Africa Focused on Agricultural Transformation to Boost Food Security and Soil Health

Nairobi, Kenya – African ministers of agriculture convened at the second Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health (AFSH) Summit in Nairobi, Kenya from May 7-9, 2024, advocating for affordable access to fertilisers to enhance food security and improve soil health across the continent. The summit, hosted under the theme “Listen to the Soil,” was graced by Kenya’s President William Ruto and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, marking a significant milestone in Africa’s agricultural agenda.

The ministers emphasized the critical role of smallholder farmers having access to reasonably priced fertilisers to boost food production and ensure sustainable agricultural practices, recognizing that agriculture serves as the primary source of livelihood for 70 percent of the African population.

Addressing Soil Degradation and Fertilizer Disparities

The summit provided a platform for a comprehensive review of Africa’s soil health, aiming to recalibrate strategies to boost soil productivity towards sustainable gains in crop yields, economic growth, and the overall well-being of citizens. With Africa possessing 60 percent of the world’s arable land, coupled with abundant untapped water resources, there is immense potential for agricultural expansion to address food security challenges.

One of the key initiatives discussed at the summit was the African Union Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), adopted in 2003, which serves as Africa’s policy framework for agricultural transformation, wealth creation, and economic prosperity. CAADP advocates for increased investment in agriculture by member states, with a target of allocating at least 10% of national budgets to agriculture and rural development.

Highlighting the urgency of the matter, Mithika Linturi, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for agriculture, expressed concern about the decline in soil quality across Africa, with some regions experiencing up to 65 percent degradation. Linturi stressed the need for affordable fertilisers to reverse these trends and increase food production, especially amidst the challenges posed by climate change.

Experts at the summit noted significant disparities in fertiliser use across Africa, with some countries utilizing as little as 0.02 kg per hectare, far below the global average. To address this, there were calls for increased investment in fertiliser production, as well as the development of country-specific Soil Fertility Replenishment Strategies to promote best practices in soil management.

Commitment to Agricultural Transformation

The summit attracted over 2,000 stakeholders from the agriculture sector, including African Heads of State, government officials, policymakers, private-sector players, civil society organizations, farmer organizations, and development agencies. Discussions also centered on financing solutions for affordable fertiliser, with the African Development Bank expressing willingness to explore cooperation and partnerships in fertiliser financing across the continent.

As Africa works towards achieving the targets outlined in the Abuja Declaration and Agenda 2063, there is a collective commitment to addressing the continent’s agricultural challenges and unlocking its potential to feed itself and the world. The signing of the Nairobi Declaration at the conclusion of the summit outlined a 10-year action plan for improving fertiliser use and soil health, signaling a renewed determination to drive agricultural transformation in Africa.

Looking Ahead

With the global population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, the pressure on food production will continue to mount. Therefore, Africa’s efforts to enhance agricultural productivity and soil health are not only crucial for ensuring food security on the continent but also for contributing to global food supplies.

The summit’s outcomes underscored the importance of collaboration among governments, international organizations, the private sector, and civil society to address the multifaceted challenges facing African agriculture. As Africa moves forward, sustained investment in agricultural research, technology transfer, infrastructure development, and capacity building will be essential to realize the continent’s agricultural potential and improve the livelihoods of its people.

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