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Soil experts say low fertilizer use is affecting Africa’s soil quality

African agriculture has failed to reach its full potential as about 40 percent of the soil on the continent faces widespread nutrient depletion, a situation that calls for an increased use of fertilizer over the years, experts warned on Friday.

The International Fertilizer Association said in a statement that there is urgent need to address Africa’s soil health issues.

“With farmers not replenishing nutrients after consecutive harvests, 40 percent of the continent’s soils already face widespread nutrient depletion.

“Increasing fertilizer use must go hand-in-hand with more soil and crop specific plant nutrition and be framed in a broader set of efforts promoting soil health,” the statement read.

The experts also pointed out that despite a 10-year-old commitment by African countries to expand the use of fertilizer, the continent still averages only around one-tenth the amount of what is used in industrialized countries per hectare.

African leaders adopted a 12-point resolution on the use of fertilizer at a special summit in Abuja, Nigeria in June 2006 as part of efforts to achieve an African “Green Revolution.”

They acknowledged that inorganic fertilizer alone could not lift the continent’s agricultural output and countries agreed to commit to increasing the use of both organic and inorganic fertilizer from an average of eight kilogrammes of fertilizer per hectare in 2005 to 50kg per hectare by 2015.

Organic fertilizers contain only plant- or animal-based materials, such as manures, leaves, and compost that are either by-products or end products of naturally occurring processes.

Inorganic fertilizer, also referred to as synthetic fertilizer, is manufactured artificially and contains synthetic chemicals.

The France-based IFA is holding a high-level meeting of experts on fertilizer use in Africa in Paris on Friday where the main speakers include former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, African Development Bank president Akin Adesina and African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko.


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