Soil Fertility: Agro-Ecology and NOT the Green Revolution for Africa

In mid July the African Center for Biodiversity(ABC) published Soil Fertility: Agro-Ecology and Not the Green Revolution for Africa, a comprehensive report on the consequences of the Green Revolution push in Africa, based on it’s fieldwork done in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe over the last three years.The report asserts that the promotion of increased synthetic fertilizer use in Africa for enhancing soil fertility is a short term fix, and is actually harmful in the long term.

Interventions pushing for high tech solutions such as genetically modified seeds, increased pesticide use and increased use of synthetic fertilizers have been spearheaded by fertilizer giant Yara, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa(AGRA), an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The ABC believes that, “the obsession with increasing
adoption and uptake of synthetic fertilizers on the continent seems to be more about opening up fertilizer markets for multinational corporations, and stimulating commercial output markets than about identifying and responding to the specific needs of farmers in their socio-ecological context.”

Soil life is easily disrupted through one size fits all applications of synthetic fertilizers for short term gains in yield. In Malawi for example, the country has increased yields on a macro level due to the use of such fertilizers, but individual farmers are seeing the quality of their soil decrease, and are struggling to make ends meet. Since the price of synthetic fertilizer makes up a huge expense for the farmers, while imprinting them with the idea that it’s impossible to farm without it. The ABC, as well as AGRA Watch, agree that analysis of specific nutrient requirements for a given place and time are the only way to improve soil quality, and address the needs of farmers.

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