Africa urged to increase fertiliser use

Saturday January 11 2020

Michael J. Ssali

Michael J. Ssali 

By Michael J. Ssali

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) has called for increased use of inorganic fertiliser in sub-Saharan Africa to overcome chronic food insecurity.

In its message, on December 5, 2019, the anti-hunger body observed, “For all of the signs of progress, the African continent is largely food insecure with current yields of cereals and legumes at only 15–30 per cent of the potential.”

AGRA sees a worsening food crisis with about 250 million people going to bed hungry and the continent spending more than $35b on food imports annually. “Many African soils are unable to supply crops with the nutrients they need due to infertility and degradation that has stemmed from inappropriate land-use practices over several centuries.

A changing climate and booming populations have increased demands on Africa’s already overworked soils. For example, the intensively cultivated highlands in East Africa lose an estimated 36kg of nitrogen, 5kg of phosphorus, and 25kg of potassium per hectare every year.”

On the same day in Nairobi, Agra also launched a book titled: Feeding Africa’s Soils: Fertilisers to Support Africa’s Agricultural Transformation in which it argued that increasing targeted fertiliser application by 20 per cent could, for example, raise yields of rice by 5.1 per cent, wheat by 11 per cent, and maize by 9.9 per cent.

At the book launch, Agra President, Dr Agnes Kalibata is quoted as saying, “Technologies now exist that enable us to produce and apply fertilisers judiciously and that address specific needs of soil and crops. These include fertiliser blending and micro-dosing that ensures the production of soil specific nutrients and application to meet particular crop needs.”


Agra also observed that usage of inorganic fertiliser across Africa is below the 2006 Abuja Fertiliser Summit commitment of applying 50kg per hectare of arable land against a global average of 150kg.

It further said although organic fertilisers are important in improving soil fertility, they cannot supply all the required nutrients. For example, crop residues contain only up to 4.2 per cent of the six primary and secondary nutrients, while poultry manure, the richest type of manure, has only up to 15 per cent nutrients.