Healthier soils for sustainable development


Poor Soils A Huge Limitation for Africa’s Food Security


TEXCOCO, MEXICO, April 19, 2015 – Sustainable Development Goals being addressed at the Global Soil Week cannot ignore dependence on maize as a staple food for millions in Africa, and the need to help smallholder farmers maximize yields in African soils.

Today, Berlin, Germany, hosts soil scientists from across the world who have converged for the Global Soil Week (GSW) to find solutions for sustainable land governance and soil management. Farmers and other stakeholders in agriculture are keen to see outcomes that will translate into healthier soils for sustainable development in Africa and elsewhere.

For Africa’s smallholder farmers, low-fertility soils with poor nitrogen-supplying capacity are only second to drought as a limiting factor. Consequently, farmers suffer low yields and crop failure, a situation that has crippled food security for more than half (60 percent) of the population in this region who depend on smallscale farm produce.

To improve productivity, farmers apply nitrogen fertilizers, which provide necessary nutrients the soil needs to feed plants. However, most farmers cannot afford to apply the required amount of fertilizers because the costs are too high for them. It is estimated that nitrogen fertilizer costs as much as six times more in Africa that in any other part of the world.  “For my one-acre farm, I use a 50-kilogram bag that costs KES 4,000 [USD 42]. This is a lot of money, so I have to use very little to save for the next planting season,” says Ms. Lucy Wawera, a farmer in Embu County, Kenya.

Read the full article: CIMMYT

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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