Published Monday , on 1 February 2021, 08:27:37 by NONAHA

New project to balance fertilization to improve food production and soil health

29 January 2021, Kigali — Rwanda scores very low on the International Fertilizer Association (IFA) ranking in the use​of fertilizers with only 19.71 kg/ha in 2015, in a country where about 80 percent of the population rely on agriculture for a living.

Given that the country is 90 percent hilly, it often experiences soil erosion, and decreasing fertility, thus, necessitating efficient fertilizer application culture.

The low adoption of fertilizers has been partly due to inappropriate fertilizer recommendations. Only 46 percent of the farmers use good inputs including fertilizers. Some farmers in the country, are still using the blanket fertilizer recommendations, which means that they overuse fertilizers, or underuse fertilizers causing imbalance of nutrients for the soil and crop. In some cases, this leads to farmers incurring high cost of fertilizers.

Under the new project launched, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will support the country to improve fertilizer recommendations. The two-year project “Capacity Development on sustainable Soil Management for Africa (2) – Rwanda” will develop fertilizer recommendations adapted to the local crops and soil requirements for improvement of food production and soil health.

“Inefficient use of fertilizers has consequently caused nutrients loss. Most farmers do not vary fertilizer application rates according to the soil status and crops. This project will contribute to development of soil experimental data and laboratory to help farmers and stakeholders to make informed decisions, and will help to increase high adoption of fertilizers,” said Charles Bucagu, Deputy Director General, Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board.

Introducing fertilizer recommendations that have worked

The FAO Representative in Rwanda, Gualbert Gbehounou, said that improving fertilizer recommendations for farmers is essential to increase food security for smallholder farmers. “The expected impact of the project is to improve income, food security and nutrition, as well as improve environmental and human wellbeing through the sustainable management of soil resources in Rwanda,” said Gualbert.

The project will introduce efficient soil testing and fertilizer recommendations that have been successfully developed and implemented in the Chinese agricultural sectors.

In addition to assisting to build an efficient soil and fertilizer laboratory, the project will establish a set of soil fertility and fertilizer database, establish a regional system on scientific fertilization extension service, and develop capacities of the stakeholders through an online soil education platform (EduSOILS).

It is financially funded by China through the South-South and Triangular Cooperation framework aimed to share from the South to developing countries development solutions that have been tested and proven effective.

“South-South and Triangular Cooperation can support southern countries by sharing technologies, expertise, experiences through technical demonstration and capacity development. We committed to do our best to facilitate smooth implementation of this project through cooperation with stockholders in Rwanda,” said Jinbiao Wang, FAO Senior Programme Officer of South-South and Triangular Cooperation Division.

“Soil erosion could lead to soil infertility, therefore make soils and agriculture system with poor productivity and endanger our food security, then negatively impact the development of the country. Capacity building on soils could significantly improve the sustainable soil management as well as agriculture in the country,” said Jiaxin Wang, Economic and Commercial counselor of Chinese Embassy to Rwanda.

The results of this project could also be used to help the country to improve fertilizer supply chain, to promote local fertilizer market. An increase in productivity, without impairing soil health, could contribute to reduce poverty, enhance food and nutrition security.