FAO Webinar Addressed the Global Fertiliser Crisis

Facing the volatility of the fertiliser market with a significant increase in prices in the last period, the Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP) of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) on 6 July organised a webinar entitled: “Sound Fertilisation for Food Security in the Context of the Current crisis”.

The speakers presented the current situation of fertiliser markets and considered the two ways to deal with it:

  1. more efficient use of fertilisers
  2. and the alternatives to mineral fertilisers.

The webinar is available at FAO webcast page https://www.fao.org/webcast/home/en/item/5891/icode/

Although a part of the seminar was dedicated to the usual practices on the efficient use of fertilisers, there were two presentations that stood out. Professor Manish Raizada from the University of Guelph, Canada spoke about the use and management of bio-fertilisers and how they could be a solution to improve food security in African countries. In the other presentation, Professor Laurie Drinkwater (Cornell University, USA) addressed the importance to improve the soil organic matter to increase fertiliser efficiency and the alternative approaches to chemical fertilisers to enhance food security.  

However, the finishing touch was made by two women organic farmers who were invited to express the “Farmers’ Perspectives” on the subject. Janet Maro from the Farmers’ Association Sustainable Agriculture, Tanzania, highlighted that organic practices such as the use of compost, recycling organic matter, green manure and cover crops, build healthy soils to grow healthy plants. She added that mineral fertilisers are responsible for soil pollution, land degradation and climate change.

Gabriela Soto, an IFOAM Ambassador who is also a university professor and coffee producer, underlined that “productivity cannot be achieve at any cost” and that organic farmers are aware that they have to feed the world but also that they cannot destroy the world in the process. She added that organic farmers have been working for more that 50 years with natural resources as bio-fertilisers and organic matters, while reducing inputs, maintaining the productivity, reducing externalities, by recycling at different levels. She emphasised that more resources are needed for more research in organic alternatives to this synthetic fertiliser crisis.

The current fertiliser crisis may represent an opportunity for governments to support the adoption of organic and agro-ecological practices to improve soil health, as well as the research to find the best solutions to the different local conditions.