches is critical in bridging the gap and connecting resources to market prospects.  This ensures long-term financial stability for soil health efforts.

Another key point was that partners and scientists need to collaborate because, while science provides best practices, it is the farmers who implement them.  Working collaboratively ensures that suggested soil health practices are both effective and practical for people who cultivate our food.

To close out the session, the panellists aired some very important calls to action: A shift in perspective, from “farm to table,” was proposed, urging a more holistic approach to agriculture. Another key takeaway was that if soil health is put central to all agricultural policies, then the climate, nature and pollution crises can be easily tackled.

Dr Asseta Diallo reminded those present that the cost of fertiliser production is still higher than the cost of action, and partnerships are needed to leverage each other and support countries to domesticate the 10-year Action Plan going forward.

Also read: Second Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit to Address Looming Soil Health Crisis

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