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Kenya leads in the usage of fertiliser despite food insecurity

By Winsley Masese | September 6th 2013
  The report says increased fertiliser usage by smallholder farmers can reverse the declining food production. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]


By Winsley Masese

Kenyan farmers use the highest average of fertiliser per hectare in Africa. But this falls short of the international recommended standards, a new report has indicated.

According to the report published by the Agrarian Green Revolution for Agriculture (AGRA) 2013, an average of 32kg of fertiliser is applied per hectare in Kenya. This is against the recommended 50kg per hectare.

Malawi closely follows Kenya at 29 and Zimbabwe at 28. Uganda comes fourth at 27kg per hectare. Globally, Netherlands uses 238kg of fertiliser per hectare. India comes second — using 167kg of fertiliser.

Chronic hunger

The report, Africa Agriculture Status Report, Focus on Staple Crops 2013, indicates that Niger, a country that experiences chronic hunger, does not apply any fertiliser.

“The high prices are due to weak fertiliser markets, under-developed and characterised by high transaction costs, hence selling at a price beyond the reach of the majority of small-scale and subsistence farmers,” notes the report.

The report was released during the AGRA Forum held in Maputo, Mozambique. To reverse the situation and enable smallholder farmers participate in agriculture, it requires a combination of organic and inorganic fertiliser, notes the report. Omitting one can’t work for the soil.

“In acidic soils, the application of agricultural lime will  enhance the efficiency and benefits of fertiliser applied,” the report says.

This is based on the success pilot project in Western Kenya in 2009, supported by AGRA. The project saw the use of lime improve soil fertility leading to increased productivity.

“Africa is endowed with abundant natural resources, including about 60 per cent of the world’s arable land, some of it still virgin land,” said AGRA Chairman Koffi Annan. “These resources, if effectively and efficiently harnessed, could reduce the threat of food insecurity,” he said.

According to the report, research and development has established close links between increased fertiliser usage by smallholder farmers to reverse the declining trend of food production in Africa.

It also cites lack of reforms in the seeds and fertiliser sectors as key challenges that hinder productivity in the agricultural sector in Africa.  “For any meaningful transformation to be sustained, it will be important to reform and strengthen the capacities of the regulatory institutions of government,” it observed. “There is need to give farmers incentives, enact, implement and regulate policies that support productivity and growth,” advises the report.

Good laws

Kenya is among the four countries commended for the development of legislation touching on laws and regulations that have enabled the development of the seeds sector.

In sub-Saharan Africa, increasing the level of farm productivity is a prerequisite for economic growth and development. This is because the priorities reduce hunger and increase incomes among inhabitants of rural areas where food shortages are most pronounced.

 “There is a serious human and institutional capacity gap stalling development in agriculture.”

The report cited the low number of researchers for the inability to solve Africa’s agriculture sector adequately. 

“The World Bank’s Africa Action Plan clearly points to tertiary education as one of the key drivers of growth in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

The report indicates that enrollment to tertiary institutions related to agriculture declined to 0.1 per cent in Kenya. Sierra Leone registered the highest growth at 10.4 per cent.


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