African leaders pledge to increase local fertiliser production

Mouttasem Al Barodi
4 Min Read

Nairobi – In the wake of the Africa Fertiliser and Soil Health Summit, held in Nairobi from May 7-9, which saw over 4,000 agricultural stakeholders gather, the African Union’s heads of state have endorsed the Nairobi Declaration, initiated the Soil Initiative for Africa, and unveiled a decade-long action strategy.

A principal pledge from the African leaders is the ambition to “boost local production and supply of certified, high-quality organic and inorganic fertilisers threefold by the year 2034, enhancing accessibility and affordability for small-scale farmers,” as stated in the declaration.

The declaration sets forth an objective to ensure fertiliser availability for a minimum of 70% of small-scale farmers across the continent and to formulate tailored recommendations for diverse crops, soil types, and weather conditions to optimize fertiliser efficiency and sustainability.

At present, the reliance of many African nations on imported fertilisers, particularly those not based on phosphates, leaves them vulnerable to international market fluctuations and pricing instability.

Chiza Charles Chiumya, the interim director for Industry, Minerals Entrepreneurship, and Tourism at the African Union, conveyed to Daily News Egypt the significant hurdles faced by Africa’s agricultural sector in recent times, including fertiliser scarcities triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Chiumya highlighted the urgency of enhancing local production capacities for both organic and inorganic fertilisers. Despite African nations currently producing around 30 million metric tons of mineral fertiliser annually, a substantial portion is exported beyond the continent’s borders.

During the summit, the African leaders vowed to utilize the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to amplify intra-African fertiliser trade twofold by 2034.

Chiumya underscored that while the AfCFTA and other supportive policies are instrumental in promoting fertiliser trade within Africa, the pressing matter of infrastructure remains. He noted that historically, African infrastructure has been oriented towards resource extraction and exportation, posing challenges for the internal distribution of commodities, including domestically produced fertilisers.

He further stated: “We must develop air and land transportation networks, such as a route connecting Cape Town to Cairo.”

Since the 2006 Abuja Declaration, which recognized the essential role of increased fertiliser usage in driving agricultural productivity and eradicating hunger and poverty in Africa, fertiliser consumption has only modestly increased from 8 kg/ha to just under 25 kg/ha, still well below the targeted 50 kg/ha.

Nonetheless, progress has been made, with several nations exceeding the global average fertiliser usage rate of roughly 135 kg/ha, including Egypt (542.57 kg/ha), Seychelles (542.47 kg/ha), and Mauritius (186.50 kg/ha).

Moreover, there has been a marked increase in local mineral fertiliser production, fueled by private sector investments surpassing $15bn, as detailed in the declaration.

Josefa L. Sako, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment at the African Union Commission, reflected: “The recent Russia-Ukraine crisis has reminded us of the consequences of African nations’ dependence on foreign grains and fertilisers, underscoring the imperative to establish food sovereignty in Africa by enhancing productivity to feed an anticipated 2.4 billion people by 2050.”

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