Africa’s soils, which are among the oldest globally, have become the poorest in the world.
Photo: © Victoria Labadie/

Improving Africa’s soils

Years of excessive use have resulted in severe depletion of Africa’s soils, reducing their capacity to produce optimal crop yields. At the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit African leaders demonstrated their commitment to restore the nutritional balance of the continent's soils.

African leaders met at the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit, held from 7th-9th May 2024 in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss the current condition of Africa’s soils in a bid to implement urgent and appropriate restorative measures. The event, convened under the theme, Listen to the Land, gathered over 4,000 participants, including 57 Ministers of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs, other government leaders, scientists, private sector representatives, heads of development organisations, civil society leaders and leaders of farmer organisations, who engaged in discussions, partnerships and commitments aimed at rapidly restoring the nutritional value of the continent’s agricultural soils.

Throughout the three-day summit, it was emphasised that years of excessive use without adequate replenishment had resulted in severe depletion of the continent's soils, hampering their capacity to sustain optimal crop yields. Due to decades of continuous soil nutrient mining and the age of Africa’s soils, which are among the oldest globally, they have also become the poorest in the world. It is estimated that the continent loses over USD 4 billion worth of soil nutrients each year, severely risking Africa’s ability to feed itself. Yet, a broad base of African farmers neither have access to fertilisers nor can they afford inputs needed to add life to their soils to reverse the downward spiral of the degradation of the physical environment.

At the summit, African Heads of State and Government endorsed the Nairobi Declaration on Fertilizer and Soil Health, demonstrating their commitment to restore the nutritional balance of the continent's soils.

The Nairobi Declaration articulated the key discussions among African leaders, focused on fostering multi-stakeholder partnerships and investments to drive policies, finance, research and development, markets, and capacity building for fertiliser and sustainable soil health management across Africa. Notably, 12 commitments were made:

  1. Triple domestic production and distribution of certified quality organic and inorganic fertilisers by 2034 to improve access and affordability for smallholder farmers.
  2. Make available by 2034, to at least 70 per cent of smallholder farmers on the continent, targeted agronomic recommendations for specific crops, soils and climatic conditions to ensure greater efficiency and sustainable use of fertilisers.
  3. Support efforts of natural gas-producing Member States in fertiliser production to increase their production and ensure availability at stable prices.
  4. Reverse land degradation and restore soil health on at least 30% of degraded soil by 2034.
  5. Fully operationalise the Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism (AFFM) to improve both production, procurement and distribution of organic and inorganic fertilisers and soil health interventions.
  6. The AU Commission is to mobilise financial and technical resources to execute the commitments in close cooperation with the various existing climate funds.
  7. Formulate and implement policies and regulations to create a conducive environment for fertiliser and soil health interventions.
  8. Develop and promote systemic national capacity building for locally relevant fertiliser and soil health management practices and technologies.
  9. Promote African solidarity through knowledge sharing, training, development and transfer programmes for best practices in soil fertility and soil health.
  10. At least 70 per cent of smallholder farmers are to have access to quality extension and advisory services on fertiliser and soil health both from public and private extension systems.
  11. Domesticate the recommendations in the Declaration into National Agricultural Investment Plans for implementation.
  12. Ministers of Finance are to mobilise and allocate adequate resources for the implementation of the recommendations in the Declaration.

The declaration also outlined the specific actions to achieve the envisioned outcomes.

Additionally, the Summit endorsed a ten-year Action Plan for Fertilizer and Soil Health, the Africa Financing Mechanism (AFFM) for the Action Plan, and the Soil Initiative for Africa framework, all of which represent ambitious long-term efforts to systematically enhance the health and productivity of Africa’s soils.


Read more on the website of the African Union

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