Africa is said to be facing a very strong transition period from poverty, hunger and malnutrition to a continent that is feeding its own people. World Bank has estimated that the value of food market in Africa will increase from 313 billion USD in 2013 to one trillion by 2030 if its growth is supported by favorable decisions. African leaders have committed to these decisions when accepting the Malabo Declaration by African Union in 2014 on acceleration of agricultural growth.
In the African Green Revolution Forum two weeks ago in Lusaka, Zambia all the 600 participants from almost all African countries showed their strong commitment to take the actions for feeding Africa in the future. The Forum emphasized e.g. liming and fertilizers, quality seed, modern technologies including ICT, finance, markets, private public partnership and governments’ commitment as key factors in achieving the target. With its theme “Walking the Talk on Women and Youth” the Forum wanted to highlight the role of women as the backbone of agriculture in Africa, and that 60 per cent of the population is under age of 25. This is more than in any other continent. Agribusiness is the way of attracting these young Africans to see food production as their future career.
Balanced use of fertilizers as the basis
Year 2015 is the United Nation’s International Year of the Soils. This gives us a good opportunity to highlight the role of healthy soils in reaching the Green Revolution.
The concept of green revolution was developed by Normal Borlaug bringing him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. According to him fertilizers are much less used in Africa than elsewhere, and the amounts could be increased remarkably with minor risks of environmental pollution. Still the change has been very slow since that.
Balanced use of fertilizers is one of the main tools of this new coming of African green revolution. In recent years several new fertilizer blending stations have been established in many African countries. Not only the main nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but also micro nutrients such as zinc, copper, iron, boron and manganese must be balanced whenever they are low in soils. In some areas deficiencies of these elements are retarding crop growth and also causing diseases and disorders in humans and animals.
Liming is like vaccinating our soils
Only recently soil acidity has been recognized as a major problem in large areas in African countries. On acid soils plant growth and nutrient uptake from fertilizers is poor. There are also rock lime resources in these countries and we need to invest in developing industry for producing agricultural lime rom from these resources for bringing soil pH to a level that enables good yields and economic agricultural productivity. We can profit from improved technologies, best available varieties and other inputs to get the full potential of prevailing climatic conditions only after soils have been balanced in both pH and nutrients. As one of the speakers of the congress said: “We are vaccinating our children. Liming is like vaccinating our soils against acidity.”
African Green Revolution could be a big challenge and opportunity also for the international science community and private sector. Africans have now taken the lead to feed their people, and we can work as their partners for achieving this goal.