April 7, 2010 – OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – On April 6-7, 2010, IFDC’s MIR Plus project and Natural Resource Management (NRM) Program facilitated an orientation and planning workshop for updating fertilizer recommendations in West Africa. The West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) collaborated with IFDC on the workshop, which was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. This was an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) regional event. The purpose of the workshop was to develop and mobilize regional scientific capacity to support the updating of major crop fertilizer recommendations in the region. About 60 participants from the ECOWAS Member States, representing the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), regional and sub-regional organizations and West African farmers, attended the workshop.

Dr. Lompo François, deputy director general of the National Institute for Environment and Agronomic Research (INERA), chaired the opening ceremony of the workshop. He said, “To facilitate the adoption of fertilizers by smallholder farmers, agronomic effectiveness must increase. This requires more appropriate and timely applications and farming practices to improve the amount of organic nutrients in soils. Fertilizer recommendations must also take into account agricultural practices and propose optimal doses based on fertilizer prices and targeted speculations.”

For decades, recommendations for fertilizer use in all West African countries have been uniform throughout each country for each crop. As a result, the recommended doses are not adapted to specific local bio-physical and socio-economic agricultural production conditions and are often not profitable. Few farmers have actually adopted these outdated recommendations. After more than three decades of cropping, the amount of nutrients in soils has changed and so have crop varieties, yield expectations and relative prices. This joint ECOWAS/UEMOA initiative is based on the observation that fertilizer recommendations must be updated and tailored to fit each individual crop and soil type.

The regional workshop enabled ECOWAS and UEMOA to: (i) make an inventory of past or current initiatives on this issue in the Member States; (ii) share experiences, particularly those from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) on its Soil Health Program and the modeling approaches of IFDC’s NRM Program and their applications in various countries and on some major crops; (iii) facilitate a broad discussion on the current fertilizer recommendations in the various West African agro-ecological zones (Sahel zone, coastal zone and irrigated area); and (iv) identify the basic elements for a future regional action plan for updating fertilizer recommendations.

In particular, participants agreed on the use of modeling using various complementary tools (GIS, DSSAT, QUEFTS, etc.). In addition, they recommended establishing a technical committee with the mandate to propose a regional action plan for updating crop fertilizer recommendations in the coming months. These recommendations would be validated at another ECOWAS/UEMOA regional workshop with the support of technical partners by the end of 2010.

Both decision-makers and farmers have high expectations from this plan. The ECOWAS and UEMOA representatives at the workshop restated their respective commission’s commitment to provide the necessary support to this ongoing effort.

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