Towards a Fertilizer Policy for Smallholder Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Critical Importance of Taking a Holistic Approach

Subsidizing fertilizer prices has been a popular policy tool to increase fertilizer use, but should it be? The main message of this Policy Brief is that it should not be, despite its appeal to politicians and recipient farmers alike. Instead, policy makers should seriously consider a holistic approach to promoting fertilizer. A holistic approach has the potential of effectively addressing a range of key interlocking constraints which condemn smallholders to low input, low productivity, and low profitability choices. A piecemeal approach consisting primarily of fertilizer subsidies has repeatedly been shown not to be able to address these interlocking constraints, especially as their high budgetary cost “crowd out” the delivery of public goods and services needed to successfully transform agriculture.