“Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit Begins in Nairobi, Seeks Major Advances in Agricultural Sustainability”

The African Union’s Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit (AFSH24) commenced yesterday in Nairobi, Kenya, gathering over 4,000 participants including eight heads of state and government, 25 agriculture ministers, 32 foreign affairs ministers, as well as government officials, scientists, civil society representatives, and partners. This summit, co-hosted by the African Union and the Kenyan government, supported by various partners, is set to drive discussions on maximizing land value, critical for farmers.

Over the next three days, discussions will focus on propelling Africa’s agricultural evolution and shaping future food systems, as outlined in Agenda 2063—a 50-year development plan. AFSH24 will review progress since the 2006 Abuja Declaration, which targeted increasing agricultural fertilizer use to at least 50 tonnes per hectare—an objective yet to be fully achieved. This underscores the pressing need for innovative solutions to improve deteriorating soil health and manage unsustainable cropland expansion.

Fertilizer usage varies across Africa, from as low as 0.03 kilograms per hectare in Sudan to 542.57 kilograms in Egypt, the continent’s highest. Ten countries have met or exceeded the Abuja Declaration’s target, highlighting disparities in fertilizer consumption.

During the summit, Frank Tumwebaze, Uganda’s Minister of Agriculture and Chair of the AU Specialized Technical Committee on Agriculture, highlighted the unpredictable yield gains despite increased fertilizer use, particularly in rain-fed agriculture.

AFSH24 aims to adopt a comprehensive approach to agricultural sustainability, prioritizing climate change mitigation, land restoration, and biodiversity conservation. Amb. Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, AUC Commissioner, emphasized the urgency of addressing soil nutrient loss, which costs over US$4 billion annually, jeopardizing Africa’s self-sufficiency in food.

Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Mithika Linturi, shared optimism for transformative decisions to be made at the summit to immediately improve Africa’s soil health for food security and economic growth. He noted several AU member states are behind on achieving the Abuja target, stressing the summit’s role in soil health recovery.

The theme ‘Listen to the Land’ reflects the focus on assessing soil health and revisiting past commitments to enhance agricultural growth through better fertilizer use. It advocates for attention to soil needs and adopting regenerative practices to improve land value as a key asset for farmers, aiming at enabling Africa to not only feed itself but also the world.

The summit anticipates drafting the Nairobi Declaration on Fertilizer and Soil Health, detailing commitments and strategies to boost soil health sustainability. It also plans a 10-year action framework and financing mechanisms, aiming for a significant boost in local fertilizer production by 2033 through a projected $15 billion private sector investment.