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African Countries Asked To Pay Attention To Soil Health

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Apollo Mubiru

The Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Frank Tumwebaze, has rallied African countries to pay attention to soil health.

“We have to rehabilitate our soils and make them more productive. As farming countries of Africa, we will discuss common approaches to handling the issue of our soil health. Every African country is seeking to achieve food security for its people, animal feed security, and nutrition and environmental security,” Tumwebaze said.

He added: “The question is – how do we balance our food, our feed, our environment and at the same time produce nutritious food? To achieve that balance, we have to pay attention to our soil health, it is the starting point for all other interventions.”

Tumwebaze who is also the Chair of the African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment made the remarks at the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit (AFSH) in Nairobi, Kenya.

While referencing the theme of the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit ‘Listen To The Land’, the minister underscored the urgency to pay attention to soils, to understand them and what they need, and to manage them better for current and future generations.

“We must reverse the current trend of fertility loss estimated at 80kg of nutrients per hectare per year, and equally work on strategies to minimize topsoil erosion exacerbated by climate change,” he noted.

The summit offers a comprehensive review of the state of soil health on the continent and the use of fertilizers. The Summit, an initiative of the African Union was held from May 7 -9, 2024.

It seeks to review the progress made since previous commitments by African leaders to boost fertilizer use for agricultural growth in Africa.

Over 40 countries are below the target of 50 kg (nutrients) per hectare, set at the first AFSH held in Abuja in 2006, with most averaging at 18 kilograms per hectare.

The discussions by various stakeholders have emphasised the urgency of paying attention to the needs of the land in terms of soil nutrients, soil moisture, essential minerals, soil organisms, impact of climate change; and adopting regenerative practices, policies and approaches that will improve the long-term value of land as a critical asset for farmers.

The stakeholders evaluated the existing policies, programs and institutional structures for effective soil management systems to improve and maintain soil fertility on the continent.

The summit is convened at a time millions of Africans across the continent are facing severe food and nutrition deficiencies, thus providing an opportunity for policymakers, scientists, farmers, the private-sector, development agencies, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, and scholars to reflect on long-term and sustainable strategies of innovative avenues to feed the growing African population.

The summit refers to previous key declarations and commitments by Heads of State and Government to drive agricultural productivity to improve food and nutrition security such as:

The Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa adopted in 2003, where member states committed to allocate at least 10% of national budgets to agriculture and rural development policy implementation by 2008.

The Abuja Declaration adopted in 2006, which underscored the importance of increased fertilizer use to stimulate agricultural productivity growth to end hunger and poverty in Africa to realize the African Green Revolution.

The Malabo Declaration adopted in 2014 where African leaders declared their commitment to end hunger in Africa by 2025.

The declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, which focused on doubling agricultural production levels by 2025.

The Soil Initiative for Africa in September 2020, where the African Union issued a call for a long-term effort to systematically improve the health and productivity of Africa’s soils by scaling proven and locally adapted technologies, including balanced and efficient (inorganic and organic) fertilizer application.

Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Frank Tumwebaze said as African countries we have to rehabilitate our soils and make them more productive. File photo

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