Mind-boggling! African nations strike massive agreement on soil fertilisers to tackle unprecedented food dilemma
Friday June 2, 2023
A pledge to consider soil health as a “critical pillar of food security” has left the world in a state of utter shock and awe. Leaders in West Africa and the Sahel have committed to more than tripling fertiliser consumption by 2035, indicating a level of commitment to agricultural productivity that is simply unfathomable to the average person. After two days of talks in Togo by country leaders and other representatives, the “Lomé Declaration on Fertilizers and Soil Health” has been approved, leaving the world reeling.
As if this wasn’t enough, officials from the regional body Ecowas and the World Bank also attended. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the magnitude of this commitment, particularly in a time when the world is facing immense food insecurity due to civil war and climate change.
Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé called for a “community vision”, a phrase so perplexing that it has left the world in a state of befuddlement. How exactly do you come up with a community vision? Who is included in this community? What solutions will they find to feed the 500 million people across West Africa?
The declaration states that signatory states will progressively eliminate customs duties and taxes on fertilisers and simplify processes for imports, customs and administration. It’s a bold move that has rattled the world to its core. The leaders also announced several immediate measures, including more investment in port, storage and transport infrastructure, and a call to end public-private partnerships before the end of 2025 to boost the trade between states in the region and create local jobs.
The news has not been without controversy, however. Many are questioning the feasibility and sustainability of these goals, particularly with regards to climate change. In a new report released earlier this week, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) warned that many of the countries on highest alert for food insecurity are on the African continent, such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan. They also indicated that a likely El Nino climatic phenomenon is raising fears of climate extremes in vulnerable countries, leading to an impact on agricultural practices and resources.
Despite the questions and concerns, the leaders of West Africa and the Sahel remain optimistic. Ecowas says it is stepping up actions to promote climate-smart agriculture and the use of organic fertilisers while emphasising and supporting the development of local and regional value chains.
Only time will tell whether or not these goals are achievable, but one thing is for sure: the world is watching.