Climate change is turning into a reality. AGRA is supporting farmers to adopt new and resilient, African specific technologies and practices contributing to their families’ livelihoods and wellbeing.
Sustainable Farming and Agroecology
Ever since its formation, AGRA has shared farmers’ concerns regarding crop productivity, soil fertility decline, climate variability and resilience of production systems. African soils have become badly depleted over hundreds of years, with limited application of external inputs, and the voracious mining of critical nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and zinc, the reduction of which also inhibits the presence of nitrates.
AGRA has worked with farmers to partly satisfy the nitrogen demand with organic resources, including composting, the use of green manure, recycling of crop residues and other methods. However, the biomass production of the system is very low, particularly in the drylands where biomass is produced only seasonally.
In 2021, AGRA succeeded in raising awareness on soil fertility and integration with improved seed systems using various dissemination mechanisms, ranging from demonstration plots to starter packs to video extension, which have created a sustained level demand for ISFM technologies, and promoted better agronomic practices. About 43,000 smallholder farmers were reached through these measures, and new integrated seed and soil fertility technologies were distributed to 60,000 farmers in Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia alone.
The problem of soil quality has only been amplified in more recent years by the increasing impact of climate change and urgently needs to be addressed. In 2021, we finalized some of the ongoing investments in the area of soils and systems, and in regenerative and nature-based solutions. In addition, we developed a more comprehensive and integrated approach for meeting the multiple challenges of productivity, profitability and the environment, through our sustainable farming workstream. We were also able to generate new funds to help us capitalize on the lessons learned, notably with the IKEA-2 project in Nigeria and the BMZfunded project in Ghana.
Global recognition that soils can act as a buffer to climate change has steadily increased. Accordingly, we have sought to collaborate with relevant institutions and stakeholders to meet this challenge, with a focus on targeted development and use of fertilizer blends, along with agronomic validation of crop response.
Fertilizer blends are designed to address farming system and landscape specific nutrient deficiencies to enhance production and productivity. They also improve the nutritional quality of the grain of cereal crops, by enriching the levels of zinc and calcium. AGRA invested in gap filling research for soil testing and mapping to create balanced fertilizers that respond to specific soil needs in particular agro-ecological zones.
During 2021, AGRA secured four grants for fertilizer blend development and validation to continue to be implemented in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Nigeria and one grant for lime production and promotion in Tanzania.
As part of its commitment to increasing African agriculture’s resilience to climate change and actively participating in the global effort to meet this challenge, AGRA attended the COP-26 climate change conference held in Glasgow in November 2021. AGRA’s president, Dr. Agnes Kalibata took part in a ministerial panel discussion on the strategies for accelerating the transition to sustainable agriculture, as opposed to merely rural. During the panel discussion, Dr. Kalibata outlined the methods needed to fasttrack the implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies in Africa, emphasizing the need to embed policies and innovations that would work for its agriculture sector.
Our success in articulating the impact of climate change in Africa and the challenges faced by its farmers have encouraged us to participate more substantially at COP-27 in November 2022. Given that it will be taking place in Africa (in Egypt), this is even more relevant.