Africa Pledges to Triple Fertilizer Production and Distribution to Empower Smallholder Farmers

Africa Science News

The African Heads of State and Government united to bolster agricultural sustainability and enhance smallholder farmer livelihoods by endorsing the Nairobi Declaration articulating the outcomes of the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit convened in Nairobi, Kenya from the 7th to 9th May 2024.

The Declaration signified a transformative step towards improving access and affordability of certified quality organic and inorganic fertilizers across the continent.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in local manufacturing of mineral fertilizers with over $15 billion of investments by the private sector.

However, even as Africa’s mineral fertilizer production is estimated at 30 million metric tons annually, most of it is exported outside the continent. Most Member States are still over-dependent on imported fertilizers, especially non-phosphate-based fertilizers which expose Africa to external market shocks and price volatility.

To address this, Africa has committed to increase investments in local domestic manufacturing and blending of fertilizers harnessing the continent’s resources. Member states will be working to explore financing tools such as trade credit guarantees, working capital, and targeted subsidies to reduce market distortions, reduce costs and strengthen input supply chains.

Increasing the use of fertilizers, both mineral and organic resources, is imperative for increased productivity and soil health restoration. Africa is seeking to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of mineral and organic fertilizers and other complementary inputs, to increase productivity, maximize profitability and returns on investment, improve soil health, and enhance resilience to climate change.

Thirteen critical points are outlined on the Nairobi Declaration on the implementation of the commitments to among others, triple the domestic production and distribution of certified quality fertilizers by 2034.

This ambitious initiative aims to uplift smallholder farmers by ensuring they have access to the essential inputs necessary for enhancing agricultural productivity.

Governments committed to prioritize local production of fertilizers using locally available raw materials; strengthen research on inorganic and organic fertilizers by resuscitating the African Centre for Fertilizer Development in Harare; offer incentives for local production, leverage opportunities offered by low-carbon fertilizer production, establish small and medium ventures, and leverage the African Continental Free Trade Area to double intra-Africa fertilizer trade by 2034.

Further, African leaders committed to ensuring that by 2034, at least 70% of smallholder farmers receive tailored agronomic recommendations to optimize fertilizer usage for increased efficiency and sustainability.

This entails the development of context-specific fertilizer and soil health recommendations, standardized tools for assessing soil fertility and health, establishment of a digital information system for fertilizer and crop decision support, and support for natural gas-producing Member States to stabilize fertilizer prices and increase production.

In relation to financing, a pledge was made to fully operationalize the Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism (AFFM) to bolster the production, procurement, and distribution of fertilizers and soil health interventions.

This encompasses widening the Mechanism’s scope to support farmer investments in yield-enhancing technologies and soil health, financing infrastructure and logistics for fertilizer availability and food market access and establishing a multi-source soil health fund for research, innovation, and capacity building.

Meanwhile, recommendations were outlined to create an enabling environment for fertilizer and soil health interventions, including the development of continental guidelines, policy harmonization, private sector engagement, and strengthening public-private partnerships.

This is complemented by capacity enhancement through national practices development and promotion of local technologies and building, strengthening, and standardizing the fertilizer analysis capacity and services of laboratories to upgrade the quality of fertilizer standards.

Additionally, a commitment was made to ensure that at least 70% of smallholder farmers receive quality extension services on fertilizer and soil health as well as strengthening the last-mile delivery systems by supporting agro-dealers and SMEs. There is a push to also review and upgrade basic education and tertiary training programmes for soil science and agronomy to include subjects relevant to sustainable soil management.

In a bid to translate these commitments into action, the leaders resolved to incorporate the recommendations of the Nairobi Declaration into their National Agricultural Investment Plans, with finance ministers tasked to mobilize and allocate adequate resources for the implementation of a 10-year Action Plan and the Soil Initiative Framework, also launched at Summit.

The African Union Commission and the AUDA-NEPAD will support Member States in domesticating mechanisms for rewarding smallholder farmers for improved soil health practices, including carbon markets, and will further develop a systematic soil health monitoring system aligned with existing the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) monitoring and evaluation systems to track progress, including developing continent-wide metrics for measuring soil health.

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