Fertilizer is arguably the most important and most expensive input in crop farming and as such, the data surrounding it is crucial for optimal benefit to farmers. The fertilizer conversation is one that needs to be had by Governments, organizations, and individuals since being a matter of food, it ultimately affects everyone.
Yesterday I was honoured to be audience at a forum organized by Africa Fertilizer and other partners, with an aim to take a deep dive into all things fertilizer, farming, soil health and food security among other related topics.
Africa Fertilizer.org (AFO) is an organization that operates under the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), with a mandate to advance food security through out Africa by providing in-depth data on fertilizer supply chains and availability in 18 Sub-Saharan countries. Data is the foundation of any intelligent operations and more so now that technology is rapidly gaining more ground in every sector.
IFDC is “an independent non-profit organization that combines innovative research, market systems development and strategic partnerships to spread sustainable agricultural solutions for improved soil health, food security and livelihoods around the world”. Source.
Along with the topics of the day, Africa Fertilizer.org (AFO) also rebranded to Africa Fertilizer (AF) and launched a data portal to host country specific fertilizer data about different countries in Africa.
The deliberate attention on the African fertilizer situation is crucial and timely. We have a population that is growing steadily and therefore needing more food production, but at the same time we have soils that are depleting in nutrients due to low and incorrect use of fertilizers. To buttress the future, strong policies are needed in the agricultural supply chains, and these will best be informed by accurate data.
It is towards this need for actionable data that alongside the rebrand, Africa Fertilizer also unveiled the data portal mentioned above, which was created in partnership with several organizations as a go to source of trustworthy data. The portal which you can have a look at here is well partitioned to enable users to visualize data either by country, or by topics like trade, production, pricing and consumption. It also has a plant directory, reports, and publications on fertilizer market intelligence.
I particularly like Fertilizer Watch, a feature in the portal that tracks regional and country specific fertilizer ecosystems in terms of supplier inventory, and pricing and availability at farmer level. This monitoring and reporting allows Governments and other stakeholders to make informed decisions as they up their efforts to make Africa food sufficient now and in the future.
The portal also displays effects of the Russia Ukraine war on fertilizer distribution, sector interventions, port logistics and transit and border matters. Quite a wholesome and well-articulated site, with clear narratives which even a layman will understand.
The need for such a portal is clear. According to this article which I find very insightful, “data is usually fragmented and tucked away in silos within government ministries or closely held by private companies. It is also significantly delayed or in a format that makes analysis difficult”. This makes it difficult for policy makers to access healthy data and this where the portal comes in.