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Fertilisers and Climate Change



Ten years ago, a group of 53 African ministers of agriculture met in Abuja, Nigeria to discuss what they referred to as “Africa’s fertiliser crisis”. They shared their collective observations on the state of the continent’s agricultural production systems at the time, agreeing unanimously that “bold and urgent action” would be needed if the sector were to play its part in tackling the widespread rural poverty, hunger, and malnutrition facing its population.

Crop yields in Africa were only 10-25 percent of the yields found in the developed world, leaving the continent dependent on billions of dollars worth of food imports. No great surprise, fertiliser use was also around 10 percent of the global average. Around two-thirds of Africa’s soils were thought to be degraded, causing an estimated $4 billion in GDP losses on the continent each year.

African leaders knew these losses were untenable, given high levels of poverty in a rapidly expanding population. In response, they called for a systematic increase in average fertiliser use – from 8kg per hectare to 50kg per hectare by the year 2015.

Fast forward to 2016, and another African city – this time in Marrakesh, Morocco – is playing host to another important meeting: the annual UN climate talks. Thousands of delegates will descend to discuss how to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions while building the resilience of societies and economies against global warming.

Food security in Africa will be a key concern at the conference with the Moroccan government launching its AAA initiative, which focuses on Adaptation in African Agriculture.

African farmers are among the principal victims of extreme temperatures and weather events, which are expected to worsen as a result of climate change. As just one example, the recent devastating El Niño-induced drought left millions in Southern and Eastern Africa in need of food assistance when crops failed across the region.

It is, therefore, the ideal moment to revisit the issue of Africa’s fertiliser crisis and determine how to move forward on the agenda set in Abuja ten years ago in a “climate-smart” way. Climate-smart agriculture requires agricultural practices that provide the “triple win” of boosting productivity and livelihoods, increasing resilience and minimising greenhouse gas emissions. Fertilisers play a crucial role in all three areas.

Food security in Africa will simply not be achievable without fertilisers. Vast tracts of Africa’s arable land lack the nutrients needed to grow healthy crops. Applying appropriate fertilisers according to soil type will not only improve soil conditions but also enhance the productivity of food crops as yields increase.

By helping farmers to crop more crops on less land, fertilisers also help farmers spare more forests and pastures from conversion to farmland – one of the biggest single drivers of climate change. And nutrient-rich, healthy soils tend also to be more resilient under stressful growing conditions, which reduces crop losses and helps farmers adapt.

Carbon footprint

It is important to recognise that mineral fertilisers do have a carbon footprint, estimated at 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but consider this: fertilisers are also responsible for around 50 percent of our total crop production worldwide. And considering that the agricultural sector as a whole represents 12 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, fertilisers’ contribution starts to seem negligible.

Nonetheless, the fertiliser sector continues to be committed to reducing its carbon footprint globally by promoting farming techniques that allow for better nutrient uptake: 4R Nutrient Stewardship, a management technique that makes best use of site- and crop-specific practices in the four areas of nutrient management (using the right nutrient source at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place), and Integrated Soil Fertility Management which recommends using organic sources of nutrients that are available on-farm (e.g. animal manure and/or crop residues) and then supplementing them with manufactured fertilisers to sustainably increase yields.

In Africa, however, the most urgent priority is to ensure that the continent’s millions of farmers have sufficient access to both sources of nutrients in order to redress soil degradation and boost yields. This requires everyone’s support. The African leaders who met back in 2006 called for “immediate steps to accelerate investment in infrastructure, particularly transport, fiscal incentives, strengthening farmers’ organisations, and other measures to improve output market incentives”.

Progress on this is being made. The African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), for instance, is investing in wholesale rural infrastructure by developing better inland storage and distribution facilities for fertiliser and supporting “hub” agro-dealers. These agro-dealers often have better access to credit (for the initial purchase of inputs) as well as more capacity and incentives to provide the right advice to farmers. As such, they can provide the right products consistently and at scale to retail outlets, farmer groups and cooperatives.

There are many tools and technologies available that are appropriate even for the smallest-scale African farmers. Soil testing devices such as the SoilCares scanner can give recommendations on which fertilisers to use within 30 minutes of running a test. Other techniques such as micro-dosing – in which very small amounts of fertiliser are applied next to the rooting zone of the crop – helps reduce waste and lower costs.

Digital tools, such as the GreenSeeker, can analyse the level of nitrogen in a crop, and guide a farmer on how much fertiliser to apply to optimise crop growth. Simple colour charts that allow farmers to monitor the nutritional status of plant leaves can do a similar job. Speciality fertilisers that are blended according to local soil needs are also key – with results from Ethiopia having already boosted yields by up to 65 percent.

“If agriculture is to become a viable livelihood for the growing African population – the majority of whom will be young people – it needs to become more productive, and more lucrative. Fertilisers remain essential to this.”

And yet, already a year after the deadline for the Abuja Declaration has expired, African fertiliser use is still nowhere near its target of 50kg per hectare. In fact, it’s only about 13kg per hectare on average and with lots of variation from region to region. If agriculture is to become a viable livelihood for the growing African population – the majority of whom will be young people – it needs to become more productive, and more lucrative. Fertilisers remain essential to this.

Healthy soils can build a foundation on which to build a thriving agriculture sector in Africa, and by reviving the momentum to restore them, we can make food security and resilience to climate change on the continent a reality.

Charlotte Hebebrand is director general of the International Fertilizer Industry Association. The IFA is hosting a side event at the UN climate talks on the role of farmers in implementing the Paris Agreement.

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.


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Goodwell Investments Backs Chicoa Fish Farm With $1.5 Million Funding To Support Food Security In Africa



Chicoa Fish Farm Production Breeding Cage, Mozambique (Source: Chicoa Fish Farm)

Series A funding enables Chicoa to contribute to a stable market for affordable protein and improve outcomes for smallholder farmers and food vendors in Southern Africa.

Chicoa Fish Farm, a Mozambican-based company addressing the critical challenge of a lack of affordable protein in Southern Africa, announced today that it closed its Series A equity funding round totalling $1.5 million from Goodwell Investments.  

Building A Sustainable Aquaculture Industry

Chicoa Fish Farm was founded by Gerard McCollum and Damien Legros in 2015 with the vision to provide a blueprint for a sustainable aquaculture industry across Africa. Since its inception, Chicoa has focused on securing its supply chain through primary production of tilapia, establishing a breeding program, and developing sales and distribution channels in Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, and Zambia.   

The $1.5 million Series A funding boosts the transition to its next stage of growth — the processing and distribution of frozen tilapia products. To facilitate this growth, plans include extending production facilities, the installation of a processing plant and including local small-scale farmers in its model. At scale, Chicoa will produce over 5,000 tons of tilapia per annum, putting more than $10M of direct income into the local economy each year.  

“We are delighted that Goodwell has joined us on this really exciting journey to develop fish farming as an industry in Mozambique,” commented Gerry McCollum, CEO of Chicoa Fish Farm. “Being a first-mover is really challenging, but also hugely impactful. Not only do Goodwell bring a wealth of experience to the table, but their philosophy of supporting for transformative businesses in areas of most need makes them a perfect partner for us.”

Supporting Food Security

Food security is one of the biggest challenges facing Africa and Mozambique is amongst the worst affected, with nearly 80% of the population unable to afford an adequate diet. While the continent has the resources to feed its population, most countries are net exporters of food. Mozambique, for example, imports nearly double the value of fish products it exports. Further, regional aquaculture businesses currently satisfy just 6% of the total demand for fish across the Southern Africa region.

“The opportunity to develop the aquaculture industry to meet the local and regional demand is clear,” notes Dhanyal Davidson, Senior Investment Associate at Goodwell Investments. “The sector can play a key role in the economic development Mozambique by providing affordable, high-quality protein, creating jobs and generating income for local farmers, and promoting broader regional development.”

Affordable, High-Quality Protein

In the face of overfishing and climate change, aquaculture, in particular, provides a means of providing a stable fish supply without increasing the harvesting of wild fisheries beyond the maximum sustainable yields. Chicoa is the largest commercial provider of fish in Mozambique and works to increase yields to provide a sustainable protein source and facilitate import substitution, boosting the sector with an affordable, high-quality fish.   

“Chicoa’s significant traction achieved to date coupled with our visit to the farm in Tete solidified our confidence in the company and its potential. The company is driven by an experienced team with deep roots in aquaculture and Southern Africa, and we look forward to supporting Chicoa to fulfil its potential. Aquaculture is a new area to Goodwell Investments, and we are especially pleased to be joining the table with like-minded investors who bring along a wealth of knowledge in the aquaculture space,” added Davidson.   

Goodwell joins long-term Chicoa Fish Farm investor and leader in sustainable aquaculture investments, Aqua-SparkAmy Novogratz, Founder and Managing Partner at Aqua-Spark commented, “We are excited about Goodwell Investments joining the investor base of Chicoa. Finding a high-quality partner like Goodwell, committed to joining us for the long-term development of regional food security, keeps Chicoa’s vision on track.”  

By developing a vertically-integrated solution to kick-start the freshwater aquaculture industry in Mozambique, Chicoa helps to improve the lives and incomes of local fish farmers and increase the sustainability and stability of food supply across Southern Africa.

Source: Goodwell Investments



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Cold Logistics Academy: Perishable Export Logistics Training (PELT)



Cold Logistics Academy, the training arm of Kennie O Cold Chain Logistics is poised to train aspiring and professionals in the cold chain and logistics industry. The Academy have a robust curriculum that spans across the relevant aspects of the profession. With seasoned facilitators, it guarantees a training experience with practicable modules and engagement.

Cold chain logistics plays a huge role in export of fruits and vegetables; whether by Air, Sea or Road. From the farm gate to the final destination.

Learn practicable skills in cold chain logistics and export from experts. Get certified in the Perishable Export Logistics Training (PELT).

The Cold Logistics Academy course has been developed to handle challenges and provide solutions in the transportation of perishables. The course content includes Cold Chain Logistics and Freight, Export documentation and planning, Insurance and claims, Packing and labeling for Export, Food safety and handling.

Who to attend

• Logistics professionals working in cold chain and related services.
• Senior and midlevel managers involved in cold chain design.
• Certification bodies.
• Operations and logistics managers.
• Warehouse managers and supervisors.
• Transport managers and supervisors.
• Third-party logistics personnel looking to improve their current operations, or providing cold chain services.
• Supply Chain Managers.
• Exporters.
• Route Planning Managers.
• Cold Room and Storage Professional.
• Farmers and Agribusiness Practitioners.
• Pack house.
• Quality Assurance managers.
• Consultants.

The extensive modules includes; 

Module1. Export documentation and planning.
Module 2. Logistics and Freight (Cold Chain Logistics).
Module 3. Insurance and claims
Module 4. Packing and labeling for Export.
Module 5. Food safety and handling.

The Speakers

• Ope Olarenwaju CEO Kennie O Cold Chain Logistics.
• MudiagaOkumagba General Manager, RedStar Express PLC.
• Kinsley Kwalar CEO StilFresh.
• Adebola Akingbele Founder Msvalue food safety practices.

Date: 24th and 25th November 2020.

To register for the training, Clck here

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African Farmers Stories: Oke-Aro Pig Settlement Faces Losses From Disease



The African Farmers’ Stories, powered by Support4AfricanSMEs, in collaboration with Business Day Nigeria, Big Dutchman, Clarke Energy and other partners brings stories from farmers in Africa so that their challenges can be understood and long-term sustainable solutions can be sought.

As we continue to tell these stories, today we highlight the situation at Oke-Aro Agege, bordering Lagos and Ogun States where African Swine Fever has ravaged the Oke-Aro pig farm settlement, resulting in the loss of billions of naira worth of pigs and investments. African Swine Fever (ASF), a highly contagious viral haemorrhagic disease of wild and domesticated pigs is a known contributor to severe economic and production loss in pig farms. It was retrospectively first identified in Kenya in 1907 and can be spread via direct or indirect contact with infected pigs but is not a health risk to humans. Unfortunately, it has no vaccine or cure and must be controlled during an outbreak with classic sanitation measures, cleansing and disinfection, zoning control, surveillance and strict biosecurity measures.

The Oke-Aro piggery estate is located in in Giwa/Oke-Aro; it occupies overs 30 hectares of land with about 5000 pens, making it the largest pig farm in West Africa. It was established about twenty years ago by the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture but is located in Ogun State and is powered by the National Directorate of Employment. The Oke-Aro Piggery Farmers Association has about 3,000 active members with each operating their own independent piggery within the settlement. The outbreak of such a deadly disease in the settlement is indeed alarming, and an indictment on the years of neglect from poor hygiene, absence of extension officers and poor supervision.

According to the President of the Association, It is estimated that the outbreak has resulted to over two hundred and fifty thousand pigs death worth and resulted in cumulative losses worth over 4.9 billions of naira. Many farmers have lost their entire stock and the lockdown has unfortunately worsened the situation as some tried to quickly sell of their pigs to avoid total loss but could not easily access buyers due to inter-state travel restrictions.

Unfortunately, this tragedy has severely affected the farmers of Oke-Aro pig settlement, as four farmers have been confirmed dead while another thirty are currently hospitalised from shock and high blood pressure brought on by the inability to repay the millions of naira worth of loans taken out to support their farms. Most of these farmers have no insurance premiums, and many are watching their investments, some of which are backed by borrowed funds from development and commercial banks, go down the drain. They are calling for assistance to revive the sector and preserve human lives.

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The situation has not gone unnoticed, with farmers taking to social media to lament the challenges the disease has brought about. Many fear the high mortality rates and complain that pigs are being sold at drastic losses for fear of death and to avoid total loss. Fully bred pigs weighing over 70kg are in some cases selling for as low as ₦1500.Other farmers joined in to cite their losses in other areas of livestock farming with Newcastle disease that affects poultry and can also result in total loss of investment.

The Oke-Aro tragedy highlights the importance of the African Farmers’ Stories campaign – to tell the important stories to attract investors and policy makers into the agricultural sector. Indeed, the time to support the African farmer and other entrepreneurs is now, as jobs and livelihoods are being lost. There is an urgent need for investors to address areas such as the recycling sector to recycle the waste from piggeries and to contribute to value addition to the pigs, extension services to support and educate farmers, and policy makers to ensure constant supervision of the standard of hygiene within the settlement.

Article By: Victoria Madedor of Support4AfricanSMEs

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