Fertilizers and low emission development in sub-Saharan Africa

Fertilizers and low emission development in sub-Saharan Africa

Many countries in Africa included fertilizer use, soil fertility management, and agricultural inputs as part of their contributions to the Paris Climate Agreement. While nitrogen (N) fertilizers contribute substantially to nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions globally, emissions from fertilizers are still low in sub-Saharan Africa. Projections of future food needs in Africa point to the need for substantial increases in nutrient inputs on cropland. An opportunity exists in Africa to meet those future food security needs while using N fertilizers efficiently.

Since African countries will now be preparing to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and further fleshing out their low emission development strategies, it is an opportune time to reflect on the role of fertilizers and soil fertility management in climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in a holistic manner.

This policy brief outlines the main issues to consider as countries develop their own specific agriculture and soil fertility management strategies with a view towards supporting food security, adapting to climate change and limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) missions.

Key messages:

  • greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer usage in sub-Saharan Africa are currently low due to low application rates of nitrogen fertilizer
  • as African countries begin to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement, there is an opportunity to improve crop productivity to meet future food needs while continuing to use N fertilizers—both organic and inorganic—efficiently
  • efficient use of N fertilizers requires combining balanced and appropriate nutrient inputs with good agronomic practices, such as the use of improved, high-yielding varieties that are adapted to local conditions and needs, application and recycling of available organic matter, water harvesting and irrigation under drought stress conditions, and lime application on soils with acidity-related problems
  • policies for soil fertility management in the context of climate goals may consider the need to:
  • improve the availability, access and affordability of organic and inorganic
    nutrient inputs, along with other key inputs such as high-yielding varieties
  • build capacity in adaptive nutrient management and agronomic best practices that support crop productivity
  • ensure equitable access to inputs, particularly for women and vulnerable groups



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