Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit: A Catalyst for Change in African Agriculture

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Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit: A Catalyst for Change in African Agriculture

© IFAD/Kondwani Jere

Rome/Nairobi 4 June 2024: The African continent loses a staggering US$4 billion worth of soil nutrients annually due to erosion. This loss affects over 485 million people and threatens food security. To address this major challenge and obstacle to feed its growing population, the African Union (AU) convened the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health (AFSH) summit in May, in Nairobi Kenya.

With the theme of “Listen to the land,” the summit brought together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss and chart a course for improved soil health and agricultural productivity across Africa. The urgency of the situation is undeniable. With an estimated 75-80 per cent of Africa’s cultivated land degraded, the continent loses 30-60 kg of vital nutrients per hectare annually. Impacting roughly 65 per cent of Africa’s population, soil degradation is a severe threat to food and nutrition security, rural livelihoods and environmental sustainability. Compromised soil health also weakens Africa’s ability to respond positively to yield-boosting inputs, further jeopardizing the well-being of small-scale farmers and rural communities, especially during climate shocks.

In recognition of this challenge, the European Union (EU), in collaboration with DeSIRA Lift and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), convened three events during the Summit that explored crucial solutions to address the crisis. These include integrated soil health management, which emphasizes sustainable practices like agroecology and regenerative agriculture, and the use of organic and bio-fertilizers, which offer a pathway to enhance soil health and productivity in areas with fragile soils. The goal of the events was to inform national leaders, and to catalyse policy and institutional reforms that favor the adoption of these sustainable solutions. A shift in policies and practices has the potential to create a more resilient and sustainable agricultural future for Africa. 

The summit culminated in several key achievements, namely the Nairobi Declaration on Africa Fertilizer and soil health summit, the African Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan (AFSH- Action Plan) 2023 – 2033, the Soil Initiative for Africa (SIA) and the joint statement by development partners. These outcomes provided a paradigm shift from the previous Abuja Declaration of 2006, which focused on increasing fertilizer use. Key areas of focus from these outcomes include the promotion of sustainable agroecological approaches and the use of research and development as highlighted in the Nairobi Declaration. This shift can unlock the potential for farmers across borders to replicate innovations and policies that are transforming agricultural production and food systems in Africa.

For initiatives like the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme ex-Pillar 4 (CAADP-XP4) funded by the EU and hosted by IFAD, the AFSH served as a vital platform for stakeholders to collectively address the critical issue of soil health and fertilizer use in Africa. With the implementation of the AFSH Action Plan and the collaborative efforts facilitated by SIA, the continent aims to move towards a future with improved agricultural productivity, enhanced food security and a more sustainable food system. This summit has laid the groundwork for a brighter future for African agriculture.

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Press release No.: IFAD/40/2024

IFAD is an international financial institution and a United Nations specialized agency. Based in Rome – the United Nations food and agriculture hub – IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided more than US$24 billion in grants and low-interest loans to fund projects in developing countries.  

A wide range of photographs of IFAD’s work in rural communities are available for download from its Image Bank.