Proceedings of Fertilizer Efficiency Research and Technology Transfer Workshop for Africa South of the Sahara

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Africa is characterized by stark contrasts, including diverse populations, climates, and soils. Both the climate and the soils pose challenges to agriculture. A significant portion of tropical Africa experiences insufficient rainfall, while rainforests densely cover some regions. Moreover, most African grounds are of poor quality, ranking among the world's least fertile. Compounded by a rapidly growing population of 498.0 million in 1982, Africa faces a substantial agricultural crisis. Although a significant portion of the labor force was engaged in agriculture, food production per capita declined, resulting in decreased food self-sufficiency and increased reliance on food imports. The decline in food self-sufficiency has severe human and economic consequences. Many sub-Saharan countries struggle with inadequate nutrition, with per capita caloric intake falling below minimum standards. Additionally, insufficient domestic food production has led to a growing demand for food imports when grain prices rise, and African governments face balance of payments and foreign exchange challenges. Consequently, many countries have become increasingly dependent on food aid from high-income nations. Projections indicate a significant import gap in sub-Saharan Africa by 1990 if current income and price patterns persist. Meeting minimum caloric consumption levels would require a substantial increase in food imports. However, the decline in real per capita incomes further exacerbates the unmet food needs. Regional disparities suggest that the Sahel, central, and East Africa will likely experience the most severe food shortages. This paper identifies several factors contributing to food production shortfalls in Africa. Traditional farming systems adapted to low population densities struggle to intensify production with growing populations. Distorted policies and support systems favoring export cash crops over domestic food production have also hindered agricultural progress. Furthermore, inadequate agricultural research and technology transfer have impeded the development of locally relevant solutions. To address these challenges, a farming systems approach to research is proposed. This approach emphasizes bottom-up strategies, incorporating the perspectives and knowledge of farmers to develop tailored and context-specific agricultural technologies. Strengthening linkages among stakeholders and increasing mutual accountability is crucial for overcoming the agricultural crisis in Africa.
Fertilizers, Climate change