May 1, 2018 | Food security

Farmers in Africa face a variety of constraints, including low productivity of cultivated lands, limited access to new agricultural technologies and the lack of markets for their products. Without adequate inputs, farmers are not able to meet the food needs of their own families, much less those of a rapidly growing population.

Smallholder farmers make up 70 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa whose their productivity is held back, in part, by high fertilizer prices. Although fertilizer usage in the region has grown in recent years, a variety of factors in particular logistics costs and limited domestic production keeps application rates in Africa low. 

The high cost of fertilizers in sub-Saharan Africa restricts how widely they can be used. Studies show that fertilizer costs in sub-Saharan Africa were at least four times more expensive than they were in Europe. A study conducted by the World Bank indicated that imported fertilizer inputs in Zambia cost thirty to 40 per cent more than in Thailand.

Fertilizer production on the continent has also been difficult because importation of raw materials is costly. Production is also governed by strict regulations. Tanzania, for example, requires three years of trials with the Tanzania Fertilizer Regulatory Authority before a firm can begin production. While trial periods are shorter in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, they are usually substantial enough to limit production.

The Abuja declaration

In June 2006, the African Union Special Summit of the Heads of State and Government adopted the 12-Resolution “Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution.” At the end of the Summit, the AU Member States resolved to increase fertilizer use from 8 kilograms to 50 kilograms of nutrients per hectare by 2015. The union declared fertilizer, from both inorganic and organic sources, a strategic commodity without borders; and resolved that the African Union Member States will accelerate the timely access of farmers to fertilizers. The African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) were requested to monitor and evaluate progress in the implementation, reporting to the AU Heads Of States summit every six months. Harmonization of legislation and trade policy; regional fertilizer procurement and promotion of fertilizer production including intra-regional fertilizer trade were adopted as the three regional level resolutions.

Policy experts and researchers observe that although there are commendable gains by some countries, fertilizer consumption levels, particularly for Sub-Saharan Africa, are still extremely low.

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