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Briefing Note: Addressing Africa’s soil health challenges through the ten-year African Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan (2024-2034) and the longer-term Soil Initiative for Africa Framework

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Briefing Note: Addressing Africa’s soil health challenges through the ten-year African Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan (2

Africa’s soil health challenge

Agricultural productivity in Africa is severely constrained by extensive land and soil degradation, a challenge that has persisted for decades. Approximately 75%-80% of the continent's cultivated area is reportedly degraded, resulting in a loss of 30kg-60kg of nutrients per hectare annually. This affects more than 485 million people (65% of the population)1. Further, projections indicate that over half of the currently arable land may become unusable by 2050. Various factors contribute to the continent's soil degradation, including the loss of organic matter, erosion from water and wind, acidification, biodiversity loss, and salinity.

Soil degradation not only affects agricultural productivity but also jeopardises food and nutrition security, rural livelihoods, and environmental sustainability. The compromised health and fertility of Africa’s soil hinders its response to yield-enhancing inputs like fertilizers and improved crop varieties, thereby increasing the vulnerability of smallholder farmers and rural communities to the impacts of climatic shocks.

Since the 2006 Africa Fertilizer Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, the African fertilizer and soil health landscape has undergone significant changes. The private sector has invested over USD 15 billion, primarily in local manufacturing and fertilizer consumption steadily increased until 2019 (after which the recent global fertilizer crisis caused a decline of 25% in fertilizer consumption). Despite the progress made, most African countries remain net importers of mineral fertilizers and smallholder farmers struggle to access quality fertilizers due to financing and distribution challenges.