Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 8:28 EDT

Smarter Investment in Agriculture Needed to Help Africa Feed Itself

December 5, 2011

NAIROBI, Kenya, December 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ –

Soil fertilizer subsidy programmes run by many African governments are heading for
failure unless Integrated Soil Fertility Management and good agricultural practice are
promoted at the same time, says the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC), a group of
scientific and agricultural experts led by the international science and development
organization, CABI.


In a video [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGquCM-1Bb8&feature=youtu.be_ ] produced
for World Soil Day on 5 December 2011, ASHC argues that using mineral fertilizer alone is
not enough. It urges policymakers to widen their investments in soil fertility to promote
Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) where mineral fertilizer is combined with
organic inputs (such as manure, or legume crops) and improved seed varieties in ways that
are locally adapted to take account of the soil and socio-economic conditions of farms and

Decades of increasing intensification of farming to support the rapidly growing
population combined with a succession of one-size-fits-all treatments have deprived the
soil in much of Africa’s farmland of nutrients, leaving it less fertile and less capable
of supporting high yields. “The high price of mineral fertilizers in Africa make subsidies
an understandable choice for policymakers to help farmers, but in fact Africa has enormous
potential to boost yields by integrating even small amounts of fertilizer with organic
inputs and improved varieties,” said George Oduor, Deputy Regional Director (Research),

The video shows how in West Africa, with limited labour and small financial risks,
sorghum and millet farmers apply micro-dosing. By adding small amounts of fertilizer and
compost to each planting hole they produce more straw and harvest more cereals that are
enough to carry them to the next season.

In East and Central Africa, many farmers have turned to rotating their maize crop with
improved varieties of legume crops, such as soya beans and climbing beans. Apart from
providing cash, the nitrogen-rich residues help to improve soil fertility and boost maize

“ISFM is as important as the fertilizers themselves if you want to feed your family or
sell your produce,” said Oduor. “There is strong evidence both from research and from
working with African farmers that not all soils respond well to fertilizers and combining
practices is key to improvements in yield, but it is a tall order to expect farmers to
implement it by themselves. We are calling on local and national governments, NGOs and
private companies to work together to champion ISFM practices across Africa. With the
right knowledge, and smart funding choices, we can make a big difference – not only for
today, but for generations to come.”

Caroline Nyakundi, c.nyakundi@cabi.org; Tel: +254-20-7224462; Lydia Wairegi,


Source: PR Newswire