African Project To Revive Depleted Soils

A five-year, $180 million project to revitalize the soils and agricultural sector of sub-Saharan Africa has been launched in Nairobi, Kenya. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa's (AGRA) Soil Health Program will work with 4.1 million farmers to regenerate 6.3m hectares of farmland, which have been degraded by unsustainable farming practices in the last few decades.

"Currently, farm yield in Africa is one-quarter of the global average, and one-third of Africans face chronic hunger," says Dr. Namanga Ngongi, president of AGRA. "We know that the use of high quality seeds, combined with the rejuvenation of African soils, can begin to turn around this dismal situation."

The initiative will place a particular focus on women, who are the majority of small-scale farmers in Africa and other parts of the world. Other agencies have pointed out that assisting women farmers goes a long way to tackling social inequalities and a looming global food shortage crisis. "Women produce more than half of all the food grown worldwide, yet own only two per cent of all land and get only one per cent of lending to agriculture," said Gawain Kripke of Oxfam International in response to the World Bank's "2008 World Development Report: Agriculture for Development" last fall. Though the report made a strong link between agriculture reform and poverty alleviation, it had omitted this important fact in its recommendations for improving agricultural policy.

The AGRA program plans to collaborate with local farmers for the best-adapted soil interventions, along with increasing educational resources, training and outreach to students, workers and researchers.

"AGRA's goal of enabling small-scale farmers to produce more on less land will have multiple social, economic and environmental benefits," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, which is one of the project's partners.

"It can reduce the pressure to clear new land for agriculture, which in turn can assist in countering deforestation, conserving biodiversity and triggering improved management of Africa's wealth of natural and nature-based assets."

See also ::Agriculture for Development: World Development Report Gets It Half Right, ::Soil Health: You Can Help, ::Tanzanian NGO Boos GMOs on World Food Day, ::Plowing's Dark Secret, ::Arguments Against GMOs (and Industrial Agriculture)

Image: War On Want

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