Fwd: [Food-news] Ecology and Agriculture reinforce each other for Food Security
- --- foodnews >
> *www.foodnews.ca <http://www.foodnews.ca/>*http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&call_pageid=971358637177&c=Article&cid=1143760212955
> *Editor's Note: *This article discusses a new study
> on the state of
> Africa's soil --documenting a key link between
> ecology and agriculture
> and how they have to reinforce each other. The
> stressed, nutrient-poor
> soil particularly in sub-Saharan Africa produces
> poor yields. These
> findings suggest that food security measures should
> sustainable, affordable plans for soil
> * *
> *Africa** faces barren future*
> *Overworked land loses fertility:* Report
> Continent's ability to feed
> itself eroding
> Mar. 31, 2006. 05:22 AM
> KAREN PALMER
> SPECIAL TO THE STAR
> Kampala, Uganda--Africa is in danger of losing its
> ability to feed an
> already hungry population because its farmland is
> rapidly becoming
> barren, a major new study warns.
> More than 80 per cent of farmland in sub-Saharan
> Africa, where one in
> three people is undernourished, is so depleted of
> nutrients it has been
> rendered infertile, the report notes.
> "This is severely eroding Africa's ability to feed
> itself," Nigerian
> President Olusegun Obasanjo said yesterday. "To feed
> people, we must
> also feed the soil."
> Researchers from the International Centre for Soil
> Fertility and
> Agricultural Development, who tracked soil
> conditions across Africa for
> more than two decades, say population growth is
> leading to an
> over-cultivation of farmland.
> Farmers who once rotated crop production, moving
> from plot to plot to
> allow soil to regain its fertility, are now forced
> to grow crop after
> crop on the same land, "depleting the soil of
> nutrients while giving
> nothing back," says the report.
> An estimated 70 per cent of Africans rely directly
> on farming for their
> food supply or livelihood. But the "soil health
> crisis" means crop
> productivity has remained stagnant, while cereal
> yields in Asia have
> tripled over the past four decades.
> "The news is not good," said Amit Roy, president of
> the U.S.-based
> non-profit soil centre, during a telephone
> conference in Washington
> yesterday. "The soil health of the African continent
> is in decline and
> there is significant mining of nutrients."
> Roy said at least 170 million hectares -- nearly 80
> per cent of all
> African farmland -- is so barren it cannot produce
> even one tonne of
> cereal per hectare a year -- a third of what soil in
> Asia or South
> America produces.
> The findings have major implications for the
> continent's ability to feed
> itself. Already, some 43 million tonnes of cereals
> are imported to
> sub-Saharan Africa each year at a cost of $7.5
> billion (all figures U.S.).
> But despite that, an estimated 200 million people go
> hungry each year.
> Without radical change in agricultural practices,
> the report predicts
> that by 2020, Africa will have to import 60 million
> tonnes of cereals,
> which would cost $14 billion.
> "African aid is never, never going to end food
> insecurity," said Firmino
> Mucavele, chief executive of the New Partnership For
> Development secretariat. Nigeria's Obasanjo is chair
> of the implementing
> committee of the African Union-sponsored
> He said too many nutrients are being removed from
> the African soil, and
> not being replenished with suitable fertilizers.
> "The environment is
> being damaged by the quality and quantity of
> fertilizers used," he said.
> Africa's rate of fertilizer use is one-tenth the
> world average, although
> commercial farmers grow peanut, cotton and sugar
> cane crops that are
> notoriously high consumers of soil nutrients.
> A cruel irony is that fertilizers cost up to six
> times as much in Africa
> as the rest of the world. A June summit will look at
> ways of lowering
> that cost, including the possibility of producing
> fertilizer in Africa,
> and promoting mineral and organic fertilizers. The
> ultimate objective is
> to reduce or eliminate hunger.
> There also needs to be more investment in
> irrigation, Roy said. Only 4
> per cent of arable land in Africa is watered
> artificially, while nearly
> 40 per cent of land in Asia is irrigated.
> And the problem needs to be managed immediately, Roy
> said, since farmers
> are encroaching on even more fragile ecosystems,
> like forests and
> savannahs, in search of new land to till.
> Researchers found 50,000
> hectares of forest and 60,000 hectares of grassland
> are cleared for
> farming each year in Africa.
> "Without the green revolution, we'll never be able
> to create our own
> resources and decrease poverty," Mucavele said.
> "Without a green
> revolution, we'll never really control our own
> /Karen Palmer is The Star's stringer in Africa /
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