Fertilizer Policy at forefront of conversations at technical convening

20 Feb 2014

The African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), together with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), hosted a regional technical convening on fertilizer policy in East and Southern Africa on February the 6th in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Tackled at the meeting was the need for technically sound, and implementable fertilizer policy models that can be executed in East and Southern Africa to bolster fertilizer use and usage, to increase crop yields and improve rural livelihoods.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the public sector, private sector and developmental organizations and regional farmer organizations.

Managing Director of the Regional Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes (ReNAPRI), Chance Kabaghe, also former Zambian Deputy Minister of Agriculture said, “The public sector has policies in place to boost and encourage fertilizer usage amongst smallholder farmers, the private sector also has its own methods, what is needed is a consolidation of all these efforts for the benefit of the smallholder farmer.”

“To create an effective fertilizer sector, it is important to coordinate public and private sector efforts.”

Speaking of policy recommendations the region needs to consider, Dr Maria Wanzala, Senior Fertilizer Expert from the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC),  currently seconded to AFAP, said fertilizer policies should help the public sector increase agricultural productivity and farm incomes by fostering a system that works favourably to move fertilizer timeously to smallholder farmers at affordable prices.

“There are many issues along the fertilizer value chain that block farmers from using fertilizer,” she said, “Insufficient information on how to use fertilizer effectively, fertilizer not being delivered timeously during the farming season and unaffordable fertilizers of sometimes questionable quality,” Dr Wanzala said.

To boost fertilizer usage, the delegates made policy recommendations that would be easy to understand, accept and implement in East and Southern Africa.

“Innovative financing mechanism should be identified to bolster fertilizer value chain development, and special consideration should be given to funding soil research to help update fertilizer policies,” said Dr Wanzala speaking on behalf of the delegation.

In addition, delegates suggested that Governments should consider improving local infrastructures which have been identified as a bottleneck in the distribution of fertilizer.

“There is need for investment in sea ports, roads and energy communication,” Dr Wanzala said.

Furthermore, it was suggested that fertilizer subsidies should be ‘smart’ and target resource poor smallholder famers who without the subsidy programs, would not have access to fertilizer.

“Subsidies should be implemented in the form of input vouchers that can be redeemed at any licensed agrodealer, and allow participation by all private sector firms rather than restricted to a few pre-selected companies.”

Closing of the meeting, Richard Makandawire, AFAP’s Vice President and Head of Partnerships and Communications, said AFAP would devote itself towards taking the lead in facilitating national and regional public-private dialogue platforms on fertilizer, in addition, AFAP would continue to work with regional institutional bodies to champion the dissemination of best practices.