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May 20, 2024
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Listen to the Land: Africa Prioritizes Soil, Environment in Summit

The Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit (AFSH) is currently underway to offer a comprehensive review of the state of soil health on the continent and the use of fertilizers.

The Summit, an initiative of the African Union, is being held in Nairobi, Kenya from the 7th to 9th of May 2024, under the theme “Listen to the Land”. It seeks to review the progress made since previous commitments by African leaders to boost fertilizer use for agricultural growth in Africa.

The summit is convened at a time millions of Africans across the continent are facing severe food and nutrition deficiencies, thus providing an opportunity for policy makers, scientists, farmers, the private-sector, development agencies, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, and scholars to reflect on long-term and sustainable strategies of innovative avenues to feed the growing African population.

Speaking at the opening of the joint ministerial meeting of ministers of agriculture and those of foreign affairs at the summit, H.E. Dr. Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Mauritanians Abroad, of Mauritania, and Chairperson of the African Union Executive Council stressed that agriculture is the cornerstone of Africa’s future and sovereignty in the face of pervasive globalization, and called for synergy of mechanization, supply chain, environmental stewardship, and human resource excellence.

He stated “Our continent’s wealth of transboundary waterways—59 river and sea basins—is a wellspring of potential for agricultural expansion and a conduit for our collective progress. Yet, we must confront the stark reality that malnutrition afflicts 20% of our population, with the population poised to reach two billion by 2040. Dependence on external food sources not only undermines a nation’s autonomy but also imperils its security and stability.

The summit refers to previous key declarations and commitments by Heads of State and Government to drive agricultural productivity such as the Abuja Declaration adopted in 2006, which underscored the importance of increased fertilizer use to stimulate agricultural productivity growth to end hunger and poverty in Africa to realize the African Green Revolution.

H.E. Amb. Josefa Sacko, AU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment, noted that despite multiple efforts, Africa falls short of the Abuja Declaration targets on fertilizer consumption which has only risen from 8kg/ha to below 25 kg/ha since 2006, far below the 50kg/ha target.

H.E. Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission observed that the impact of COVID-19 coupled with the conflict in Ukraine, the multiple conflicts on the continent, and climate change, have affected the agricultural production and economic growth of African countries.

She added, “Africa needs to take bold measures. This can only be done by agreeing on common measures, informed by lessons from others from within and outside the continent, on best practices. During the Summit, we will learn from specialists and practitioners about good practices, combined with the adequate technologies to manage our soils, while ensuring that we do not destroy our environment.”

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