SAA and JIRCAS TICAD8 official side event "Healthy Soils for Food Security in Africa: The Potential of Regenerative Agriculture”
On August 5, 2022, Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), in collaboration with Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), hosted an official TICAD8 side event, under the theme "Healthy Soils for Food Security in Africa: The Potential of Regenerative Agriculture”
More than 330 participants from around the world attended the online event, which demonstrates the high level of global interest in soil health.
SAA's Strategic Partnership Director, Dr. Mel Oluoch moderated the entire event. In their opening remarks, SAA Chair, Prof. Ruth Oniang'o and JIRCAS President, Mr. Osamu Koyama They underlined the significance of the event focusing on regenerative agriculture as a means to restore soil health in Africa. They also expressed their hope that the event would serve as an opportunity to strengthen partnerships, at a time when various global issues are confronting the food system in Africa
In the keynote address, Prof. Rattan Lal, a soil scientist at the Ohio State University, pointed out that the fertilizer input per hectare in sub-Saharan Africa is only 17 kg, compared to 400 kg in China and 200 kg in India, and argued that one of the reasons why the "Green Revolution" did not happen in Africa is because the issue of soil health had not been adequately taken into account. He also pointed out that the current war in Ukraine has exacerbated the situation by driving up fertilizer prices.
He said that regenerative agriculture is the key to soil regeneration with Carbon sequestrated in the soil using methods such as cover crops, no-tillage, composting, which enables truly regenerate eco-systems instead of the conventional systems. On the other hand, as restoration of soil health takes time and will not necessarily lead to instant yield increase, Prof. Lal emphasized that farmers must be incentivized for taking risks of the transition, which requires the involvement of various actors including government and the private sector.
In his presentation, Professor Ken Giller of Wageningen University underlined the importance of soil fertility management tailored to each region, based on a thorough understanding of the diversity of climatic, soil, and socioeconomic conditions in Africa.
Sharing experiences from the field in Africa, Dr. Fentahun Mengistu (Country Director, SAA Ethiopia) and Dr. Kofi Boa (Executive Director, the Center for No-Till Agriculture) gave highlights on regenerative agriculture practices in Ethiopia and Ghana respectively. Dr. Leigh Winowiecki (Global Research Leader: Soil and Land Health / Co-lead: CA4SH, CIFOR-ICRAF) presented advanced approaches in soil health monitoring. Following which, a research output on the Fallow Band System was presented by Dr. Satoshi Nakamura (project leader of JIRCAS).
A panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Miyuki Iiyama, Information Program Director of JIRCAS. Distinguished panelists include:Dr. Kofi Boa, Edmundo Barrios (Agricultural Officer, Plant Production and Protection Division, FAO), Dr. Tilahun Amede (Head, Resilience, Climate & Soil Fertility, AGRA), and Prof.Sani Miko (Country Director, SAA Nigeria). The discussions addressed the current situation and challenges that African farmers are facing as a result of degrading soil quality along extension and scientific approaches as remedial.
In his closing remarks, SAA President, Dr. Makoto Kitanaka thanked all participants for the fruitful discussion. He emphasized that soil health is of paramount importance in promoting sustainable and resilient agriculture. Dr. Kitanaka also announced that from next year onward, SAA, in collaboration with JIRCAS, will promote RA research in sub-Saharan Africa, with support from the Nippon Foundation.
Based on the lessons and evidences shared during the TICAD8 side event, SAA will work with JIRCAS and other partners to define and approach regenerative agriculture suitable for Africa. To achieve food security in Africa, SAA, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders will continue to boldly tackle global/local challenges and realize workable approaches that are specific to agroecosystems.