Africa’s perennial food deficit could be resolved within 10 years, even with the current population boom projected to hit 1.7 billion by 2030, the 2020 World Food Prize Laureate Professor Rattan Lal has said.
The esteemed Ohio State University professor of soil science said this recently at a side event titled Building Africa’s Second Fertiliser Summit, which preceded the 2020 AGRF virtual summit hosted by Uganda.
Organised by the Alliance for African Partnerships (AAP), a consortium of 10 universities in Africa and the Michigan State University (MSU), working together with other partners including the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC) and the Regional Network of Agricultural Policy Institutes (ReNAPRI), the event was conceptualised as a consensus-building step towards the Abuja II Fertiliser Summit.
Lal compared the question about Africa’s inability to feed herself to the pessimism that judged Asia’s capacity to feed itself between 1960s and 1990s.
Said Lal: “Africa is facing the same situation as did India in 1960s and China in 1990s. Africa will also overcome the same way as did other nations.”
He derives his optimism from the continent’s capacity and resources to turn around the population curse into an opportunity that would see technological growth sufficient enough to improve Africa’s agricultural output.
“The doubling tripling or even quadrupling of current production with existing knowledge is possible provided there is political stability, political willpower and financial support to translate known science into action,” said Lal.
He said Africa should consider practices that would increase soil organic matter and reduce acidity, apart from prioritising irrigation farming to turn around its food insufficiency.
Another expert, Dr. Omou Camara, observed that if Africa failed to address persistent “food security, low yield/productivity and poverty”, the continent will see “an even greater economic migration to developed continents”.
On his part, Professor Sieg Snapp of MSU said while dependence of fertiliser persists, it was important for African farmers to know their soil organic matter content to prescribe proper quantities for a specific field.
The MSU and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources are working with farmers on how to use handheld measuring units to test organic content in their fields for better decisions on types and quantities of fertilisers to apply.
Technology aside, Dr. John Rusike of the African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership thinks it is important to have relevant policy frameworks to promote fertiliser usage, observing that delayed policy development and legislation has impacted agricultural productivity.