Charting a New Course for Africa’s Soil Health

Africa Fertilizer and Soil health Summit, 2024

The Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health (AFSH) Summit kicked off in Nairobi, Kenya, on May 7, 2024, drawing together over 4,000 participants from across the continent and beyond. The Summit is a critical platform for addressing the challenges facing Africa’s soil health and charting a new course for sustainable agriculture.

The Summit’s theme, “Listen to the Land,” highlights the importance of understanding and addressing soil health. Years of overuse and inadequate replenishment have severely depleted nutrients, hindering crop yields. The human cost is severe: Africa loses over US$4 billion worth of soil nutrients annually, threatening its ability to feed itself.

Heads of state, government ministers, and other prominent figures are leading the discussions at the ongoing summit held at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, in Nairobi, Kenya. H.E. Dr. Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mauritania and Chairperson of the African Union Executive Council, stressed that agriculture is the cornerstone of Africa’s future and sovereignty. He called for synergy between mechanization, supply chain management, environmental stewardship, and human resource excellence. H.E. Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, highlighted the negative impacts of COVID-19, the conflict in Ukraine, and climate change on African agriculture. She emphasized the need for Africa to learn from best practices and close the gap with the rest of the world in terms of agricultural productivity.

In an interview with Arch. Kabir Ibrahim, President of the Nigerian Farmers Association, he addressed the pressing issue of fertilizer utilization, noting its steady growth within Nigeria. While reflecting on the global challenge of productivity, Ibrahim highlighted Nigeria’s improving infrastructure, boasting 80 blending plants and numerous intervention programs aimed at bolstering agricultural output. However, he emphasized the critical need for improved literacy levels among farmers.

Ibrahim further underscored the extensive reach of the Farmers Association across Nigeria’s 774 local governments, stressing the importance of disseminating information in indigenous languages to ensure effective communication and implementation at the grassroots level.

A Focus on Action: The Nairobi Declaration

A key outcome of the Summit is the Nairobi Declaration on Fertilizer and Soil Health. This document outlines 13 commitments by African leaders, including:

  • Tripling domestic fertilizer production and distribution by 2034 to improve access and affordability for smallholder farmers.
  • Providing targeted agronomic recommendations to 70% of smallholders by 2034 to ensure efficient and sustainable fertilizer use.
  • Developing and promoting national capacity

As we look forward to the closing ceremony of the summit which will be hosted by the President of Kenya, Dr. William Samoei Ruto, and attended by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, presidents of Uganda, the president of the Republic of Ethiopia, the president of Namibia, presidents of Malawi, and other development partners from the Global Food Security envoy of the US Department of State, the Melinda Gates Foundation, AFREXIMBANK, the Government of Norway, Africa Development Bank, etc., the continent eagerly awaits the culmination of this historical event into action.

Adesewa Olofinko is an African Union Media Fellow.