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«Henk Breman INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR SOIL FERTILITY MANAGEMENT IFDC-Africa PO Box 4483, Lomé, Togo, hbreman Network on Agroforestry and ...»

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3.1 Fertiliser accessibility The recommendation domains of paragraph 2.3 are defined from the agro-ecological viewpoint. It is only in case of the choices “legumes + P” or “non-legumes + N” and enrichments of the system through with nutrients through crops or livestock, the socioeconomic conditions have been toughed by mentioning prices. However, the chance is rather limited that ISFM through agroforestry and ISFM practices more in general will be adopted under the present socio-economic conditions by farmers in dry land areas that are affected by drought and desertification (e.g. Sissoko, 1998; Reardon et al., 1998;

Sanders et al., 1996). The main reason is the limited access to input and output markets for African farmers in general, and those of the network’s target region in particular (see chapter 1). Nutrients are the main limiting factor, but the use of fertilisers is decreasing. A maximum use of only 10 kg/ha/yr at average has been reached about a decade ago, one tenth of the world average, but since structural adjustment use is stagnating or even decreasing (Gerner et al., 1998). World fertiliser use data show that countries with food security and agricultural export invest annually about 30 $/capita/yr in fertiliser. Countries assuring only food security invest at average 6 $/cap./yr, and poor countries without food security, almost exclusively found in Africa today, invest only 1 $/cap./yr. (Soh, 1998).

In the scope of this presentation, it is useful to nuance the African situations in two ways:

Not everywhere fertiliser use is stagnating; in more than 20 countries consumption has grown during the last decade. It concerns relatively small consumers which do not compensate enough for decrease in consumption by some of the biggest consumers.

Among a whole series of criteria for successful structural adjustment only one shows a correlation with the trends in fertiliser use during the last decade: As an average, countries where governments don’t interfere anymore in the agricultural input market, perform much better than those who still do it in one way or another (Breman, 2000).

Three situations have to be distinguished as far as the economic feasibility of fertiliser use is concerned, the distinction being determined both by agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions. I. Fertiliser use is economically feasible; II. Fertiliser use can become economically feasible, using integrated soil fertility management technologies and/or improving the socio-economic and policy conditions; III. Fertiliser can not be economically feasible (at today’s world market prices for inputs and outputs) using only agronomic criteria for judgement.

An analysis of regions where situation I occurs leads to the following conditions favouring

fertiliser use:

• favourable climate;

• soils with good storage capacity for nutrients and water,

• and/or irrigation systems;

• access to local, regional or international market;

• relatively good transport and distribution systems;

• favourable input and output prices.

The first two concern agro-ecological conditions, to be improved by the ISFM proposed in the former chapter. Irrigation is also an agro-ecological element, but agricultural policy plays a crucial role in the realisation of irrigation infrastructure. Still more clear is de role of socio-economic conditions, of agricultural and general economic policy in relation to the three last conditions. Examples of actual economically feasible fertiliser use are the production of cotton and maize in the West African cotton belt, rice production in large irrigation schemes in Sahelian countries, the production of fruits and vegetables in periurban agriculture, and even of cereals in a wider circle around cities. Intensive fodder production for producing milk and meat for the national domestic markets, and livestock for the regional market should become an example, e.g. for the Sudanian savannah.

Since the EU decreased its subsidies for dumping meat, it became a feasible option for animal husbandry in Sahelian countries (Breman & Sissoko, 1998).

3.2 Transition and support Adoption of ISFM technologies in situation I will lead to less pollution of the environment and to higher revenues. In situation II it will trigger change which leads to a transformation of situation II into I in course of some one to several years. Improved socio-economic conditions and policy determines the degree of extension of situation I. Examples are the creation of a transparent and competitive market for agricultural inputs (in most cases a question of effective privatisation and liberalisation), a stimulating taxe policy, improved land use security, increased accessibility to credit (small holders, women farmers), output market development, etc. (e.g. Sissoko, 1998). The government (and donors) could also decide to support isfm more directly, investing in soils (e.g. through cheap subsidised PR) or stimulating farmers to do so by subsidising maximum OM management (e.g. carts for transport and animal traction, tree plantation). To summarise, governments have to create an enabling environment for farmers to invest in their soils, and for the private sector to invest in input and output market development. The best chance to become successful in enlarging regions where situation I is a reality at least for certain crops, is to start isfm within regions with situation I, but for production systems as a whole instead of using fertiliser on one single cash crop, and going just beyond the border of such regions, seeking benefit from its relatively favourable conditions (Schreurs et al., in press). Very favourable situations are those where patches with situation II are found within regions with situation I, like the farms of small holders found side by side with large commercial farms in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The small holders concerned use already 50 kg/ha or more fertiliser, against less than 10 as Africa’s average use.





Situation I will be rather rare in the network’s target region, and large parts of the region will be characterised by situation III. As defined, fertiliser can not be economically feasible using only agronomic criteria for judgement. However, it should be short sighted to use only agronomic criteria in regions threatened by desertification (Breman, 1987; Breman, 1992). Support of isfm, even permanent, should be judged using its effect in desertification control as criteria, its effectivity in the protection of land with much more favourable production conditions. Using this criteria, the cost:benefit ratio should be compared with alternative approaches viewing the same goal. And the costs of doing nothing has to be taken into account: creating conditions for farmers at desert borders enabling them to have a decent living without being obliged to undermine their own future will easily be cheaper than the costs of uncontrolled migration and wild urbanisation.

Agroforestry options as such, without increased efficiency of fertiliser use as goal, will be much cheaper than real isfm. However, the chance to become successful as a way of reversing the process of soil depletion and degradation at the present and increasing population pressure is negligible; the mechanisms are too weak in relation to the problems (Breman & Kessler, 1997).

3.3 Respective roles of stakeholders

The respective roles of farmers, private sector and governments for an efficient and effective adoption of technologies for rural development, and therefore for desertification control, can be partially read in the text above. It is the responsibility of farmers to invest in maintenance and improvement of their soils, using among others agroforestry as form of isfm. But their role does not stop there. Effective organisation will enable them to create conditions for credit, to influence input and output prices, to improve land use security and to realise a more equal access to agricultural inputs in general.

Partially due to the colonial background, the capabilities of Governments seems to have been overestimated: both the development of the agricultural input market and the development of the output market in Africa lags far behind the world average. African continues to loose its share in the world market of agricultural products. A bigger share of the private sector in organising such aspects of the society has proven elsewhere its effect. IFDC assisted, for example, Bangladesh and Albania with the transfer of the agricultural input market from the public to the private sector, leading to improved accessibility of inputs and rapid intensification of agriculture (Dimithe et al., …..??). Such a transfer is very different from the simple and often incomplete withdrawal from African governments in the framework of structural adjustment programmes. Training and access to capital are crucial elements enabling the private sector to fill the gap left by the withdrawing governments.

Table 3 presents some indications of what could be an effective distribution of governments’ roles as actor and as facilitator. A difference has been created between the responsibility of governments related to marginal land, the networks’ target region, and to land having more favourable production conditions. More and more responsibilities can be transferred to the private sector going in space from desert borders into more and more productive land (from the agro-ecological and/or socio-economical point of view), or going in space from poorly developed input market to the more matured situations (IFDC, 2000). Responsibilities as suggested (table 3) should not be executed in form of isolated activities, but as parts of an overall agronomic and economic policy. National desertification control and soil improvement action plans should not be developed and implemented is isolation, but as part of an holistic approach. To become effective, the plans should be developed and implemented involving from the beginning the main stakeholders. Only in a constant and constructive dialogue between farmers organisations, private sector associations and the government, a real enabling socioeconomic and policy environment can be created, pushing farmers to invest in their soils, and the private sector to invest in input and output market development. And it is a common challenge and benefit to assure that the dialogue and collaboration between these three groups of stakeholders will be as balanced as possible.

Table 3. Agricultural policy and public investments supporting integrated soil fertility management

–  –  –

4. Recommendations Recommendations for strategic orientation and guidelines for action to control

desertification through agroforestry and soil conservation:

1. “Soil improvement” should become part of the network mandate, being the final tool through which agroforestry and soil conservation can stop degradation. The network, widening the number of technical options that can be offered to and developed with farmers, should adopt all agricultural production systems involving perennial plant species in general.

2. Agroforestry should be applied as a form of integrated soil fertility management, improving the accessibility to inorganic fertilisers. Adequate phosphate rock should be identified and applied to reinforce this type of agroforestry.

3. The “West African Land Resources Information System (WALRIS)” proposal (ISRIC seminar, Cotonou 1999) should be considered for implementation, integrating existing national and international information systems and databases related to soils, land use and land use capabilities. The network should consider the elaboration and adoption of a common decision support system related to the feasibility of fertiliser use (DSS-FFU).

4. The cooperation among farmers’ organisations, private sector associations and the government should be strengthened, viewing a holistic agricultural and economic policy having national action plans for soil improvement and desertification control as inherent elements. The socio-economic and policy environment should enable farmers to invest in their soil while enabling the private sector to invest in agricultural input and output market development.

5. The network should support all three-stakeholder groups, paying special attention to reinforcement of the weakest.

6. Integrated soil fertility management technologies should be validated, improved and implemented in regions where fertiliser use will become attractive through soil improvement. In regions where economic feasible fertiliser use cannot be expected from the agronomic point of view, even in case of soil improvement, the socioeconomics of the technology should be compared with those of other approaches for desertification control.

7. Both national governments and donor should consider direct investments improving the accessibility of soil amendments (organic matter, PR and lime).

5. Bibliography

Anon. 2001. ACFD/IFDC/TSBF collaborative project on soil fertility maintenance and restoration in sub-Saharan Africa. Technical report for the years 1997 – 2000 to IFAD (Rome) from IFDC, Muscle Shoals; ACFD, Harare & TSBF, Nairobi. IFDC-Africa, Lomé.

Anon., 1998. Report of the workshop on a network for “The promotion of agroforestry and soil conservation in context of the regional action programme to combat desertification in Africa”. 30 June – 3 July 1998, Bamako (Mali). ICRAF, Nairobi & CCD, Bonn.

B. Vanlauwe (Ed.), in press. Proc. Int. Symp. On balanced nutrient management systems for the moist savanna and humid forest zones of Africa. Cotonou (Benin), Oct. 9 – 10,

2000. IITA (Ibadan) & K.U. Leuven (Leuven). CABI.

Bationo, A., E. Rhodes, E.M.A. Smaling & C. Visker, 1996. Technologies for restoring soil fertility. In: A.U. Mokwunye, A. de Jager & E.M.A. Smaling (Eds.). Restoring and maintaining the productivity of West African soils: key to sustainable development.

IFDC-Africa (Togo), LEI-DLO and SC-DLO (the Netherlands). Miscellaneous Fertilizer Studies n0. 14, IFDC, Muscle Shoals (USA).

Breman, H. & C.T. de Wit, 1983. Rangeland productivity and exploitation in the Sahel.

Science 221, 1341 – 1347.

Breman, H. & H. van Reuler, in press. Legumes, when and where an option? No panacea for poor African soils and expensive fertilizers. In: B. Vanlauwe (Ed.). Proc. Int. Symp.



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