Soil fertility and hunger in Africa

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Sub-Saharan Africa is the only remaining region of the world where per capita food production has remained stagnant over the past 40 years.

Depletion of soil fertility, along with the problems of weeds, pests and diseases, is a major biophysical cause of low per capita food production in Africa. But mineral fertilisers cost two to six times as much as those sold worldwide.

However, tens of thousands of farmers in East and Southern Africa are now becoming food secure by using a soil fertility replenishment approach based on naturally available resources: nitrogen-fixing leguminous tree fallows, indigenous rock phosphate applications, and biomass transfers of leaves of nutrient-accumulating shrubs.

Soil fertility depletion must be addressed before other technologies and policies can become effective in overcoming hunger in Africa.

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Reference: Science 295, 2019 (2002)