Stories tagged: Millennium Villages

Fertilizer Companies Help Provide Key Inputs to the Millennium Villages

Ten years on from when the Millennium Development Goals were first set, key private sector organisations in the agriculture sector have joined the global efforts to address the anti-hunger and environment objectives of the MDGs.

Agrium and Mosaic are two fertilizer companies that partner with Millennium Promise, an NGO committed to supporting the achievement of the MDGs. Millennium Promise oversees the Millennium Villages project, which is providing support to 14 ‘hunger hotspot’ villages in Africa to develop all sectors including health and nutrition, agriculture and environment, education, infrastructure, gender equality and business development.

Since 2009, Agrium has been providing farmers in the villages with access to nitrogen fertilizer (urea) to increase and improve food production. To date, over 5,000 farmers in the Pampaida and Sauri villages who previously had limited access to inputs now have improved access, and over 5,000 households have experienced increased crop production. In 2011, Agrium will double its commitments to the programme to $1 million. It will also increase its involvement to include sites in Malawi, Ethiopia, Uganda and Senegal, expanding its reach to help 25,000 farmers.

By the end of 2010, Mosaic will have donated 52,000 bags of fertilizer and the associated logistics, totalling at $2.1 million, to the seven Millennium Villages it works with. Mosaic currently partners with the Millennium Villages in Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, impacting over 300,000 people.

The results of the Millennium Villages project are immensely positive, and call for an urgent scaling up of the initiative to elsewhere. Through support to farming activities, communities have experienced more than a tripling of average maize crop yields, consequently reducing malnutrition and hunger and increasing income. Many farmers have transitioned entirely from being dependent on food aid to being entirely self-sufficient.

With a focus on providing improved inputs, and training farmers in improved agroforestry techniques, the project is helping to promote food security in the villages.

This video from Millennium Promise shows how the introduction of fertilizer has help farmers in Sauri, Kenya.

Soil Fertility Key to Reducing Hunger in Tropical Africa

Neil Palmer (CIAT)Replenishing soil fertility, by using mineral and organic fertilisers, could triple crop yields in tropical Africa, according to Pedro A. Sánchez from the Earth Institute.

In Asia and Latin America food production tripled between the 1960s and 2000 thanks to the use of high-yielding crop varieties, but Sánchez says that a similar success is hampered in Africa due to “decades of farming without adequate fertilizer and manure [that has] stripped the soils of the vital nutrients needed to support plant growth”. In his article published in Nature, he writes, “Without soil replenishment, even the best crop varieties and the most enlightened policies cannot stave off hunger.”

The effectiveness of improving soil fertility is proven through the eighty Millennium Villages, set up in 2005 across ten African countries. Sánchez notes that as a result of fertilizer applications, along with improved cultivars and agronomic knowledge, in 78% of the Millennium Village households maize yields have exceeded the three-tons-per-hectare mark.

He offers the success story of Malawi, where a government-funded fertiliser subsidy scheme has increased maize production from 0.8 tonnes per hectare in 2007 to 2.2 in 2007. Malawi has gone from being food-aid-dependent to a “food aid donor to its neighbours”.  Ten other African countries are now following Malawi’s example.

To build on these initial successes, Sánchez makes recommendations for eliminating hunger in tropical Africa:

  • Adding organic fertilizers to African soils, as a supplement to mineral fertilizers, to provide essential carbon.
  • Continued development of a digital soil map of Africa to allow tailored fertilization according to region and soil type.
  • Agriculture and health to be tackled together, with education, water, sanitation, infrastructure, environment, gender inequalities and information technology closely linked.