FAO Regional Office for Africa

Improved use of fertilizers and pesticides for increased agricultural productivity and production in Africa

FAO builds internal capacity to better support member states’ effective application of agricultural inputs

Fertilizers were widely used inputs in modern agriculture contributing to global food security, livelihoods, and human nutrition. ©FAO/Sonia Nguyen

December 2 2019, 2019, Addis Ababa – FAO held a regional workshop entitled “Improving data availability for monitoring and managing the use of agricultural inputs” from 26 to 28 November 2019 in Addis Ababa. This workshop aimed to build up its internal capacity of working on a better understanding of how statistics on agricultural inputs are collected and how to improve the procurement of agricultural inputs in FAO.

The workshop targeted agricultural officers from 15 FAO Country Offices in Africa in order to discuss support to the FAO member countries in the sustainable use of fertilizers and pesticides in Africa. 

Delivering opening remarks on behalf of the FAO Subregional Office for Eastern Africa, Abisola Alaka, Senior Administrative Officer noted that fertilizers were widely used inputs in modern agriculture contributing to global food security, farmer livelihoods, and essential human nutrition. Despite their importance to agriculture, however, they may have negative impacts on the environment, human health and animal health if not used responsibly.

Alaka highlighted the need for increased attention towards improved use of agricultural inputs stating “Last month, together with the African Union, FAO launched an initiative to relegate the “hoe” to the museum. We are pushing for the conversion to mechanization. We need a similar push to increase the use of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, and do so sustainably.”

 FAO data reveal that the use of productivity enhancing agricultural inputs in Africa in general, and in some subregions such as Eastern Africa, in particular, tend to be lower compared to other regions of the world. This extremely low fertilizer use per hectare is one of the most important limiting factors to increase crop productivity and production. In this regard, recent figures show that farmers do not significantly vary fertilizer application rates according to perceived soil fertility.

 All these challenges require appropriate policy tools and actions that can promote the improvement of the use of modern inputs. In the meantime, food security in Africa cannot be achieved with simple agricultural technologies based on incremental changes but more holistic approaches such as agroecology which is receiving increased attention as the path towards achieving the SDGs. During the workshop, participants discussed how the efficient use of fertilizers could be an integral part of agroecological approaches. In addition, the need for basing decisions and the support provided by FAO on reliable evidence derived from newly available information from large scale, representative and comparable data sets was stressed. This is necessary to ensure efficient support to member states both at technical and policy levels. In this regard, it was agreed that FAO, as a technical and knowledge sharing organization, should be able to support the member countries in Africa to promote the judicious use of fertilizer and other critical agricultural inputs to sustainably intensify agricultural production and ensure food security in the region.

Going forward, through intensive collaboration with relevant government agencies and stakeholders, FAO should ensure that the procurement of fertilizer and pesticides complies with relevant standards. The newly endorsed international Code of Conduct for sustainable use and management of fertilizers, in addition to the existing Pesticide Code of Conduct, should provide the guidelines for member countries towards such objectives. The FAO Subregional Office for Eastern Africa held the workshop in collaboration with the FAO divisions of Plant Production and Protection; Statistics; and Land and Water.