By Charles Anthony
Soil degradation poses a major challenge to Africa, but Tanzania is taking strides to combat it, says Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA.
Amidst the backdrop of burgeoning economic growth, geopolitical tensions, and environmental challenges, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA, at the World Economic Forum has underscored the urgency of navigating these complexities to secure a resilient and prosperous future for the continent.
She was addressing a session titled “Cultivating Opportunities on African Soil,” where her insights were pivotal in steering the discourse towards actionable strategies that promise to unlock Africa’s vast agricultural potential.
Her comprehensive approach outlined three strategic pillars: enhancing Production Systems, curtailing Post-Harvest Losses, and amplifying Value Addition in the agrifood sector.
Central to her message was the recognition of soil as the linchpin of food production. Dr. Kalibata championed Africa’s latent potential to emerge as a significant food exporter, contingent upon increased agricultural investment and the establishment of supportive government policies. She stressed the importance of soil mapping to discern the distinct requirements of diverse soil types and advocated for customized fertilizers to meet these specific needs.
Moreover, Dr. Kalibata highlighted the indispensable role of private sector partnerships in developing the requisite infrastructure, such as storage facilities, that are crucial for the sector’s advancement. She articulated a vision of agriculture that marries productivity with sustainability, emphasizing the need for a collective effort to revere and nurture soil health as the foundation for a flourishing continent.
Key Strategies and Initiatives Highlighted by Dr. Kalibata:
- Extended Land Surveys in Tanzania: Dr. Kalibata emphasized the importance of understanding the specific needs of different regions through active land surveys. This approach helps in determining soil composition and suitability for various crops, which is crucial for effective agricultural practices.
- Development of Region-Specific Fertilizers: In collaboration with companies like Yara, Tanzania has been working on creating fertilizers tailored to the unique requirements of different regions. This move away from a generalized approach ensures that fertilizers are more effective for the specific soil and crop needs of each area.
- Private Partnerships: Dr. Kalibata underscored the role of private partnerships in addressing soil health challenges. She cited the example of a private investor building a fertilizer factory in central Tanzania, highlighting the potential of such collaborations in driving innovation and improving access to appropriate fertilizers for African farmers.
- Soil Mapping and Customized Solutions: The strategy includes soil mapping on a regional basis, allowing for a detailed understanding of soil requirements. This information is used to collaborate with fertilizer manufacturers for creating specific solutions for the identified needs.
Broader Vision for Africa’s Agrifood Sector:
- Support for Small-scale Farmers: Dr. Kalibata stressed the need to provide more resources and support to small-scale farmers, who are crucial to African agriculture.
- Climate Finance and Technology: The discussion highlighted the importance of climate finance and better data and technology to support African agriculture, particularly for small-scale farmers.
- Strategic Pillars for Agrifood Sector: Dr. Kalibata outlined three strategic pillars for enhancing the agrifood sector: enhancing production systems, curtailing post-harvest losses, and amplifying value addition.
- Importance of Soil Health: Central to Dr. Kalibata’s message was the recognition of soil as a fundamental element in food production, advocating for strategies that emphasize soil health and sustainability.
- Role of Private Sector and Government Policies: The significance of private sector partnerships and the establishment of supportive government policies was highlighted as essential for developing agricultural infrastructure and boosting investment.
Dr. Kalibata’s insights provide a comprehensive framework for addressing soil degradation and enhancing agricultural productivity in Africa. Her emphasis on tailored solutions, regional specificity, and the integration of private partnerships offers valuable lessons and a visionary blueprint for revolutionizing Africa’s agrifood sector. This approach not only aims to increase productivity but also ensures sustainability, making it a vital step towards a resilient and prosperous future for the continent