The African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) and the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), which strive to promote the importance of fertilizer access for African farmers as a means of bridging the current agricultural productivity gap on the continent, hosted a session on smallholders’ access to fertilizer at the recent Argus FMB Africa Fertilizer conference in the Ethiopian capital.
The Argus FMB conference brought together 350 commercial actors from 55 countries that operate in the Sub-Saharan market. The AFAP-IFA session stimulated dialogue on how best the private and public sectors together with research institutes can work together to maximize the contribution of quality fertilizer to reduce the yield gap and driving an African agricultural development agenda.
Chaired by Professor Richard Mkandawire, Vice-President of AFAP, the distinguished panel of experts included:
- Dr. Namanga Ngongi, Founding Chairman, African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) and Former President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
- Dr. Bashir Jama, Director of Soil Health Program, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
- Jenya Shandina, Input Team Manager, One Acre Fund
During the session, private sector actors led discussions on the barriers smallholder farmers face in accessing quality fertilizer and other inputs in a timely manner. One solution to address such barriers is the bundling of inputs. “The impact of both fertilizer and improved seeds is greater when delivered with training and extension,” said Jenya Shandina of One Acre Fund, a micro financing NGO that promotes an innovative model bundling together of fertilizer seeds credit and extension.
Dr. Bashir Jama, an AGRA soil scientist underlined access to markets and profitability as issue that still constrains the use of fertilizer in Sub Saharan Africa. “Many smallholder farmers have little financial means to but input, which makes it important that when they use fertilizer they see the rewards e.g. access to markets and guarantees that their investment in fertilizer, seeds, and labor has a return,” Dr. Jama said.
The overarching conclusion of the session was aptly put forward by Dr. Namango Ngongi who said, “farmers are the largest private sector, a sector and market that largely still remains untapped. Through access to credit and extension services smallholder farmers may very well lead global efforts to secure food for future generations.”
The overall echo of the joint IFA-AFAP session that innovation and change are needed to develop a vibrant fertilizer and agro-input value chain on the continent and that only a multi-stakeholder partnership can enact such change.
In addition, IFA and AFAP’s presence in Ethiopia also coincided with the launch of a video for the African Fertilizer Volunteer Program (AFVP). The AFVP allows fertilizer experts from around the world to volunteer their time and know-how to address the lack of suitable expertise on the ground which constitutes a major challenge for the fertilizer distribution chain in Africa. Building up on the momentum of the AFVP testimonial video, 15 agronomists have already pledged their contribution and will be deployed in the coming months to Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa.