PROBLEMS FACING FARMERS
Fertile fields, thriving crops, high quality and plentiful yields, healthy and numerous cattle, financial security, good education for the children, a better home, a better life for all. The African land can provide all these and much more to the hardworking smallholder African farmer, the large scale African farmer, entire countries, Africa as a continent, and even the world at large.
The potential is phenomenal. Unfortunately though, this potential remains largely untapped and the majority of African farmers today face great challenges in their daily lives. Most farmers in Africa today are smallholder or subsistence farmers who grow crops and rear animals just to feed themselves and their families.
LACK OF INFORMATION: Lack of information remains number one problem facing most small scale farmers in Africa today. Most miss out on new and improved methods of farming. Some especially those in the remote areas have no access to information at all (not even radio sets). Even those in the sub-urban areas with some limited access to information, lack what it takes to process the information they receive.
POOR FINANCIAL SUPPORT: Lack of financial support systems to enable farmers grow, expand, and maintain their yields. Although there are several Micro finance groups operating in Africa today, not so many farmers have access to these groups and not so many farmers even know how these groups operate and how such groups can help them in the long run.
LACK OF ACCESS TO FERTILIZERS: This falls under the poor financial system mentioned above. Because agricultural lands have become so expensive in Africa, most poor farmers have no choice than to farm on same pieces of land over and over again. Farming on same pieces of land for years leads to land degradation whereby fertile lands loose most of their nutrients and become unproductive or barren.
POOR TRANSPORTATION: This is a major issue facing not just agriculture but the economy in general throughout Africa. Most of the farm produce in Africa just go waste in the remote areas and it is mostly because farmers find it very difficult transporting their farm produce to the market to sell.
POOR MARKETS: Market for farmers has become one of the biggest issues for Africa today affecting the lives and living standards of millions of people. But how do we create markets and how do we make them sustainable and more importantly, how do we make them grow?
QUICK FACTS ON FOOD GLOBAL ISSUES
1. About 842 million people in the world do not eat enough to be healthy. That means that one in every eight people on Earth goes to bed hungry each night. (Source: FAO, 2013)
2.The number of people living with chronic hunger has fallen by 17 percent since 1990–92. If the trend continues, we will fall just short of the hunger target in the Millennium Development Goals. (Source: FAO, 2013)
3. Most of the world’s undernourished people are still to be found in Southern Asia, closely followed by sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Asia. (Source: FAO, 2013).
4. If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million. (Source: FAO, 2011)
5. It costs just US $0.25 per day to provide a child with all of the vitamins and nutrients he or she needs to grow up healthy. (Source: WFP, 2011)
6. By 2050, climate change and erratic weather patterns could have pushed another 24 million children into hunger. Almost half of these children would be in sub-Saharan Africa. (Source: IFPRI, 2009).
THE NEED FOR ECO-FRIENDLY FERTILIZER
Under-use of fertilizers in Africa currently contributes to a growing yield gap; the difference between how much crops could produce in ideal circumstances compared to actual yields.
Better yields mean more food and sustainable food leads to wealth and culture and a better life. But fertilizer has to be smartly applied, with both phosphorous and nitrogen and the difference between them is substantial for subsistence farmers. While nitrogen-based fertilizers can be produced by a process that extracts the element from the air, phosphorus must be mined from rock—and reserves are limited. That makes phosphorus fertilizers expensive, especially in the longer term. This phosphorus-specific yield gap currently lies at around 10% for subsistence farmers, but will grow to 27% by 2050 if current trends continue, according to a paper in Global Change Biology. "This research shows that the imbalance between nitrogen and phosphorus applications has the potential to further limit food production for a growing population in Africa" says Marijn van der Velde of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. "Farmers with limited money are more likely to buy and have access to cheaper nitrogen-based fertilizers. While this might work in the short term, in the longer term it has a negative effect on crop growth as soil nutrients become more imbalanced."
Hence, to boost local production of food, farmers need to have access to a cost-effective and eco-friendly fertilizers.
Mycorrhiza ("myco" is Greek for mushroom, and "rhiza" for root) refers to the symbiotic association between certain kinds of fungi and the roots of plants -- literally, it's "root fungus." In this mutualistic relationship, the fungi will colonize plant roots and spread out a microscopic network of filaments underground called "hyphae," thus allowing the plants to soak up more water and nutrients, while taking sugars in exchange.
The hope is that mycorrhizal fungi could one day act as a 'bio-fertiliser' that ultimately replaces the need to mine phosphate from the ground for industrial fertiliser. Finding a replacement for mined phosphate is a critical problem as not only is the resultant fertiliser a pollutant – causing algal growth which chokes water supplies – but the big phosphate mines are now depleted to the point where they are expected to run out in the next 30 to 50 years. Many experts are predicting a 'phosphate crisis'.
We need alternatives to phosphate fertiliser if we are to feed growing populations," said Dr Uta Paszkowski from the University of Cambridge's Department of Plant Sciences.
Today's meeting was really exhilarating. Discussions were made on how the productivity of small scale farmers can be improved. A cost-effective fertilizer was seen as one of the major ways by which farmers productivity can be enhanced.