AFAP Contributes to Ethiopia’s New Fertilizer Blending Program

14 Feb 2013

The African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) provided fertilizer expertise to the Ethiopian government that has contributed to the country’s new National Fertilizer Blending Program.

Working closely with Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) to examine soil and fertilizer use, AFAP offered detailed advice on blended fertilizer varieties and their production.

As a result of AFAP’s studies, and others, the Ministry of Agriculture in Ethiopia and ATA launched a new National Fertilizer Blending Program in February this year. The goal of the program is to build the first fertilizer blending facilities located in Ethiopia. It also will work to increase awareness about new high-yield fertilizers blends.

“AFAP always welcomes partnership such as this one,” said Jason Scarpone, AFAP’s president and CEO. “Through these partnerships, AFAP takes a step toward fulfilling the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development’s (CAADP) mandate to increase fertilizer use and to improve food security.”

AFAP’s work in Ethiopia began about a year ago, said Paul Makepeace, AFAP’s senior fertilizer specialist, who conducted the studies in Ethiopia.

During that time, Makepeace made repeated trips to study soil and fertilizer use in Ethiopia. He worked closely with leaders at ATA to determine the blends of fertilizer best suited for Ethiopia’s different soil types. He was able to provide expertise on balanced fertilizer blends and methods of production.

According to him, it was important to ensure that the technologies selected to do this were the best available that fitted into the Ethiopian market characteristics. It was also important to ensure that support programs were developed to sensitize farmers to the benefits that would be delivered from supplying balanced fertilizers to their crops, to teach stakeholders involved in fertilizer blending and distribution how to provide value and knowledge to help their farmer customers and in parallel develop better nutrition research programs that ensure the understanding of nutritional requirements by crop by area is better understood.

“Ethiopia’s crop yields have been constrained by a very limited set of imported fertilizers,” ATA CEO Khalid Bomba said at the launch of the National Fertilizer Blending Program. “By having the fertilizer blenders in the country, smallholder farmers would have access to a range of soil nutrients that would be tailored for their specific soil needs.”

ATA was established by the Ethiopian government to transform agricultural by addressing bottlenecks in the sector. Among its goals is to enhance productivity and agricultural production of Ethiopia’s smallholder farmers. ATA’s work includes interventions to introduce new complex fertilizer formulations and improve agronomic management practices.

The National Fertilizer Blending Program features plans to build four fertilizer-blending plants in Ethiopia with a production capacity of 250,000 tons a year.  The plants are expected to start producing fertilizer blends in 2014.

In addition, ATA will test new blends of fertilizer at 5,000 training centers for farmers and on 50,000 farmers’ plots in 2013. ATA expects that eventually farmers will be able to use fertilizers customized to the needs of their soil, maximizing crop yields.

AFAP was established by a partnership of development organizations in Africa. The Johannesburg-based non-profit works swith the public and private sectors to establish more competitive and sustainable fertilizer markets in Africa.

Makepeace said he expected AFAP’s relationship with ATA to grow.

“AFAP and its partners are committed to providing technical and business support to ATA,” he said. “We will continually work with ATA to identify optimum fertilizer formulations to maximize the different crop yield.”