– Tekalign Mamo, State Minister of Agriculture, Ethiopia
Bountiful crops do not happen by chance but result from fertile soil, seeds, water, and proper tools; but it all starts with soil. According to IFPRI’s report, Fertilizer and Soil Fertility Potential in Ethiopia, the soil quality in Ethiopia is severely deteriorated because little fertility management has taken place. The research suggests several solutions that can improve the soil quality, which is the key to unlock the full benefits of improved agricultural inputs.
The following report provides in-depth analysis on the urgent need to improve the soil quality in Ethiopia. Despite an effort to introduce modern agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, improved seed and better irrigation, crop yields have barely increased over the last 15 years. The problem is the deteriorated soil condition of over half of the cultivated land.
The last national level soil studies were conducted in the 1980’s. Results revealed severely depleted soil, which has most likely worsened. Further, soil fertility issues are not well understood by farmers, and the lack of information resulted in little to no interventions.
The most widespread intervention is chemical fertilizer, but soil health must be addressed through a well-rounded approach. Farmers must be educated on issues such as organic matter depletion, caused by not returning animal dung or crop residues to soil; macronutrient depletion; micronutrient depletion, the nutrients required for plant growth; and topsoil erosion, due to lack of drainage, deforestation, overstocking and overgrazing. Because soil quality and crop needs vary by region, it is important to develop a highly tailored soil intervention plan that attends to multiple issues at the local level.
The report emphasized six areas that must be improved to benefit from healthy soil conditions.
- Tailor soil fertility management according to local soil conditions
- Replenish the soil with organic carbon resources
- Implement soil and water conservation measures to reduce topsoil erosion
- Increase farmers’ access to use of chemical and bio-fertilizers
- Build a national soil information infrastructure
- Link with successful soil fertility experts and projects
To learn more about the importance of healthy soil read Fertilizer and Soil Fertility Potential in Ethiopia.