African countries urged to show stronger response to soil degradation
Professor Richard Akromah, Provost of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), has called for stronger national response to the high rate of soil degradation.
This, he said, was necessary to improve crop yield, achieve food security, and fight hunger in Africa.
The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates current farm yield in Africa at just about one-quarter of the global average, with one-third of Africans facing chronic hunger.
Prof Akromah, who was speaking to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on the sidelines of the graduation ceremony, said this needed to radically change.
The ceremony was for the first batch of scientists trained at the KNUST under the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Soil Health Programme in Kumasi.
Drawn from Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, they numbered 17, and out of this figure, nine graduated with the Doctorate of Philosophy in Soil Science and the remaining received the Master of Science in Soil Science Degree.
The Programme, which started three years ago, was funded by the Gates Foundation of the United States. It aims at equipping soil scientists with relevant knowledge and skills to lead efforts at improving soil fertility.
Prof Akromah said the expectation was that the scientists would promote widespread adoption of integrated soil fertility management practices among smallholder farmers.
The target is to regenerate about 6.3 million hectares of farmlands to restore soil nutrients and thereby raise productivity to appreciable level to increase farmers’ incomes.
The Provost said integrated soil fertility management should involve comprehensive assessment of local soil and water resources, and how organic matter, fertilizers, farmer cropping systems and farmer knowledge could work in concert to create highly productive and environmentally sustainable approaches to soil revitalization.
Prof Ebenezer Yeboah Safo, a lecturer of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, KNUST, and the main architects of the Soil Health Programme, noted that continuous farming without replenishing soil nutrients had depleted about three-quarters of the continent’s farmlands.
Restoring soil fertility, he said, would allow smallholder farmers to grow more food on existing farmlands and protect vital natural resources.