Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chemical Fertilizer Impedes Development of African Agriculture

Life has been a constant struggle for African families since the collapse of colonialism in the early 1980s.  People living on this continent have had no choice but to live a hard life in order to sustain themselves.
One of the major problems in Africa is the lack of existing industry to engage the teeming youth in employment. Very few industries built by the colonial masters have survived the test of time due to the fact that the technologies and expertise required to manage such industries were never transferred to local Africans, who were engaged to work in these industrial set-ups.

Ghanaian official hands over donated fertilizer to farmers at Kpasenkpe. Photo by Npong Francis
Climate change presents another challenge to the struggling continent whose people have been living under a hornet’s nest of social, economic, and political systems.  These systems are a mixture of western and conservative traditions, making these structures a most complex system to live with.

The continent has been struggling over the years to cope with changing times, conditions and ultimately the effect of climate change on existing struggles which include poverty, food insecurity, unstable economies, an unprecendentedly high rate of maternal and infants deaths, malaria infections, malnutrition and under development.

Despite the crippling maladies, the continent is noted for the largest farmlands in the world, and provide favourable conditions for the growth of almost every single crop on earth.  Yet in spite of this, Africa faces severe food shortages and malnutrition – the cause of which has been associated with floods, drought and heatwaves.

A community submerged in water during the Central Gonja flooding in northern Ghana. Photo by Npong Francis

The weather patterns have also changed – rainfall has become erratic and unpredictable, and there exists considerable weather predictions forecasting  difficulties for yielding crops.  As a result, farmlands have been left to the mercy of climate conditions which determines what can be produced and when. There are also the considerably long droughts and thunderstorms which destroy farms and crops in Africa.

One should not forget that man is equally liable to extinction, in much the same way that the planet’s flora and fauna face challenges to survive in a rapidly changing environment.  The inability of 21st century man to “think and act green” is leaving people with no option but to pick up weapons to fight for and secure resources which will support their livelihood.

There is evidence that Africa’s food is in short supply. Water scarcity is also hitting a crisis level. The civil strikes taking place on the continent today are directly linked to the mismanagement of resources and the inability of African leaders to utilise existing resources to meet the development needs of people.
It has become evident that developing agricultural potential in Africa may be the solution to the challenges which face the deprived continent.

The world food programme (WFP) report indicated that the world’s food is in short supply, and this has begun to stir conflict over land and other natural resources. Food donations to the WFP has dwindled over the years which has prompted the UN body to pump billions of dollars to purchase food supply to salvage communities facing crisis.
While food was in short supply, water scarcity across the globe has become eminent. In Sub-Saharan Africa for example, conflicts over resources – particularly water and land are begining to take shape, prompting people to look for weapons – triggering an influx of light arms; as well as mass youth migration from the rural communities to urban centers to search for non-existant ‘greener’ pastures. Youth migration is also notoriously associated with the spread of HIV/AIDS, rape, teenage pregnancies, sexual transmitted diseases (STDs), armed robbery, street-ism, drug abuse, indiscipline and the creation of slums in cities.
Between the 17th and 20th Centuries, the potency of Africa’s land to support the development of agriculture was very high. Within the agricultural sector, both crops and animals were doing well until chemical fertilizers were introduced onto African soil. Now, chemical fertilizers and other agronomic chemicals have contributed immensely to the food shortages in Africa. The use of chemical fertilizers and agronomic chemicals have worsened agriculture in Africa and made  farmers more dependent.

During an exclusive interview with Mr. Abdul-Razak Sanni, an Agriculture extension officer based in Northern Ghana,  he had the following to say:  “Now if you apply one bag of fertilizer on a piece of farmland this year, the next year the same quantity can not produce the same result”.  He said that fertilizers could increase farm yield, however this makes farmers dependent on agro-chemicals to be able to yield crops.
This he said negatively impacted farmers’ income levels in developing countries and contributed to soil fertility.

Most of the chemical fertilizers and agrochemicals are supplied to Africa by US and European companies.  It has been said that chemical fertilizer is the major contributor to the decline in African agriculture. If the plight of African hunger is to be solved, then the impact of chemical fertilizer needs to be taken more seriously.

Irrespective of the motivation behind US and European companies in introducing chemical fertilizers and agro-chemicals to African farmers, the result has made the already poverty stricken farmers dependant, instead of independant.


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