Innovative Program Helps Agrium Battle Malnutrition in Africa
Release Date: 12/24/2009
Agrium, in partnership with the International Fertilizer Development Center, has introduced an innovative program in Sub-Saharan Africa
Small-scale farms will play a big role in feeding Sub-Saharan Africa in the future.
The prevalence of malnutrition is increasing at higher rates among the world’s urban poor than any other group, and chronic undernourishment among Africans increased 16 percent, to 200 million, from the early 1990s to the latter part of that decade. With an increasing awareness of the role of vegetables in adding more minerals and vitamins to the diet, more health-conscious consumers — especially in urban areas — are turning to the garden crops market to boost nutritional diversity.
Agrium, in partnership with the International Fertilizer Development Center, has introduced an innovative program in Sub-Saharan Africa to increase vegetable production of peri-urban farmers — that is, those whose holdings immediately adjoin urban areas — through improved soil nutrient efficiencies, water use, and hybrid varieties.
While the soil in Sub-Saharan Africa is naturally fragile, with severe nutrient deficiencies, farmers apply three to eight times as much fertilizer on vegetables as on other food crops. Vegetable crops also diversify farm income and stimulate agro-industrial innovation, in addition to improving human health by reducing micronutrient deficiencies, particularly iron, zinc and vitamin A. Agrium’s project, launched at four sites in three countries in February 2009, is focused on improving the quality and quantity of yields at the small-scale farmer level (more than 90 percent of all holdings in developing countries are less than 0.3 hectares). The project’s first phase will concentrate on increasing profitability through improved resource use efficiency.
Field trials were carried out through 2009 at Bujumbura, in Burundi; Kigali, in Rwanda; and Ashiaman, a suburb of Accra, in Ghana. The trials evaluated innovative nitrogen products and technologies that result in crop intensification and improved nitrogen use efficiency. ESN 75 and ESN 120 were used on sweet peppers (California Wonder variety) in Burundi and Rwanda under rain-fed conditions, while ESN 120 was used on okra (Indiana variety) in Ghana under drip-irrigated and rain-fed conditions. Local and regional farmers have been actively involved in the project as both implementers and performance evaluators.
In the coming years, peri-urban agriculture will be placed under enormous pressure to meet food demands; for example,the population of Accra is expected to reach six million by 2015. Agrium’s Sub-Saharan project aims to demonstrate the fertilizer industry’s interest in helping African farmers improve their livelihoods and, in the process, develop demand for fertilizer and other inputs.