Incentives for Fertilizer Use in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of Empirical Evidence on Fertilizer Response and Profitability
November 1, 1998 - Author: David Yanggen, Valerie Kelly, Thomas Reardon, and Anwar Naseem
IDWP 70. Incentives for Fertilizer Use in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of Empirical Evidence on Fertilizer Response and Profitability (367KB PDF) by David Yanggen, Valerie Kelly, Thomas Reardon, and Anwar Naseem. 1998. 109 pp.
BACKGROUND: To increase rural incomes and meet growing food demands Sub-Saharan
Africa (SSA) must improve agricultural productivity. SSA is the only developing region where
per capita food production has been declining; the region now has the largest cereal deficits in the
world. If there is no change in productivity, deficits will more than triple by 2020.
Fertilizer is a powerful productivity-enhancing input, but SSA uses very little. Historical trends
are abysmal (see Figure 1, page 6). In 1970, SSA used <5kg/ha while other developing regions
used >15 kg/ha. In the 25 years from 1970 to 1995 fertilizer consumption grew only .23
kg/ha/year. Current use is only 9 kg/ha, down from highs of 11-12. This contrasts sharply with
>50 kg/ha used in Latin America and >80 kg/ha in Asia.
Economists estimate that SSA agricultural production must grow by 4% per annum during the
next decade to stimulate a satisfactory level of general economic development. This is faster than
recent rates of 1-2%. Experience elsewhere has shown that fertilizer can provide a substantial
productivity boost. A third of the increase in cereal production worldwide and 50% of the
increase in India’s grain production has been attributed to fertilizer-related factors.
OBJECTIVES AND METHODS: This research addresses two questions: Why is fertilizer not
yet fulfilling its potential as a major stimulus to agricultural productivity in SSA? What can be
done to improve the situation? Our answers are based on an extensive review of fertilizerresponse,
profitability, and policy literature as well as some analysis of crop budgets and aggregate
national statistics on fertilizer consumption.
FINDINGS: Much of the debate about fertilizer use in SSA focuses on two issues: whether the
profit incentive is adequate and, if so, whether farmers have the capacity to access and use it.