The Critical Importance of Land and Water
If the concern is solely to increase fertilizer use by Sub-Saharan Africa’s smallholders, price subsidy for inorganic fertilizer can be effective. The strengths and weaknesses of relying primarily on price subsidies to promote fertilizer use have been discussed at length and will therefore not be dealt with here. But if the goal is to assist smallholders use fertilizer productively, profitably and sustainably —financial and environmental, much more is required. Making fertilizer affordable is necessary but far from sufficient. Fertilizer is effective only when it is part of a package. While this Policy Brief fully recognizes that GR is multi-causal, it focusses only on two key factors on the input side of fertilizer use; two factors which smallholders need if they are to use fertilizer to intensify crop production in a way that maintains soil fertility, and promotes productivity growth without degrading basic land and water resources. These two factors are water and land: (1) the need for water for any agriculture is obvious; but water control is at issue here as water is an essential complementary input to fertilizer: otherwise the fertilizer will “burn” the plant.; and (2) land, not only access, but also tenure security. Soil fertility is essential for land being productive; hence the key importance of fertilizer.