Like Rwanda, most African countries have been urged to use fertilisers in order to increase agricultural output.
Nepad’s Dr. Maria Wanzala says the use of fertilisers could see agriculture grow to 6 per cent by 2015.
“In order to stimulate the increase in productivity necessary to achieve this target, farmers in Africa will have to use substantial amounts of fertilisers (both organic and inorganic) to increase yields,” Dr. Wanzala said.
Currently, Rwanda has intensified the use of fertilisers to boost her food productions unlike before when it used about four kilogrammes of fertilisers per hectare.
This has seen the country’s food security stepped-up, household incomes increase—as most families have what to eat and sell.
With the use of fertilisers, Dr Wanzala says the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) -- NEPAD has set a target of 6 per cent annual average growth rate in agriculture at the national level by 2015.
Crops damaging soils
However, it is indicated that African farmers use very little or no fertilisers; on average African farmers use 8-10 kg/ha of nutrients which is only 10 per cent of the world average.
A study revealed that the removal of more nutrients from the soil annually mainly through crops harvesting than what is returned to the soil as fertilisers has resulted in severe soil nutrient mining in Africa.
During the 2002-2004 cropping season, 85 per cent of African farmland had nutrient mining rates of more than 30 kilogrammes per hectare of nutrients annually, and 40 per cent had rates of more than 60 kilogrammes per hectare annually.
Consequently, Africa is facing a serious soil fertility crisis, which was recognised- thus the need to address it in a focused and comprehensive manner. Therefore, the African Union/Nepad convened in the Africa Fertiliser Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, in June 2006. The key outcome was the 12 point Summit resolution, “Abuja Declaration on Fertiliser for an African Green Revolution,” which African leaders unanimously endorsed.
Fertility of soils
And because soil nutrient replenishment in Africa is not only critical from a socio-economic perspective, but is also an environmental imperative, it was declared that the substantial increase in fertiliser use by African farmers was a necessity. It was said that degraded soils are prone to erosion, poor water retention, and loss of organic matter that provides soil structure.
As soils become more depleted, farmers are more likely to clear forests and savannah and destroy other natural habitats to create arable lands.
Therefore, while it is the case that much can be done to improve soil organic matter content and soil fertility through practising more integrated soil fertility management techniques, organic sources of fertiliser are not a substitute for mineral or inorganic fertilisers.
But while organic fertilisers have a key role to play in addressing the fertiliser crisis facing Africa, inorganic or chemical fertiliser must be placed at the centre of soil fertility restoration strategies.