“Feeding Africa: A Call for Action to Meet Africa’s Fertilizer Challenge.”
Welcome to this important meeting of the Eminent Persons Group for the
Africa Fertilizer Summit. The Summit, to be held in Abuja, Nigeria, from
June 9 to 13, 2006, is a critical milestone in Africa’s quest to rapidly
turn around its low agricultural productivity and accelerate food security
for millions - especially for millions of malnourished children.
The situation in Africa is very serious. It is almost embarrassing that it
has taken us this long to come to the realisation that we need to address
the issue of fertilizer. It is better late than never, as the saying goes.
This is why we have called on you Eminent Persons with vast knowledge,
experience, commitment, vision and extensive networks to help in this quest
for “Feeding Africa.” Several of you have traveled long distances, despite
your heavy schedules. I am honored by your acceptance to the Eminent Persons
It is equally befitting that this meeting is taking place at the Rockefeller
Foundation, which is known worldwide for its leadership in agriculture, and
for its role in helping to usher in the Green Revolution in Asia. I am
pleased that the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Judith Rodin,
is passionate about the Foundation playing a catalytic role in supporting
the aspiration of African leaders to achieve the African Green Revolution.
In this regard, the leadership and major financial support of the
Rockefeller Foundation towards this Summit is well appreciated. I also would
like to acknowledge the financial and technical support from the
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International
Fertilizer Association (IFA), Arab Fertilizer Association, DFID, Agriterra,
SG2000, the World Bank, and FAO for the Summit.
It is interesting that we’re meeting in New York, a marvelous symbol of
American industry and prosperity. Much of the prosperity is built on the
success of U. S. agriculture. The world calls this place “The Big Apple”. I
don’t know why - but it may have something to do with fertilizer…
Fewer than 2 million of the 300 million people living here in the United
States are from farm families. The average American farm feeds about 150
Americans for a year, then exports the balance worldwide. Americans spend
only about 10 cents of each dollar on food, so they have 90 cents for other
things. In Africa, many families spend three fourths of their income on
food, leaving little to invest in necessities like education of their
children and health care. This in itself is one of the roots of poverty and
underdevelopment in Africa: the lack of surplus to invest in production,
research, innovation, recreation and savings.
Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa have traditionally cleared land, grown a few
crops, then moved on to clear more land, leaving the land fallow to regain
its fertility. But population pressure now forces farmers to grow crop after
crop, “mining” the soil of nutrients. Africa loses an estimated $4 billion
worth of soil nutrients yearly, severely eroding its ability to feed itself.
This has led two former World Food Prize Laureates to call this situation a
The substantial increases in farm production in Asia - the “Green
Revolution” - were mostly through higher yields, made possible through
improved seeds and inputs, especially mineral fertilizers. Africa’s far
lower increases have been mostly through bringing less fertile soils on
marginal land into production.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for a “uniquely African” Green
Revolution to fight hunger in Africa. Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug - a
former Rockefeller Foundation scientist - is often called the “father of the
Green Revolution in Asia and Latin America.” Dr. Borlaug has called improved
seeds the “catalysts that ignited the Green Revolution,” and mineral
fertilizer the “fuel” that powered it. We are honored that Dr. Borlaug will
provide leadership and inspiration at the Africa Fertilizer Summit.
Without doubt, an African Green Revolution is desperately needed. More than
70% of Africa’s population is directly engaged in agriculture - but our
farmers have benefited little for their toil. The simple but brilliant
approach to improve crop yields - high - yielding varieties that respond to
key inputs, especially fertilizer - still has not found its home in our vast
continent of 900 million people. Crop productivity in Africa has mostly
remained stagnant over the past four decades, while cereal yields in Asia
have risen three-fold, to 3.5 tons per hectare, in the same period. Our
malnutrition has worsened, and stability is increasingly difficult to
Increasing the health of our drained soils with both organic and mineral
fertilizers will be a key component to achieving the African Green
Revolution. Thanks to the work of national and international research
centers we already have high-yielding
varieties of our key crops. We have cassava varieties that can yield 40 tons
per hectare, and maize varieties that are resistant to our pests.
But these crops yield well only if nutrients are available
in the soil to feed them. African soils are impoverished due to poor
inherent soil fertility in some places, and to high population pressure that
forces overuse of the soil in others.
African farmers apply almost no fertilizer. This locks Africa into a
low-level productivity trap. In sub-Saharan Africa, the average fertilizer
use is only 8 kilograms per hectare. That is insignificant when compared
with parts of Asia and Latin America that have benefited from the Green
Revolution. There, fertilizer application averages more than 120 kilograms
per hectare. Africa’s low fertilizer use is also environmentally
unsustainable. Not only does it lead to increasingly depleted soils, it also
contributes to deforestation. With poor productivity of existing farmlands,
more and more forests must be cut to feed our growing population.
African must become self-sufficient in food production. Africa’s population
growth rate is the highest in the world. By 2050, our population is
projected to increase by 1.3 billion people over the base year of 1995.
Sustainable development requires efforts to meet the food needs of this
rapidly growing population, while conserving our natural resources base for
future generations. The only sustainable option is to increase agricultural
Our farmers will eagerly use fertilizer if they can find access at a price
they can afford. They understand the fact that fertilizers will increase
their yields and improve their lives. African leaders recognize that with
access, affordability, and incentives, farmers will use fertilizers, improve
seeds, and agriculture will become the engine for pro-poor growth, just as
it has been in Asia, Latin America-and just a few generations before, here
in the United States and Europe
But as we increase the intensity of agriculture, we are equally mindful of
the need to use fertilizers in a judicious and environmentally sound manner.
We must use the right types of fertilizers, ensure proper targeting, improve
farmers’ knowledge on efficient use, encourage safe storage and handling,
and avoid overuse. We must also pay attention to water issues, especially
water harvesting and expansion of irrigation.
We will realize the Millennium Development Goals only if we increase
agricultural growth - and we have committed ourselves to 6% annual
agricultural growth through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development
Programme (CAADP) of the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s
Development (NEPAD). The target for Nigeria is 10% annual growth rate.
We therefore have a dream, a vision for our African future. But we also know
we have the right approach: agriculture must be the engine for growth in
Africa. Most of our people depend on agriculture for their living, and
agriculture is the most direct way to improve their well being. Agriculture
must be productive and competitive.
But to feed our people, we must first feed the soil. The Africa Fertilizer
Summit is being called for and convened by the African Union, through NEPAD.
We have asked the International Fertilizer Development Center to coordinate
and implement this Summit, which will assemble relevant stakeholders
including African heads of state, fertilizer producers, private agribusiness
firms, farmers’ organizations, NGOs, and development agencies. The goal of
this Summit is to build consensus around the key issues constraining
fertilizer use in Africa, and to agree on a strategy to move forward.
This will be an action-driven Summit with strong political commitment from
African heads of state. The Summit will result in concrete actions to
improve the fertility of our soils through more efficient use of both
organic and minerals fertilizer. The Summit will also focus on critical
issues needed to address the fertilizer challenge that faces Africa:
national and regional policy, markets, infrastructure, and financing. We
anticipate that Summit outcomes will allow Africa to take giant steps toward
achieving growth in agricultural productivity and food security, improved
nutrition, and higher incomes for millions of poor African farmers.
I am pleased that leaders of key international organizations are here today
including the Africa Development Bank, IFAD, FAO, the World Bank, and the
International Fertilizer Association. I am also pleased that we have world
renowned experts and persons with long-standing commitment to the growth,
development and prosperity of Africa.
We will work together to advance this agenda in Africa. We look forward to
your assistance, and those of other international donor agencies, in
addressing the Africa fertilizer challenge
This is the hour for Africa. Let’s take this bold step together and expand
food security and income opportunities across Africa. I look forward to
welcoming you to the Summit in Abuja. Thank you for your support.
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