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Agronomy for Sustainable Development

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 545–566 | Cite as

Mineral fertilizers in the farming systems of sub-Saharan Africa. A review

  • Jonas N. ChianuEmail author
  • Justina N. Chianu
  • Franklin Mairura
Review Article

Abstract

In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), traditional farming methods have led to severe nutrient depletion, low crop yields, and poverty, leaving many farm families disappointed. The situation is aggravated by low use of fertilizers by farmers, lack of policy and institutional support, weak fertilizer markets, farmers’ lack of access to credit and inputs, inappropriate fertilizer packaging sizes, deteriorating soil science capacity, and weak agricultural extension. This leads to a huge gap between the actual and potential crop yields and widespread poverty. Opportunities, options, and innovations are available to turn around this situation and reduce poverty in Africa. We reviewed the status of agricultural soils of sub-Saharan Africa, the factors contributing to their current status, and the existing and emerging opportunities for addressing the soil fertility challenges. The major points are (1) the soils in SSA have continued to be characterized by huge and widespread negative nutrient imbalances and low productivity, and (2) the factors contributing to declining soil fertility in Africa are not abating. The way forward includes: balanced fertilization; input–output market development; improved crop management, and the use of nutrient budgets to inform policy and ensure that farmers and other land managers enjoy the profitable use of farm inputs including mineral fertilizers and agro-minerals.

Keywords

Mineral fertilizers Farming systems Challenges Sub-Saharan Africa 

Acronyms and abbreviations

AATF

African Agricultural Technology Foundation

AE

Agronomic efficiency

AEZs

Agro-ecological zones

AfDB

African Development Bank

AFFM

Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism

BNF

Biological nitrogen fixation

C

Carbon

CA

Conservation agriculture

CAN

Calcium ammonium nitrate

DAP

Di-ammonium phosphate

FAO

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

FOB

Free on board

FSR

Farming Systems Research

IPNM

Integrated Plant Nutrient Management

ISFM

Integrated Soil Fertility Management

K

Potassium

KARI

Kenya Agricultural Research Institute

KCl

Potassium chloride

Kg

Kilogram

MoA

Ministry of Agriculture

MoA-NAL

Ministry of Agriculture National Agricultural Laboratories

N

Nitrogen

NPK

Nitrogen phosphorus potassium

OECD

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

P

Phosphorus

PKS

Phosphorus potassium sulfur

PPP

Public–private partnership

PR

Phosphate rock

SCODP

Sustainable Community Oriented Development Programme

SSA

Sub-Saharan Africa

SSP

Single superphosphate

T&V

Training and visit

TSP

Triple superphosphate

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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonas N. Chianu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Justina N. Chianu
    • 2
  • Franklin Mairura
    • 3
  1. 1.Agriculture & Agro-Industry (OSAN) Department, African Development BankTunisTunisia
  2. 2.NairobiKenya
  3. 3.TSBF-CIAT, c/o World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)NairobiKenya

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