Food security entails having sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet dietary needs. The need to optimise nitrogen (N) use for nutrition security while minimising environmental risks in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is overdue. Challenges related to managing N use in SSA can be associated with both insufficient use and excessive loss, and thus the continent must address the ‘too little’ and ‘too much’ paradox. Too little N is used in food production (80% of countries have N deficiencies), which has led to chronic food insecurity and malnutrition. Conversely, too much N load in water bodies due mainly to soil erosion, leaching, limited N recovery from wastewater, and atmospheric deposition contributes to eutrophication (152 Gg N year–1 in Lake Victoria, East Africa). Limited research has been conducted to improve N use for food production and adoption remains low, mainly because farming is generally practiced by resource-poor smallholder farmers. In addition, little has been done to effectively address the ‘too much’ issues, as a consequence of limited research capacity. This research gap must be addressed, and supportive policies operationalised, to maximise N benefits, while also minimising pollution. Innovation platforms involving key stakeholders are required to address N use efficiency along the food supply chain in SSA, as well as other world regions with similar challenges.
Authors and Publishers
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is a non-profit institution that generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation. Working with various partners across sub-Saharan Africa, we improve livelihoods, enhance food and nutrition security, increase employment, and preserve natural resource integrity.
CGIAR is the only worldwide partnership addressing agricultural research for development, whose work contributes to the global effort to tackle poverty, hunger and major nutrition imbalances, and environmental degradation.