On September 4, 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture launched the Visualizing Insights on Fertilizer for African Agriculture (VIFAA) dashboard for Kenya to provide farmers with guidance on buying crop- and region-specific inputs and improve food production.
Through VIFAA, Development Gateway – and partners International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and AfricaFertlizer.org (AFO) aim to address various challenges the fertiliser industry faces across the continent, especially regarding access to accurate and timely information on fertiliser production, pricing, supply and use.
The program is a significant achievement for Sub-Saharan African agriculture. It presents key stakeholders, including government and development partners, with data-driven insights into the fertiliser challenges in this region.
With an immense need for food security and sustainable production of crops, the VIFAA dashboard provides insights into the current state and potential impact of fertiliser use, giving stakeholders invaluable information to make informed decisions about how best to respond.
The data gathered from VIFAA’s portal can help governments, development partners and the private sector to invest more efficiently in fertiliser-related projects and interventions.
This is especially important today as data is increasingly becoming the world’s greatest commodity. But sometimes, the many information outlets make it difficult and expensive for farmers and industry experts to locate exactly what they need. This does not work well for the African farmer since it works against the goals set out in the Abuja declaration.
The Abuja Declaration is a 12-Resolution framework on fertiliser guiding the African Green Revolution. It was convened and adopted on June 12 2006, by the African Union Special Summit of the Heads of State and Governments.
It aimed to guide the sub-Saharan African countries on measures to improve soil health and revolutionise farming by increasing fertiliser use in an enhanced, more enabling environment.
But, sixteen years later and Africa still struggles to actualise the declarations made in Abuja. Given the strategic importance of fertiliser in achieving the African Green Revolution to end hunger, the Abuja Declaration resolved to increase the use of fertiliser from 8 kilograms per hectare to an average of at least 50 kilograms per hectare by 2015.
However, this is yet to become a reality. According to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization titled Boosting Africa’s Soil, nutrient consumption per ha is still relatively low, with most countries falling far below the target of 50kg/ha, which has slowed progress.
In fact, the average amount of fertiliser applied per hectare of land in sub-Saharan Africa is 17 kg, while the global average is 135 kg. The underdeveloped access and use of essential agricultural inputs in Africa have largely impacted this.
Part of the solution that sought to curb this challenge had a one-stop platform that enables farmers to get an education, plan for the future and access otherwise limited or expensive resources. This is why VIFAA was developed and is also why the IFDC and its partners are looking to launch and rebrand AfricaFertilizer.Org, upon which the dashboard is hinged.
As the rest of the world embraces technology, it is time for farmers to be incorporated in this advancement, and data is the key driver to a faster shift in the agriculture space.
VIFAA explicitly addresses the fertiliser needs of farmers, especially women, and develops and strengthens the capacity of the youth, farmers’ associations, civil society organisations, and the private sector.
This will help farmers gain enough knowledge input use and venture more into farming. In addition, VIFAA will provide the much-needed research that will guide farmers and allow them to minimise costs while maximising production.
It will also provide a focal point for improving farmers’ access to fertiliser by granting targeted subsidies in favour of the fertiliser sector, and with the support of Africa’s Development Partners, with particular attention given to poor farmers.
The timely and accurate data provided by VIFAA will be pivotal in closing the gap between farmer demand and fertiliser supply, especially during the planting season. BY visualising critical information on fertiliser prices, use, availability, and policy at the national and county levels, farmers can better plan based on real-time needs.
In turn, they will increase their crop yields and transform sub-Saharan Africa’s agriculture into a globally competitive, sustainable, inclusive and business-oriented sector, creating wealth, generating employment, and improving quality of life.
All these matters as the continent strive to ensure food security amid a growing population, which can only happen if measures are taken to increase large-scale production in Africa. Thankfully, VIFAA ensures that farmers get important data on vital agricultural inputs, including fertiliser, seeds, irrigation, and crop protection products.
Ultimately, with the help of VIFAA, every farmer in Africa has access to quality fertiliser and improved agricultural practices, with the ability to plan for a successful farming season.
This could be exactly what is needed to fulfil the Abuja Declaration’s goal of 50 kg/ha fertiliser use and will then lay the groundwork for the future of African farming and usher in a new era of sustained agricultural productivity.