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REVIEW (Open Access)

Dilemma of nitrogen management for future food security in sub-Saharan Africa – a review

Cargele Masso A B H , Fredrick Baijukya C , Peter Ebanyat D , Sifi Bouaziz E , John Wendt F , Mateete Bekunda G and Bernard Vanlauwe A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, PO Box 30772, Kasarani, Nairobi, Kenya.

B Africa Regional Center of the International Nitrogen Initiative, PO Box 30772, Kasarani, Nairobi, Kenya.

C International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, PO Box 34441, Mikocheni, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

D International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, PO Box 7878, Naguru, Kampala, Uganda.

E Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique de Tunisie (INRAT), Rue Hédi Karray 2080, Ariana, Tunisia.

F International Fertilizer Development Center, PO Box 30772, Kasarani, Nairobi, Kenya.

G International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, PO Box 10, Duluti, Arusha, Tanzania.

H Corresponding author. Email: C.Masso@cgiar.org; mcargele@gmail.com

Soil Research 55(6) 425-434 https://doi.org/10.1071/SR16332
Submitted: 19 January 2017  Accepted: 8 June 2017   Published: 13 July 2017

Abstract

Food security entails having sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet dietary needs. The need to optimise nitrogen (N) use for nutrition security while minimising environmental risks in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is overdue. Challenges related to managing N use in SSA can be associated with both insufficient use and excessive loss, and thus the continent must address the ‘too little’ and ‘too much’ paradox. Too little N is used in food production (80% of countries have N deficiencies), which has led to chronic food insecurity and malnutrition. Conversely, too much N load in water bodies due mainly to soil erosion, leaching, limited N recovery from wastewater, and atmospheric deposition contributes to eutrophication (152 Gg N year–1 in Lake Victoria, East Africa). Limited research has been conducted to improve N use for food production and adoption remains low, mainly because farming is generally practiced by resource-poor smallholder farmers. In addition, little has been done to effectively address the ‘too much’ issues, as a consequence of limited research capacity. This research gap must be addressed, and supportive policies operationalised, to maximise N benefits, while also minimising pollution. Innovation platforms involving key stakeholders are required to address N use efficiency along the food supply chain in SSA, as well as other world regions with similar challenges.

Additional keywords: eutrophication, innovation platform, land degradation, nitrogen use efficiency, policy, quality standards.


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