Africa should produce own fertilisers: President

10 May, 2024 - 08:05 0 Views
Africa should produce own fertilisers: President President Mnangagwa engages Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga (left) and Kembo Mohadi on his arrival at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport yesterday evening from Kenya. — Picture: Believe Nyakudjara

The Sunday News

Zvamaida Murwira in Nairobi, KENYA

Africa should utilise its raw materials and exploit its potential to ensure local production of fertiliser and save billions of US dollars on imports, President Mnangagwa has said.

The President said it was unfortunate that low fertiliser use and poor soil health continued to undermine sustainable agriculture production and productivity, particularly among communal and small holder  farmers.

He said this yesterday while addressing Heads of State and Government, development partners and international organisations among other delegates at the African Fertiliser and Soil Health Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The summit was meant to reflect on the importance of fertiliser and soil health as a vital resource to stimulate agriculture productivity to guarantee food security and sovereignty across the African continent.

“Regrettably, low fertiliser use and poor soil health continue to undermine sustainable agriculture production and productivity, particularly among communal and small-holder farmers. This is compounded by climate change, inadequate infrastructure and mechanisation. Hence, the need to deliberately support and increase investments in agriculture, particularly for women and the youth, cannot be over-emphasised,” said the President.

“It is unfortunate that despite the inherent potential, Africa currently spends billions of dollars in food and fertiliser imports per year. Greater efforts must be made to leverage the availability of raw materials for the local production of mineral fertilisers and reduce our over-reliance on imports.”

The President commended the African Development Bank for setting up a Fertiliser Fund, aimed at boosting local production of fertilisers, as well as research, science, innovation and technology development.

“Zimbabwe has not been spared the adverse effects of climate change, with our sub-region currently experiencing an El Nino-induced drought. However, my Government continues to implement ‘The Agricultural, Food Systems, and Rural Transformation Strategy’ which, among other aspects, prioritises improved policies, investment, finance and markets for fertiliser and soil health management. Additionally, access to and affordability of organic fertilisers for sustainable soil management practices and interventions are being broadened.

“To date, Zimbabwe has made great strides in implementing a soil health-based improvement in production and productivity of crops and livestock. Village specific information on soil health is now available through improved mobility and ICT gadgets. Through such interventions, which were also anchored by the climate smart Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme, Zimbabwe realised food security and recorded surpluses in wheat, over the last three consecutive years.”

President Mnangagwa said his Government was ready to broaden partnerships and synergies to boost agriculture productivity.

“My administration stands ready to broaden partnerships, synergies and investments to enhance crop yields. Several opportunities exist for investors to set up new entities or partner with current local companies, through either upgrading existing or introducing new technology to scale up fertiliser production in our country,”  he said.

Zimbabwe, he said, endorsed the agreements that were made at the Summit, aimed at enhancing fertiliser production and improve soil health.

“Zimbabwe endorses the Nairobi Declaration, Soil Initiative for Africa Framework, and the Africa Fertilisers Soil Health 10-year Action Plan. It is, however, critically important for us to invest in strategic institutions mandated to provide the requisite leadership and mechanisms to meet our desired goals,” he said.

The African Centre for Fertiliser Development, which is resident in Zimbabwe, remains a critical cog in promoting research on soil health and fertiliser development, he said.

“We, thus, welcome the commitment to fully operationalise and support the Africa Centre for Fertiliser Development, which was the brainchild of our august body and whose strategic mandate is aligned with the agenda of this summit,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Kenyan leader, President William Ruto said Africa should fully utilise its agriculture potential and use its raw materials for value addition and produce its own fertiliser.

“Today Africa remains heavily reliant on food imports, highlighting the limited progress achieved decades after the Abuja Declaration. Clearly, we have important issues to reflect on and resolve as a matter of urgency. This summit offers us a perfect opportunity to address these issues,” said President Ruto.

He said some of the challenges being faced include inadequate fertiliser application and extreme weather challenges.

“There are challenges that include inadequate fertiliser application, extreme weather adversities, floods as we are witnessing in East Africa, droughts as in Southern Africa and extensive land degradation. All this point to poor soil health management, which is a subject of our discussion,” said President Ruto.

He said geopolitical dynamics, such as the war between Russia and Ukraine, had worsened fertiliser availability something that has reduced food security, yet Africa was endowed with raw materials that can lead to self-sufficiency.

“We need to convert challenges into opportunities. This summit is important because it speaks to soil health and fertiliser. Africa has 60 percent of uncultivated land, it gives us an opportunity to feed our people, job creation and value addition,” he said.

Agriculture, said President Ruto, was central to Africa’s economic activity and is influenced by proper crop application.

“Africa is a growing market of 1,4 billion people and it is important to use the asset we have, which is our agriculture potential. There is need for production of fertiliser using locally available raw materials so as to live in dignity. Africa possesses the largest agriculture population yet we operate below our potential, we need to improve that,” he said.

African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat Muhammad said the continental body was determined to improve fertiliser usage and soil management to ensure food security.

“In the context of negative impact of climate change, the theme is pertinent, we must listen to the land, Africa is experiencing land degradation as experienced in floods, like here in Kenya and drought. On land degradation that we are currently experiencing there is need to be proactive, what’s clear is that Africa production capacity falls way below the global north,” he said.

The summit, that ran under the theme: “Listen to the Land”, had outcomes that included a 10-year Action Plan, to deliver concrete action for steps to be taken by African leaders and stakeholders over the next 10 years.

The Action Plan will provide a focus for new policies and investments that will enable farmers to work toward re-building soil health and ultimately increase yield responses and profitability of fertilisers.

The summit also deliberated on Africa’s recent widespread decades-long farmland soil quality decline — a phenomenon that continues today and negatively impacts the agricultural production capacity and food security on the continent.

The follows the first one held in 2006 in Abuja, Nigeria, which endorsed the Abuja Declaration on Fertiliser for the Africa Green Revolution, a continental strategy to reverse the worrying trend of poor productivity of the African soils.

The declaration focused on key targets required for agricultural growth, food security and rural development in Africa, with a focus on the role of fertilisers.

President Mnangagwa arrived back home last night and was received at the Robert Mugabe International Airport by Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, Cabinet ministers, senior Government officials and service chiefs.

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