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IFA’s Director of Communication and Public Affairs, Yvonne Harz-Pitre, attended the WFO General Assembly on 4-7 May, held in Livingstone, Zambia, where the main discussions focused on achieving farmers’ growth through capacity building and innovative solutions to boost sustainable agriculture, fostering economic growth through partnership programs and strengthening farmers’ involvement in a global policy dialogue on agriculture.

Mrs Harz-Pitre spoke twice during the panel sessions, and highlighted the importance of farmers for the fertilizer industry.

She also emphasized the relation between improved agriculture productivity and plant nutrition management, explaining that poor farming techniques were as detrimental to soil quality as extreme weather patterns. “When we talk about reducing poverty, increasing food production and fostering long-term economic growth, healthy soils are at the core of the problem and an essential key to the solution”, she argued.

Yvonne Harz-Pitre speaks at the Farmer’s Growth Session
of the WFO General Assembly on 4 May

She finally gave examples of plant nutrition management farmers could implement:
  • Integrated Plant Nutrition Management (IPNM), which consists of combining organic sources available on the farm and supplementing them with manufactured fertilizers;
  • The 4Rs : Which entails choosing the right nutrient –mineral and organic source, and applying it at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place;
  • Precision agriculture or microdosing, which consists in applying a small quantity of fertilizer with the seed at planting time or as top dressing 3 – 4 weeks after emergence;
  • Using Slow- and Controlled- Release and Stabilised Fertilizers, which delay the release of nutrients to the plant when they are needed, and reduce losses to the environment;
  • Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM), which means conducting regular soil analysis, to gather a good knowledge of the local soil composition and choose the appropriate fertilizer.
Find out more about the WFO General Assembly 2016 here.

On April 4-6 2016, IFA and New Ag International co-organised the 4th International Conference on Slow- and Controlled-Release and Stabilised Fertilizers (SCRSFs). The event was organized in Beijing because China is the largest and fastest expanding market for SCRSFs.

Zhai Jidong, COO of Kingenta, speaking on the Chinese market on slow- and controlled-release and stabilized fertilizers

Held every three years, the conference gathers each time more participants, and this year more than 300 people attended to discuss developments related to SCRSFs.

Five sessions spun over the course two days dedicated to the market for SCRSFs; emerging markets and technologies for SCRSFs; new SCRSFs products; agronomics and economics; and government policies.

According to Patrick Heffer, IFA’s Agriculture Service Director, who chaired the second session on emerging markets and technologies for SCRSFs, the assessment of the conference by the members of the IFA Working Group of Special Products was very positive, thanks to the relevance of the programme and quality of the presentations.

The global market for SCRSFs has considerably grown in the last few years, as their use is spreading from non-agriculture and/or speciality crops in Europe and North America to commodity agriculture in different regions of the world. Asia is the fastest growing market for SCRSFs, where shortage of labour drives the market in both Japan and, more recently, China.

The development of the SCRSFs market is mostly influenced by agronomic and economic considerations. However, in some countries, governmental policies may have a strong impact, such as in India, where all domestically-used urea must be coated with neem oil (a nitrification inhibitor) since May 2015. In contrast, regulations may affect the market by setting unjustified mandates, as exemplified by current provisions on polymer coatings and methylene-urea in the current draft EU fertilizer regulation. “SCRSFs are part of the toolbox for implementing 4R Nutrient Stewardship –applying the right nutrient source at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place– and achieving greater nutrient performance. SCRSFs supplement the set of fertilizer best management practices available to farmers and offer options to address three of the nutrient management areas: source, rate and time” said Patrick Heffer.

The presentations from the conference are also available for members in Library.

You can find out more about SCRSFs by reading our publication on the subject:

Be sure not to miss the next International Conference on SCRSFs, planned in 2019!

The Global Technical Symposium, an event organised by the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) every two years, was held on March 14-17 in New Delhi, India. Organised around the theme “Clean and Efficient Fertilizer Production: Reaching New Levels of Excellence”, the Symposium offered its participants several sessions dedicated to the topics of climate change, innovation, and Best Available Techniques (BAT).

The four-day event was a success in terms of attendance - 140 participants from 70 companies and 30 countries - and in terms of quality, with 35 high-levels speakers such as IFA President and CEO of GPIC Dr Jawahery; IFA Director General Mrs Charlotte Hebebrand; Mr Rakesh Kapur, Chairman of the Fertiliser Association of India; Dr Udai Shanker Awasthi, Managing Director and CEO of IFFCO; Mr Guido Schmidt-Traub, Executive Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Dr Eric Masanet, Head of Unit of the International Energy Agency.

Opening Session: Dr. Jawahery welcomes participants

The speakers highlighted the numerous ways in which the fertilizer industry was already adapting to complex global challenges such as climate change by advancing innovation in its production processes, increasing its energy efficiency and cutting its Greenhouse Gas emissions. They also pointed at various opportunities to further improve on all parameters in the mid- and long-term.

Dr Udai Shanker Awasthi cited the impressive results of India’s Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) mechanism (a market-based mechanism that incentivizes the industrial sector to increase its energy efficiency), thanks to which indian fertilizer plants achieved 3.8 billion CO2 emissions reductions between 2009 and 2015. Moreover, he pointed out that these reductions were possible through the use of innovative technologies applied to ageing plants, proving that they could still be efficient. These findings correlated with those of IFA’s 4th edition of the triennial Energy Efficiency and CO2 Emissions Benchmark, published in 2015.

Mrs Hebebrand explained the new challenges and opportunities following the Climate Change conference in Paris (COP 21), and stressed the importance of innovative technologies and exchange of best practices in helping the fertilizer industry achieve GHG reductions in line with some very ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) unanimously adopted by 196 States in December 2015.

Dr Jawahery also took this occasion to congratulate the industry upon its improvements in production while observing its safety, health and environmental principles (see our press release for his full statement). The last day of the 2016 Symposium was dedicated to a visit of the Protect & Sustain-certified IFFCO Kalol Unit which participants like Dr Julian Hilton considered as one of the Association’s best excursions to-date.

Technical visit of the IFFCO Kalol Unit

More pictures of the event here.
Be sure not to miss IFA’s Global Safety Summit next year, in Amman, Jordan, 27-30 March 2017! For event information, please contact

IFA’s Director General, Charlotte Hebebrand took part in the breakfast debate organised by the French Foundation FARM on 9 March in Paris, to discuss the concept of a Responsible Plant Nutrition. The Director of FARM, Mr Jean-Christophe Debar, moderated the discussion between Mrs Hebebrand and Mr Bruno Moreau, Director of Biopost Cofuna, and Mr Florent Maraux, from the CIRAD’s Research and Strategy Direction. The event was recorded and their interventions can be listened to here.

While some may have been expecting a debate on the pros and cons of organic versus mineral fertilizers, all three speakers agreed on the importance of integrated nutrient management. Building upon her recent article “Responsible Plant Nutrition”, Mrs Hebebrand explained that the fertilizer industry and farmers were facing a common challenge: to feed an ever-growing global population while reducing the environmental impact of agriculture. Fertilizers are crucial to achieve food security, and currently feed half of the planet. However, the fertilizer industry is aware of the environmental damages that can result from the incorrect use of its products and is therefore proactively addressing this issue, notably through advocating for a Responsible Plant Nutrition.

Responsible Plant Nutrition entails applying fertilizers in a more efficient and effective way in order to maximise nutrient uptake by plants, and thus considerably reducing nutrient losses to the soil, water and air.

Some of the concrete ways that Responsible Plant Nutrition can be achieved is through the implementation of the 4R method, which entails a more crop and site specific fertilization of applying the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place, as illustrated below:

Source: 4R Nutrient Stewardship - A Policy Toolkit. IFA, March, 2015

Speciality Fertilisers are another solution. These are becoming gradually available to farmers, and include innovations such as slow-release fertilizers (to produce a gradual release of nutrients to plants), or adding water-soluble fertilizers to irrigation water.

Mrs Hebebrand pointed out that the concepts of integrated nutrient management and balanced plant nutrition are certainly not new, but that their importance needs to be re-emphasised. A renewed focus on long established plant nutrition principles, combined with innovative products and methods, hold significant potential to advance agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.

All speakers agreed that African farmers, in particular smallholders, need better access to organic and mineral fertilizers, as well as Best Management Practices to ensure responsible fertilization. Indeed, in most of the countries of the continent, in particular Sub-Saharan Africa, minimal access to fertilizers has led to a subsequent nutrient depletion of soils and accelerated the desertification of significant parts of the land. Improving the farmers’ access to fertilizers and making sure these are used in a sustainable way would be an important step in reducing hunger in these countries’ rural areas and replenishing their soils.

Charlotte Hebebrand, “Responsible Plant Nutrition”
From FARM’s Point of View Series no 4. December 2015
Available at the IFA Library.

IFA co-organised a workshop with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) on 22-23 February in Marrakesh, Morocco designed for scientists, and industry agronomists and marketing specialists interested in the topics of soil fertility and crop productivity in Africa.

More than 30 participants gathered for this 1.5 day event where they heard presentations on the state of digital soil mapping under the leadership of the African Soil Information service (AfSIS) and achievements in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania. The benefits of partnering with AfSIS were put forward by the speakers. The approach developed by AfSIS is a game changer that could help the industry develop fertilizers better adapted to the diversity of African soils and crops and therefore respond to the needs of African smallholders.

The workshop provided an exciting opportunity for science and industry to engage in an open, 2-way dialogue and it ended with a stimulating discussion on a business model that could ensure the sustainability of AfSIS, benefit considerably the industry and allow for African smallholders to have better access to fertilizers adapted to their soil and crops.

This workshop was a first and very important step in getting the scientific and industry stakeholders to discuss issues of common interest, and IFA will seek to build on this momentum, with its partners, the Gates Foundation and AFAP.

Participants in the Gates Foundation-IFA-AFAP workshop. 22-23 February 2016

With these words Tekalign Mamo, FAO’s Soil Ambassador and Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture of Ethiopia, introduced the final session of the “Seminar on Sustainable Plant Nutrition and Soil Health” that IFA had organized on the occasion of its Agriculture and Communications meeting in Rome. Over 92 people from 32 countries attended the seminar, and a distinct selection of high-level speakers from the FAO, IFAD, AFAP, including a representative of the World Farm Association (WFO) were invited to provide views and ideas of how to ensure continuity in soil quality promotion, and how to offer better access to finance and knowledge.

Michael Hamp of IFAD and Jason Scarpone of the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) presented their work on innovative financing for agricultural development. There is a continuing need to develop stable financial systems to support agricultural production (and to do this as innovatively as possible). Access to finance in Africa is particularly challenging, as many lenders do not see this type of investment as profitable or easy to monitor. In her opening speech, FAO’s Marcela Villareal pointed out that investment in agriculture needs to increase substantially through 2030 – by US$260 billion per year – to achieve the goal of eliminating hunger, and Vincenzo Lenucci of the World Farmers’ Organization (WFO) reminded the Seminar that farmers must be at the center of efforts to address the challenge of maintaining soil health, with education and extension essential.

Other speakers showcased work by their organizations related to making new practices and products available to farmers. Samy Gaiji of FAO presented the new TECA database of agricultural technologies and practices for small producers, and Debra Turner of FAO presented the “Save and Grow” campaign, designed to help guide policy makers on sustainable intensification of smallholder crop production.

“Soil needs a strong voice” was one of the conference resolutions made by Ronald Vargas, Soils and Land Management Officer at the FAO and Leader of the Global Soil Partnership. Mr. Vargas outlined a promising number of new Global Soil Partnership programs on soil restoration, statistics and capacity development that are on the verge of being implemented. He closed the seminar by emphasizing the need for a “daily joint effort”.

from left to right : Vincenzo Lenucci ( WFO), Ronald Vargas ( FAO), Claire Chenu (soil ambassador), Tekalign Mamo (soil ambassador), Kapil Mehan ((Zuari AgroChemicals Ltd), Steve Mc Grath (Rothamsted Research), Barrie Bain (IFA)

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Looking back at 2015
January 18, 2016
2015 has been a year of growth and development for IFA and the fertilizer industry. On a global scale, events like The United Nations Sustainable Development Summit have given IFA an opportunity to discuss the relevance of fertilizer, especially in regards to food security. Internally there has been also been development, with Dr Jawahery appointed as IFA President.

As 2015 draws to a close, we have curated a selection of highlights from the year that are of significance to the fertilizer industry and its growth along with its relevance to promoting food security and an end of poverty.

  1. Launching Growing Smart Together [source]
  2. IFA launched in April its creative communications product on soils the “Growing Smart Together” website. The website featuring 40 videos of multi-stakeholder experts talking about the importance of soils, including 10 videos of IFA members was well received by stakeholders and featured at the Berlin Global Soil Week and displayed at the CFS event in Rome in October.

  3. IFA Hard Hat Campaign
  4. In order to promote safety in the fertilizer industry more visually, IFA launched a Hard Hat Campaign. About 400 photos from 40 countries were received (visible on IFA’s Instagram album) and for the Strategic Forum in November a poster and an animation was produced.

  5. IFA’s 83rd Annual Conference held in Istanbul [source]
  6. The 83rd IFA annual conference took place in Istanbul in May. At the conference, Dr Jawahery was elected as President of the IFA with outgoing President Esin Mete stating that “Abdulrahman Jawahery is one of the most experienced executives in the fertilizer industry and his passion for the industry and for sustainability and SHE issues are a great asset to the Association”.

    The 2015 IFA Norman Borlaug Award for excellence in crop nutrition research was assigned to Prof. Michael McLauglin, Australia, for his research on soil fertility and plant nutrition.

  7. Sustainable Development Goals Summit [source]
  8. The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and their associated 169 targets were ratified at the 70th UN General Assembly in September. IFA participated in numerous outreach missions surrounding the SDGs meeting with over 50 country missions and UN staff.

    The SDGs are positive with respect to encouraging improved productivity for smallholder farmers. They also address more complex issues such as natural resource depletion and environmental degradation, including drought and climate change.

  9. CFS in Rome [source]
  10. In October, a delegation comprising of seven members and led by Chairman Abdulrahman Jawahery and Director General Charlotte Hebebrand attended the 42nd session on World Food Security (CFS). Dr Jawahery was invited to speak at the FAO Director General Meeting and in a Plenary Session. The mission included several bilaterals with Member States and Charlotte Hebebrand participated on panels in two side events on soil health and nutrient management.

    Chairman Jawahery promoted the vision that the efficient and responsible production, distribution and use of plant nutrients play a vital role in achieving global nutrition security and sustainable development. The delegation also extensively explained how the industry strives to translate this vision into action by promoting best soil management practices, by encouraging expertise sharing and by facilitating the implementation of sustainable fertilizer use through partnerships with international organizations and NGOs.

  11. COP21 – the relationship between climate change and fertilizers [source]
  12. In December of this year, COP21 made a historic announcement of a global agreement to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions in an attempt to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C. IFA stated that the focus of greenhouse gas reduction efforts must be on improving the relative carbon intensity of agricultural crops grown with the assistance of fertilizers, rather than on reducing absolute emissions. Fertilizers play a key role in helping to maintain the integrity of the globe’s forests by allowing for increased productivity on arable land, thus forestalling deforestation and its associated green house gas emissions.

2015 has been an exciting year for IFA. Large global developments have allowed us to emphasize the relevance of fertilizer and its importance to sustainability and food security on a global scale. For more updates, quotes and comments follow us on @FertilizerNews.

Some thoughts from John Drexhage (IFA Consultant)

copyright: istock

The Paris Agreement has now been in place for close to one month. After an initial flurry of headlines and blogs, the issue receded from most media headlines within a week. Commentaries ranged from characterizing Paris as a “magnificent failure” (Eric Reguly of The Globe and Mail, December 18, 2015) to the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres referring to it as “….a decisive turning point inscribed into history….”.

Success or failure, there can be no doubt that the agreement in Paris represents a ‘game changer’ in at least one respect – virtually ALL countries have now agreed to take national actions to reduce GHG emissions. For those of us who have followed these negotiations for more than two decades, it is difficult to exaggerate the enormity of this development. Yes, there is still the expectation that developed countries will continue to “take the lead”, especially in financing, but the fact that all the globes’ economies have committed to take actions that will, in one form or another, work to put a price on carbon is an enormous step forward (even a strictly regulatory approach has the impact of putting a cost on GHG emissions).

What was most remarkable about this ‘tectonic shift’ in the negotiations’ architecture is its voluntary, ‘bottom up’ character: over 170 countries willingly submitted plans prior to Paris (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs) exceeding all expectations. So, we can now safely say that the narrative coming out of Paris is that all major economies are now on the ‘mitigation’ train and the train has left the station.

Which, of course, begs the question: where is it headed? The ultimate destination is clear: holding the increase in the global average temperature to “well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels”. What’s not clear is how countries are expected to achieve such an ambitious target. In a most informative blog by PWC’s Jonathan Grant, we are looking at decreasing the globe’s current carbon intensity rate of 1.3% per annum (2000 – 2014) to 6.3% every year until 2100 – five times our current rate – if we are to not exceed the 2°C. And while the science on the impacts of 1.5°C is particularly ominous for small island states and coastal cities, the prospects of not exceeding that mark is extremely slim: as the IPCC has confirmed with a current annual output of 50 Gigatonnes of GHG emissions per year, and with 500 Gt representing the total amount of GHG emissions that can be emitted before 1.5 is breached (thanks to Axel Michaelowa for reprising IPCC’s work on this), there simply is no room for reaching the lower global temperature mark, particularly given that major developing countries only intend to peak their emissions by 2030, at the earliest.

The only way in which the world’s economies are able to ‘turn on a dime’ to meet such ambitious global temperature targets is via the market place and private financing. Was the signal provided at Paris strong enough to significantly change mainstream investment decisions? It is one thing for the Sustainable Development unit in each of the investment houses to mouth the appropriate ‘green’ signals; for investment to truly turn the corner, it must provide venture funds in new technologies and practices the likes of which have never been seen before.

Mission Innovation, the industry-major economies initiative to promote and support breakthrough energy technologies is one such important step. But infinitely more critical will be the behaviour and financing decisions that take place in domestic banks in each country: the mobilization of private domestic resources will be THE indicator in signalling a sea change in financing development. With respect to extractive industries, this will not mean closing down operations tomorrow: however, what it should mean are sufficiently robust carbon prices that will work to finance low GHG emissions solutions, including of course, carbon capture and storage. And it should also mean a strategic examination of how and which resources and technologies will be required to supply the net carbon zero future.

The other important consideration is the extent to which the comprehensive Paris agreement works to allay competitiveness concerns, commonly referred to as ‘carbon leakage’ where investments will naturally flow to those jurisdictions without regulatory/GHG pricing policies in place. While all major economies have submitted INDCs, it is also evident that the relative aspiration of country’s mitigation plans vary considerably – China is committing to peak its emissions not before 2030, while India has not indicated any plans to peak their emissions at this point. Is the Paris Agreement an effective ‘first step’ in equalizing the playing field or a mere ruse by continuing to provide some economies with decided competitiveness advantages?

Finally, there are at least 3 areas of the global economy that remain curiously overlooked in the climate change negotiations: international airline travel, international shipping and agriculture. Regarding the first two areas, very tentative progress is being made in their multilateral homes – the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization – and one would expect that the issue of whether sufficient progress is being made in those forums would be a topic for discussion in future UNFCCC sessions.

Agriculture is an entirely different matter – the issue of overlooking agriculture’s contribution in addressing climate change has gone on far too long in the climate negotiations. With over 100 INDCs including agriculture and their relevant GHG emissions as part of their mitigation plans, the multilateral climate community can no longer ignore developing appropriate guidelines and methodologies for this critical sector. At the end of the day, while Paris represents a significant success in fundamentally changing the architecture of the negotiations, one can only be humbled by the challenge that faces us all. Certainly, there would have been virtually no prospect of success without the kind of agreement that was reached December 12. However, there is every right to wonder whether it will be enough: despite this having taken over 20 years, we have only passed the easy part. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether that represents a ‘magnificent failure’ or a ‘brave beginning’.

John Drexhage provides consulting services for resource-based industries on issues related to climate change and sustainable development, including the International Fertilizers Industry Association. Additional blogs can be found on his website at

The urgency of responding to the effects of global climate change was emphasized by the active participation of more than 190 countries in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris, which concluded on 12 December. IFA appreciates and welcomes the successful outcome of this conference and looks forward now to further contributing actively to put the Paris agreement into action.

As the world population continues to grow, the use of fertilizers will be critical to maximize crop yields. At the same time, the fertilizer industry recognizes that it is essential to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by improving the relative carbon intensity of agricultural crops produced using fertilizers.

The fertilizer industry works with scientists, farmers, international organizations and governments to develop and adopt innovative agricultural practices that contribute to GHG emissions reduction. In order to optimize product efficiency and minimize nutrient losses to the environment, many initiatives have been taken place in countries to implement soil-specific and crop-specific nutrient management practices. For example:
  • Fertilizer best management practices consist in applying the right fertilizer source at the right rate, right time and right place (the 4RS).
  • Research and training on soil analysis makes it possible to develop locally adapted protocols for application rates, e.g. with respect to soils’ moisture content, pH or temperature.
  • Precision agriculture provides a range of monitoring technologies to help farmers apply exactly the right amounts and types of fertilizers.
  • Integrated plant nutrient management promotes better integration of locally available organic nutrient sources (such as animal manure and compost) with mineral fertilizers.

Fertilizers also help to maintain the integrity of the world’s forest ecosystems by making arable land more productive, thus forestalling deforestation and its related emissions. In addition, fertilizers increase the carbon sequestration potential of agricultural soils by contributing to the build-up of soil organic matter. Increases in soil organic matter result in higher nutrient uptake. And nutrients stimulate plant growth, so that more CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere.

Moreover, fertilizer manufacturers worldwide have taken substantial measures in recent years to reduce their production-related GHG emissions (currently 2.5% of total GHG emissions associated with fertilizers) and to improve their energy efficiency.

COP 21 was the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

For more on the COP21, go to #COP21 and #ParisAgreement. Also follow @FertilizerNews for further coverage and comment.

At the recent 42 session of the UN Committee on World Food Security, the private sector enjoyed the tremendous opportunity to have a dialog with country representatives who are actively involved in the decision-making and policy design for eradicating hunger and malnutrition worldwide, while reducing poverty and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The fertilizer industry was well-represented at this important event by a strong delegation comprised of Director General Charlotte Hebebrand, and the following members: Tip O’Neill (United States), Nina Khangaldyan (Russia), Bente Slaatten (Norway) and Antonella Harrison (United Kingdom).

The key messages delivered by the fertilizer industry and the broader private sector resonated well with country representatives. One important point made by IFA President Dr. Abdulrahman Jawahery was that the private sector is very diverse. It ranges from farm cooperatives and small businesses helping farmers increase their productivity and get a better price for their products, up to large multinational companies, which contribute to provide solutions to improve use efficiency and facilitate processing and trade of agricultural products.

A second important point the IFA delegation through its leader, Dr. Jawahery, underscored was that investment from the private sector is essential for sustainable development and in delivering aid. To this end, it is essential to work in collaboration with governments to enable the effective implementation of sound solutions. Fortunately, nowadays, governments recognize the role of the private sector and the importance of investment to achieve global food security. However there is still more work to be done in building the policy measures and legal frameworks to foster public-private partnerships at local, regional and national levels.

IFA delegates attended numerous side-events and bilaterals as well as high-level a meeting with FAO Director General, Graziano da Silva. In fact, Dr. Jawahery was one of only three private sector representatives invited to address the Director General.

Throughout the week, the delegates under the leadership of Director General Charlotte Hebebrand and President Abdulrahman Jawahery promoted the vision that the efficient and responsible production, distribution and use of plant nutrients play a vital role in achieving global nutrition security and sustainable development. They also extensively explained how the industry strives to translate this vision into action by promoting best soil management practices, by encouraging expertise sharing and by facilitating the implementation of sustainable fertilizer use through partnerships with international organizations and NGOs.

In his momentous Plenary intervention in the session on Protracted Crises, Dr. Jawahery stressed that one must not forget that the private sector is the biggest engine of poverty reduction and economic growth in the developing world and plays a quintessential role in securing food availability for people living in protracted crises. IFA has a longstanding commitment to improving access to inputs and is working to constantly raise awareness of the need for a sustained commitment to improving accessibility to inputs, such as the recent awareness campaign, which was done in collaboration with leading agricultural associations in Africa.

The CFS has come a long way in the past years and the private sector in general and the fertilizer industry in particular remain optimistic that this forum will continue to deliver practical and actionable solutions to deliver a world free of hunger, malnutrition, poverty and inequality.

At the recent 42 session of the UN Committee on World Food Security, the fertilizer industry was well-represented and strongly engaged with the member countries and the staff of the Rome-Based Agencies on topics pertaining to soil health and food and nutrition security. IFA’s Director General Charlotte Hebebrand participated in two side-events; one on soils and the other on nutrition value chains. In both instances she delivered important messages on this two priority topics for the industry.

Soil degradation affects soils worldwide but it is most visible in Africa. Lack of fertilization management has been detrimental to African soils; it is estimated that 8 million tons of nutrients are lost per year and that 95 million hectares of land (75% of the continent) has been degraded to the point of greatly reduced productivity. Nutrients being removed from soils by crops and not being replaced often traps entire communities in poverty cycles. It is critical for food security and increasing smallholder productivity that these nutrients are replaced.

The fertilizer industry’s approach to integrated soil management is based on integrated nutrient management where farmers (large and small) use available organic nutrients – manures, crop waste, supplemented as necessary by mineral fertilizers. Another important tool for integrated soil fertility management is soil testing. Soil testing is important so farmers can learn exactly how much of each nutrient is required to ensure balanced fertilization using locally available organic nutrients and mineral fertilizers.

The fertilizer industry promotes nutrient stewardship programs such as the 4Rs which provide a framework to achieve cropping system goals, such as increased production, increased farmer profitability, enhanced environmental protection and improved sustainability. To achieve those goals, the 4R concept incorporates the: right fertilizer source at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place.

Another hot topic for the fertilizer industry at CFS was micronutrient fertilization. More than one-tenth of the total disease burden health problems from which the global population suffers can be traced back to micronutrient deficiencies. These micronutrients can be provided in several cases by agriculture and through fertilizers; by making the food we eat more nutritious.

Recent research demonstrated that macro-and micronutrient deficient soils reduce not only yields, but also the bioavailability of minerals that are essential to humans who consume the crops cultivated on these deficient soils. Supplementing fertilizers with micronutrients addresses the deficiencies in the soils, in plants and in humans. As such, they contribute to increasing the quantity of food by raising yields but also the nutritional quality of the food. The added micronutrients have immediate and profound impacts. Chronic deficiencies affecting mostly women and children in the local population are quickly eliminated as a result and contribute to eradicating many micronutrient-related illnesses.

One telling example comes from Turkey. After scientific research revealed that soils in Turkey were severely deficient in zinc and wheat yields very low as a consequence, fertilizer companies began to produce zinc-enhanced fertilizers. This resulted in higher yields but also a new generation growing up free of deficiencies. Nowadays over 300 000 tons of zinc enriched fertilizer is applied in Turkey and the economic benefits are at approximately $100 million as estimated by the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture.

The fertilizer industry is hopeful that after zinc, iodine will be our industry’s next human health success story. Iodine deficiency remains a major public health concern with 2 billion people being iodine deficient. Studies have been conducted on lettuce and tomato and both proved to be excellent candidates for iodine biofortification.

Lastly, IFA advocated that in both the instances of soil health and malnutrition, transformative partnerships that involve all stakeholders are required to operationalize, disseminate and scale up existing successful initiatives.

How to encourage countries to utilize and prioritize synergies between productivity, food security and climate change?

Charlotte Hebebrand, Director General of IFA, participated this week in the Joint OECD-France Conference on “Agriculture and Agricultural Soils Facing Climate Change and Food Security Challenges: Public Policies and Practices,” an extremely timely conference focusing on the importance of soil health for food security and climate change mitigation in the run up to COP21. The conference emphasized the importance of more seriously including agriculture in the climate change negotiations, given in particular the important role of carbon sequestration in soils, and featured the French government’s “4 per 1000” initiative on soils for food security and climate .

Charlotte’s intervention highlighted the important role fertilizers play in meeting the continuously growing agricultural and nutritional demands worldwide. She emphasized to an international audience of policymakers and scientific advisors that the world would only produce half of the agricultural output if mineral fertilizers did not exist and that agricultural yields have tripled over the last 50 years with the help of inputs such as fertilizers. Charlotte made it clear that organic and mineral fertilizers are complementary to each other: when there are not enough organic sources of plant nutrients available, it is imperative to supplement with mineral fertilizers – not only to achieve the yield goal, but also to replace nutrients in the soil.

Another well-timed key message Charlotte took care to bring across was that although both fertilizer production and application contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions, when taking a life cycle approach, it is clear that agricultural productivity increases due to fertilizers play a crucial role in global forest preservation, and that fertilizer thus play an important role in carbon sequestration. She also pointed to the fact that plant nutrients are known to stimulate biomass production, thereby have an important role to play in building up soil organic matter. In response to the question of how public policies can help, Charlotte stressed that the promotion and implementation of best agriculture management practices – including outreach to farmers on crop and site specific fertilization – was of great importance, along with policy incentives and international partnerships to promote soil health with a view to providing food security, building resilient food systems and mitigating climate change.

The link between water and food security came to the forefront of global development discussions in August 2012, when ‘Water and Food Security’ was the chosen topic for World Water Week in Stockholm.

The event helped to encourage discussions on the water, food and energy nexus and highlighted that water security is connected to many of the world’s key issues such as climate change, food security and soil health.

This year, when the event focused on ‘water for development’, we wanted to highlight five key facts about the role of water in food and nutrition security:
  1. It takes around 3,000 litres to produce the daily food needs for one person [Source]
  2. 3,000 litres is enough to fill 22 large bathtubs with water, which is a shocking amount when considering that this is required for just one day’s worth of food.

    At IFA we believe it is important to highlight these shocking statistics to raise awareness of the water used by each person for food production, that’s why we’ve featured this statistic in our new infographic on Managing Water and Fertilizer for Sustainable Agricultural Intensification, published in partnership with IWMI, IPNI and IPI.

  3. Agriculture uses approximately 70% of all water withdrawn from aquifers, streams and lakes [Source]
  4. It’s not just the amount of water used in agriculture that presents an issue to food and nutrition security, as the quality of water used in food production also impacts the quality of crops.

    There’s a difficult balance between ensuring we optimise the world’s water resources, which includes using wastewater, and ensuring water contains the right nutrients to grow enough nutritious food.

  5. 10% of the world’s permanently irrigated land is estimated to be irrigated with treated, untreated or diluted wastewater [Source]
  6. It’s not just the amount of water used in agriculture that presents an issue to food and nutrition security, as the quality of water used in food production also impacts the quality of crops.

    There’s a difficult balance between ensuring we optimise the world’s water resources, which includes using wastewater, and ensuring water contains the right nutrients to grow enough nutritious food.

  7. Investment in soil fertility can directly improve water management [Source]
  8. In our recent Managing Water and Fertilizer for Sustainable Agricultural Intensification report, we included an interesting case study from watershed management trials in 300 Indian villages that proved that investing in soil fertility also improves water management.

    The trials found that “a substantial increase in crop yields of 70-120% was achieved when both micronutrients and adequate nitrogen and phosphorus were applied to a number of rain-fed crops (maize, sorghum, beans, pigeon pea, and groundnut) in farmers’ fields (Rego et al., 2005). Therefore, investment in soil fertility directly improved water management.

    The rainwater productivity was increased by 70-100% for maize, groundnut, mung bean, castor and sorghum by adding boron, zinc and sulphur.”

  9. 75% of agricultural water use is attributable to rain-fed production systems [Source]
  10. Humid and subhumid zones often present the most opportunity for increasing the efficiency of water use, as rain-fed production systems are still the most common production schemes in these zones.

    As Wade E. Thomason, Abdoulaye Mando, André Bationo, Maria Balota and William Payne note in their abstract on Crop productivity and water and nutrient use efficiency in humid and subhumid areas “There is significant opportunity to improve water use in rain-fed systems as compared to irrigated production; and fertilizer input to increase crop yield is one of the most important factors to achieving better water use efficiency for many crops in humid and subhumid zones”.

Follow @FertilizerNews for all the latest updates on water security including key quotes, articles and videos.


Managing Water and Fertilizer for Sustainable Agricultural Intensification
Managing Water and Fertilizer for Sustainable Agricultural Intensification - Infographic

2015 has already been a busy year for the fertilizer industry. We’ve met with the secretary general of the UN, held our 83rd Annual Conference in Istanbul and welcomed Dr Abdulrahman Jawahery as President.

In the International Year of Soils we have also seen lots of interesting discussions and events on the vital role soil plays in food and nutritional security, including the launch of our Growing Smart Together website.

Now we’re halfway through the year we wanted to look back on our highlights:
  1. Launching the Growing Smart Together Website
  2. In April this year, to celebrate the International Year of Soils, we launched the Growing Smart Together website.

    The website features 40 video interviews, giving a voice to scientists, farmers, policy makers, NGOs and business representatives who explain their own experience, views, and knowledge on soils.

    View the website here.

  3. IFA’s 83rd Annual Conference
  4. The 83rd IFA annual conference took place in Istanbul in May, to mark the International Year of Soils Dr Pedro Sanchez, one of the world’s most preeminent soil scientists, was invited as a guest keynote speaker at the conference.

    Dr Sanchez spoke to IFA members about eradicating myths about fertilizers and soil, saying “the claim that fertilizers poison the soil is false, as long as they are applied at agronomically correct rates.

  5. 3. Dr Abdulrahman Jawahery announced as IFA President
  6. At the annual conference Dr Jawahery was elected as President of IFA. Dr Jawahery is an active member of IFA and has held various posts within our Board of Directors; he is also Chairman and President of the Arab Fertilizer Association for 2015.

    Outgoing President Esin Mete commented that “Abdulrahman Jawahery is one of the most experienced executives in the fertilizer industry and his passion for the industry and for sustainability and SHE issues are a great asset to the Association”.

    Find out more about Dr Jawahery here.

  7. IFA Global Safety Summit and Hard Hat Campaign
  8. In March we hosted the IFA Global Safety Summit in Canada, the event gave IFA members an opportunity to share Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) best practices.

    The event also celebrated IFA members who have excelled in health and safety in the past year, with Yara Brunsbuttel winning the IFA 2015 Green Leaf Award for SHE excellence.

    To further highlight the importance of SHE to the fertilizer industry we launched the hardhat campaign, inviting members to submit their hardhat selfies on Instagram. You can check out all the great submissions here.

  9. IFA and AFAP Session on Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizer
  10. In February this year we hosted a session on Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizer in Africa with the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP).

    The session took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and accompanied our 2014 campaign aiming to ensure that smallholder farmers in Africa have access to fertilizers in order to help eradicate hunger and malnutrition in the continent.

    The session included a panel of experts from One Acre Fund, AFAP and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

    During the session panelist Dr. Bashir Jama, an AGRA soil scientist, discussed the need for smallholders to see results to encourage future investments in inputs: “Many smallholder farmers have little financial means to buy inputs, which makes it important that when they use fertilizer they see the rewards e.g. access to markets and guarantees that their investment in fertilizer, seeds, and labour has a return.

We look forward to ensuring the fertilizer industry has a voice in key events throughout the rest of 2015, including the development of the sustainable development goals and discussions on the International Year of Soils.

Science has always played a significant role in the agriculture industry, with new seed varieties developed to boost food security and fertilizers enriching soils with nutrients. However, it is only in recent years that we’re starting to link technological advancements with the industry – from drones to apps here’s how technology is transforming the agriculture industry:

  1. Apps are improving access to information

  2. From accurate local weather forecasts to the latest event information, apps have enabled our industry to access crucial information at the touch of a screen.

    Apps are now even informing fertilizer application and can enable farmers to send images of crops in a poor condition to experts, who can provide accurate tips and fertilizer recommendations within 24 hours.

    At IFA we wanted to offer members an easier way to access all information from our events, so we have now launched our events app.

    The app provides updates on the list of participants, speakers, exhibitors and the event agenda. Members will be able to use the app for the first time at the upcoming IFA annual conference in Istanbul.    

  3. Drones are capturing vital data

  4. Over the last few months we’ve shared lots of interesting articles on social media looking at the role drones will play in agriculture.

    Drones provide farmers with cost-effective satellite images of their fields, giving them a clear picture of all their land and highlighting any critical areas of worry.

    These images are enabling farmers to be more efficient and accurate than ever before.

  5. Mobile phones are linking farmers to markets (and the world!)

  6. Some say that Africa has “skipped the landline stage” and moved straight to mobile.

    This certainly seems to be the case with farmers in the continent, who have quickly moved from having to travel to market to find the local asking price for their produce to receiving market prices in text messages.

    Farmers can now access a world of information, from global food prices to weather forecasts, without having to leave their house or farm.

    Oxfam have even claimed that mobile phones can play a vital role in feeding an estimated 9 billion people by 2050.

  7. Soil sensors are enabling more farmers to save land

  8. Like drones, soil moisture sensors are offering farmers more accurate data than ever before.

    The sensors can be placed in soil to measure water content and can provide vital updates to save soil (and water).

  9. Robots are offering farmers a helping hand

  10. From cattle to crop planting robots are stepping in to help farmers with time consuming tasks. Agriculture robots have also helped to improve accurate soil management, with irrigation systems accurately watering the land and some machines helping with the precise application of fertilizer.
At IFA we embrace the many ways that technology can enhance our industry, that’s why we’ve launched our brand new app to ensure all our members have the latest event information at their fingertips.

We look forward to exploring the many ways that technology can improve the lives of farmers around the world and we believe that technology will play an increasingly significant role in our industry.

One strong theme we’ve taken from all the global events we have attended over the past few years is the need for a holistic approach to food and nutritional security. That’s why we’ve launched our brand new website ‘Growing Smart Together’ to create a platform to capture the views of all agriculture stakeholders.

This year the platform will focus on the role of soil in agriculture to celebrate the International Year of Soil. We’ve selected some of the top quotes from our interviews with farmers, NGOs, policy makers and the private sector:
  1. “The problem with soils is enormous in Africa. Around 25% of the land in sub-Saharan Africa is severely degraded and when soil is degraded it doesn’t produce good crops” Gordon Conway, Scientist/Academic at Imperial College, Agriculture for Impact and Montpellier Panel Watch the interview in full here.

  2. “ We need to work with farmers to ensure that they’re using nutrients properly; using the right nutrients at the right time, in the right amount and in the right place” Tip O’Neil, President at International Raw Materials Watch the interview in full here.

  3. “Soils are important because they are the base for survival” Tekalign Mamo, State Minister of Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Watch the interview in full here.

  4. “Soil is the wealth of farmers, it is the wealth of this earth that we live on but we don’t have an infinite amount of soil, we have a finite amount of soil” David Gad, World Farmers Organisation Watch the interview in full here.

  5. “Our whole life depends on the land, the trees and the freedom to move around. That is our economy. The Earth.” Gloria Uchiba, President of the Associacion de Mujeres de Zappara Watch the interview in full here.

Check out all the video interviews and helpful links here:

There’s a rather harrowing fact that “work kills more people than wars”. At IFA we’re more than aware of the dangers and risks of working in the agriculture and fertilizer industry, but we also know that the industry can provide safe and secure jobs for millions of people around the world.

So how do we achieve global safety in the fertilizer industry?

  1. Collaboration:
  2. It is essential for the fertilizer industry that we unite to share best practice examples and knowledge. Events such as the recent IFA Global Safety Summit provide opportunities for the industry to network and share solutions to common challenges.

  3. Changing cultures:
  4. We want to ensure that health and safety is at the heart of fertilizer production but we’re aware that for some this may require a slight change in working culture. For example, it may seem like a basic requirement to ask workers to wear hardhats but it can require a complete change in routine for somebody to grab their hardhat before heading into work.

  5. Certification program:
  6. To change cultures and behaviours in the workplace, we need powerful incentives and the assurance that change has powerful impacts.  A great example of a campaign that has helped to change working culture is the Protect & Sustain certification program, IFA’s trademark name for its Product Stewardship initiative. By taking measures to ensure that its products are responsibly-developed, sourced, manufactured, stored, transported and applied, the Association and its participating members are demonstrating their commitment to ensuring that fertilizer and their intermediate products are used to the benefit of all and that its inherent risks are at least minimized- and where possible eliminated.. We think the programme works so well because it’s simple and the benefits of sharing this knowledge have been successfully communicated with fertilizer producers, partners in the value chain and public regulation bodies.

  7. CEOs:
  8. At the recent Global Safety Summit IFA president Esin Mete said improving health and safety in the industry: “starts with our approach, our corporate culture; as well as the attitude of CEOs and managers towards safety”. Highlighting that change must be driven by leaders in the industry; these leaders must be brave and admit that incidents happen whilst also developing practical solutions.

  9. Commitment:
  10. Making significant changes within the industry requires dedication from the entire workforce. We think commitment and hard work shouldn’t go unnoticed, that is why we established the IFA Green Leaf Award. This year we rewarded the Yara Brunsbüttel team, who have achieved outstanding safety, health and environment results.
We have already made dramatic improvements to the health and safety of the fertilizer industry, with IFA members such as the Qatar Fertilizer Company (QAFCO) in 2013 and Yara in 2015 demonstrating excellent safety, health and environment (SHE) controls across the entire supply chain and being awarded the IFA Green Leaf Award for their achievements. The scrutiny on the industry has encouraged us to excel and we hope that we can continue to unite to ensure that health and safety best practices are demonstrated around the world.

Yara Brunsbüttel wins the IFA Green Leaf Award 2015 : Jacky de Letter and Sven Kohnke receive the trophy and certificate by IFA’s President, Ms Esin Mete, and Jim T. Prokopanko, CEO of The Mosaic Company, USA

By Professor Richard Mkandawire, Vice President of the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP)

Farmers, especially smallholders should be kept at the forefront of any development efforts. They face an array of obstacles such as lack of access to inputs, credit, extension and markets.

The fertilizer industry is a keen on contributing and working in partnership with all stakeholders towards the SDGs but in particular towards the iteration, implementation and effective monitoring and evaluation of Goal 1 on ending poverty and Goal 2 on achieving food and nutrition security through sustainable agriculture.

Fertilizers help increase crop yields which result in higher incomes for farmers. Growth in the agricultural sector can have dramatic impacts in reducing poverty – in fact, at least twice the potential of growth from any other sector on average, according to the World Bank. By increasing yields, fertilizers increase the quantity and availability of food. When properly applied, fertilizers (macro and micronutrients) help produce more nutritious and healthy food. Micronutrients, such as zinc, delivered through agronomic biofortification reduce stunting in children.

The private sector will play a critical role in enhancing agriculture growth and food security in the future especially in Africa. There is a need for strengthening global business partnerships in order to meet these targets and have indicators that can quantitatively and qualitatively assess the effectiveness of such partnerships. This is why IFA has joined the Global Business Alliance to advocate for business & industry voice to be heard in the current SDG negotiations.

For developing countries, defining goals, setting targets and developing indicators is not enough. We need dynamic and innovative ways to tackle limited infrastructure and capacity. Careful attention should be given to data gathering and analysis so as to tackle the challenge of dis-aggregation of data particularly within the context of rural urban divide.

Note: Professor Richard Mkandawire is attending the SDG negotiations in New York as part of an IFA delegation.

We’re all aware that Africa is playing a fundamental role in global food security; it is a continent that is rapidly developing and growth in agriculture is 11 times more effective at reducing poverty than growth in any over sector in Africa. However, Africa is also a continent that still suffers from soil degradation, which prevents farmers from growing enough food to take to market or even to feed their own families.

Therefore, we think that 2015 is a key year to campaign for access to fertilizer for smallholder farmers in Africa, particularly as we establish the sustainable development goals and celebrate the international year of soils.

Reason Number One: “To feed the people we must feed the soil”. This quote, from Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria, is highlighted on the re-designed Africa Fertilizer website.

The updated and renewed website provides a vital hub of information and statistics about the role of fertilizer in Africa, including directories, prices and a look at fertilizer statistics throughout Africa.

Resources, like the re-designed website, play an important role in highlighting the importance of providing essential nutrients to soils in Africa.

As the BBC reported in December last year, neglecting the health of Africa’s soils threatens global food security. Therefore, it is essential that we provide the world with evidence to show the role fertilizers play in achieving food and nutritional security in Africa during the international year of soils.

Reason Number Two: The article from the BBC leads us on to our next reason, that access to fertilizers will help boost food and nutritional security.

Africa has been the continent at the heart of food and nutritional security concerns for decades and, although the number of malnourished people in Africa has decreased, there are still an unacceptable number of people who are undernourished and hungry.

As IFA president Esin Mete wrote last year fertilizers play a key role in boosting yields but they also provide vital nutrients that can help nations overcome deficiencies and reduce infant mortality.

Despite there being a clear need for fertilizers in the continent, smallholder farmers in Africa still need improved links to fertilizers.

Reason Number Three: There are many factors that hinder Africa’s ability to achieve food and nutritional security, but access to inputs and experts who can match the right type of fertilizer to the multitude of different soils in Africa are two big struggles for the continent.

Linking farmers to fertilizer suppliers also links them to farmers groups and provides vital advice and resources. That is why the fertilizer industry has pledged for an additional 15 agronomists to work within Africa, in Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa, to ensure that smallholder farmers have access to fertilizer with the right advise and information to ensure that fertilizers are used in safe and productive ways.

The African Fertilizers Volunteer Program, launched with the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), encourages skilled industry experts to volunteer time and knowledge to help build the African fertilizer supply chain.

You can find out more about the program here:

Reason Number Four: According to UNEP by 2020 between 75 and 250 million people in Africa are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.

UNEP also predicts that by 2020 yields from rain-fed agriculture in some countries in Africa could be reduced by up to 50%.

Therefore, it is clear that climate change will have a significant impact on Africa.

In particular, Africa’s soils will be impacted by climate change, which is why policy-makers, scientists and the private sector will be converging in July this year in Nairobi for the 2nd Africa Food Security and Adaptation conference.

The conference will specifically address Africa’s soils and the role soil plays in achieving food security under a changing climate.

If fertilizer can provide an answer to this significant challenge then it is important that the fertilizer industry is present at these conferences to discuss solutions with UNEP and the FAO.

Reason Number Five: With the threat of climate change in the next five years our generation faces many obstacles to achieve global food and nutritional security, but we must also think of future generations and how fertilizer can help preserve Africa’s soils.

Fertilizers can increase yields on existing arable land but to be best used farmers need to learn the correct application process and pass this knowledge on to future generations of farmers and farming communities. Extension services and farmer training plays an essential role in positioning Africa as a world food producer.

We must use the global attention on soil degradation within the International Year of Soil to ensure that the fertilizer industry develops strong links with smallholder farmers in Africa in 2015.

For IFA one of the highlights of 2014 were the many prominent events highlighting the importance of food and nutritional security around the world. These events united key stakeholders and offered platforms to discuss the role of fertilizer in a food secure world, whilst also helping to establish the sustainable development goals.

Therefore, we wanted to collate a list of events we think will be important to follow in 2015:
  1. Argus FMB Africa Fertilizer 2015 – 18-20 February, Addis Ababa
  2. Africa is at the heart of food and nutritional security and fertilizer will play a vital role in ensuring that Africa’s varied soils can grow enough nutritious food.
    IFA and AFAP will be hosting a panel session on smallholder’s access to fertilizers in Africa at the event. The panel will include AGRA, One Acre Fund, AFAP and the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency.

  3. The UN intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda - 23-27 March, New York
  4. The millennium development goals played a significant role in vastly improving primary education, improving maternal health and achieving universal primary education. Therefore, we can presume that the sustainable development goals will impact global development in the next ten years.
    This negotiation in March will be one to watch for helping to establish the agenda for the sustainability goals.

  5. Global Soil Week - 19-23 April, Berlin
  6. Soil has an important role to play in global food and nutritional security and IFA are pleased that this will be acknowledged on a global scale in April.
    IFA have also launched the nutrients4soil website, this contains lots of resources, facts and figures on the connection between fertilizer, soil and nutrition.
    You can find out more about soil week here.

  7. IFA’s Annual Meeting – May 25-27, Istanbul
  8. IFA’s annual meeting will include important sessions on fertilizer demand and a discussion on the fertilizer market.
    As a special feature for the 2015 International Year of Soils Dr Pedro Sanchez, one of the world’s most prominent soil scientists will be a keynote speaker at the event.
    You can find out more about the annual meeting here.

  9. African Green Revolution Forum - Dates TBC, Adidjan
  10. The African Green Revolution Forum has become a key annual event for the agriculture industry.
    Although details of the event are still to be confirmed, IFA is sure this year’s event (with a focus on soils) will be just as influential as previous years.
Throughout the year IFA will be capturing the highlights from all the key events in the agriculture and fertilizer industry - follow us on Twitter for live updates and news.

The first World Soil Day on 5 December launched the International Year of Soils and highlighted the vital role soil plays around the world in global food and nutritional security – as FAO Director General, Graziano Da Silva said on the day: “Sustainable food systems start with soils, the foundation of agriculture”. 

It was extremely encouraging to see all the activity around the first ever World Soil Day, particularly from IFA’s members. We’ve collated our six highlights from the day:


  1. The FAO World Soil Day launch event featuring IFA
    IFA participated in Rome and New York in guest panel discussions at the FAO’s launch event for the International Year of Soils; other panelists at the event included Graziano Da Silva and the Ministry of Agriculture of Sierra Leone, Joseph Sesay and the Vice-Minister of Land of Bolivia, Jhonny Cordero.

    Morgane Danielou, IFA Director of Communications and Policy Affairs (right)

    The FAO also provided lots of great campaign materials, including posters and infographics, to encourage everyone to celebrate and share key messages from World Soil Day. 

  2. Farming First’s #AskFF Twitter Chat
    Farming First, a global coalition calling on world leaders to increase agricultural output in a sustainable and socially responsible manner, organised a live Twitter chat on: “Healthy Soils for a Healthy Life”.

    Farming First asked people to submit questions to a panel of experts using the hashtag #AskFF.
    The discussion included Amit Roy of IFDC, Richard Mkandawire of AFAP, Ronald Vargas of FAO, Machteld Schoolenberg of YPARD and Juliet Braslow of CIAT and questions such as “How is poor soil health currently impacting the global population?”.

    IFA participated in the live Twitter chat and it was encouraging to see a large variety of questions for the panel, which enabled the fertilizer industry to highlight the important role of soil for both food security and global health.  

    You can read a full summary of the Twitter chat here

  3. Launch of IFA’s 'Soil & Fertilizer: Expert Views' 
    To coincide with World Soil Day IFA launched a brand new document that collates expert views from around the world on the relationship between soil and fertilizer, featuring soil scientists such as Bernard Vanlauwe of IITA, Prem Bindabran of VFRC and Terry Roberts of IPNI.

    Soil & Fertilizer: Expert Views can be downloaded for free here

  4. Global Compact Participants Championing Global Soils
    Participants in the United Nations Global Compact declared their support for the International Year of Soils

    Participants worked with global soil experts to develop a guidance document on soil principles that can be implemented by the agriculture industry to support soil management. 

    You can read more about the soil principles and IFA’s support for the International Year of Soils here

  5. Healthy Soil for a Healthy World Blog from Amit Roy
    IFA member IFDC supported World Soil Day by publishing Dr Amit Roy’s blog on ‘Healthy Soil for a Healthy World’.

    The blog, which was adapted from Dr Roy’s contribution to IFA’s ‘Soil and Fertilizer: Expert Views’ document, features key facts and case studies – including an example of field trials in sub-Saharan Africa that showed that productivity increases by 40 percent when fertilizer nutrients match soil characteristics.

    You can read the full blog here

  6. Launch of Montpellier Panel report: ‘No Ordinary Matter: Conserving, Restoring and Enhancing Africa’s Soils’
    The Montpellier Panel consists of academics and scientists from around the world including the Director of Agriculture for Impact Sir Gordon Conway. 

    The panel has produced influential reports over the last few years on sustainable agriculture and food security, and this year IFA is pleased to see that the panel focuses on the role of soils in Africa and in particular on the importance of promoting Integrated Soil Fertility Management practices.  “The answer lies in combining organic approaches with a prudent use of necessary inputs. On Africa’s depleted soils, production cannot be increased and maintained without bringing nutrients in from the outside, either through livestock manure, mineral fertilizer or cultivation of legumes”. 

    IFA was at the report launch in Rome on 4 December where 4 panel members were joined by Kanayo Nwanze, president of IFAD.

    You can read the full report for free here

IFA is delighted that 2015 has been chosen as the International Year of Soil, as it is hugely important that the threat of degraded soils to global agriculture is communicated. IFA will continue to represent the global fertilizer industry at key events throughout 2015 – for live updates and information follow us on Twitter.

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October highlights
November 4, 2014

We’re delighted that the voice of the fertilizer industry was present at multiple high-profile events this month, such as the World Food Prize, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS 41) and One Young World

In such a busy and exciting time for IFA we wanted to look at five key highlights from October:

    1. IFA and One Acre Fund’s Side Event on Smallholders’ Access to inputs in Africa 

    We hosted a side event at the 41st Committee on World Food Security with One Acre Fund to promote the need to improve access to inputs for smallholder farmers in Africa. 

    The panel included:
    •  Charles Ogang from the Ugandan Farmers’ Federation and World Farmers’ Organization 
    •  Wafaa El Khoury from IFAD
    •  Stephanie Hanson from One Acre Fund
    •  Nega Wubeneh from the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency
    •  Michael Michener from CropLife International

    The chair of the event was H.E. Mohammed Sheriff, the Ambassador of Liberia and chair of The Africa Group.  

    You can see all the highlights from our side event here, you can also follow #CFS41 and @CFSupdates for more highlights from CFS. 

    2. IFA’s President Esin Mete’s panel discussion on ‘Soil Health and the Fertilizer Gap’ at the World Food Prize

    The World Food Prize is always a key date for the fertilizer and agriculture industry, so it was great that IFA President Esin Mete was part of this year’s Borlaug Dialogue event.

    Esin Mete was joined by Amit Roy, from IFDC, Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas, Executive Director of The Mosaic Company Foundation and other leading experts to discuss the role fertilizer is playing in achieving food and nutritional security. 

    You can read more about Esin Mete’s participation in the World Food Prize in the following articles:
    •  World Food Prize - If Norman Borlaug posed the following questions to you... what would you tell him?
    •  Reuters AlertNet - Is fertiliser the key to more food and better health?
    •  MU Earth - Call for fertilizers
    • - 7 Numbers You Should Know About Global Fertility 

    3. The launch of Farming First and IFAD’s new infographic ‘Africa’s Agricultural Potential

    To highlight the need for Africa to unlock its agricultural potential Farming First and IFAD have launched an interactive infographic this month. 

    The infographic includes resources on the role fertilizer can play in boosting food production in Africa.

    4. Kofi Annan’s address to One Young World

    From 15-18 October young people with an interest in politics and current affairs traveled to Dublin to take part in One Young World, an event that unites potential future leaders with prominent politicians, celebrities and activists. 

    The 4-day event included sessions on Sustainable Development and Global Business, bringing aspiring leaders together with renowned figures such as Unilever’s Paul Polman and former Irish President, Mary Robinson. The consensus overarching conclusion of the Summit was the both experienced leaders and aspiring can have a better chance of addressing development challenges if they work together.

    5. World Food Day 

    Every year the number of people discussing World Food Day on social media increases, and this year was no different. 

    The theme of this year’s World Food Day was on family farming, so the event presented another opportunity to highlight the important role family farmers play around the world, particularly in developing countries. 

    In particular it was great to see Queen Maxima of the Netherlands at the World Food Day conference, Queen Maxima raised an important point in her speech that “we must not forget that most agricultural labour is done by women, but most of these women do not have access to the tools they need to be productive.”

    It was also encouraging to see Argentine farmer and World Farmers Organisation representative Santiago Del Solar on the World Food Day conference panel. Before the event Del Solar spoke to Reuters about the increasingly erratic rainfall patterns and the benefits of GM seeds. 

    It is important that the fertilizer industry continues to contribute to high-profile global discussion on agriculture and development, to better inform our partners and the public of the role of the industry and what fertilizers contribute to farming and food security. 

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Twitter highlights...
September 30, 2014

A huge thank you to everyone who continues to support IFA on Twitter, it is thanks to you that we have reached the landmark 5,000 followers this month. 

Social media now plays a key role in connecting the global fertilizer industry together, ensuring that we can share significant moments from events, disseminate videos, reports and messaging and that we are keeping the food and nutritional security debate at the top of the Sustainable Development agenda. 

To celebrate reaching 5,000 followers we’ve looked back at our top five Twitter moments from the past year: 

  1. Launching the Smallholder Access to Fertilizers in Africa campaign and launching the accompanying video at AGRF
    This year we launched our new Smallholder Access to Fertilizers in Africa series to celebrate the UN FAO’s Year of Family Farming and the African Union. 

    The series includes infographics, a brochure and an animation that we launched at the African Green Revolution Forum. 

    In particular, sharing the video on Twitter enabled social media users to provide direct feedback and share the video with friends and colleagues who have an interest in agriculture in Africa. 

  2. Live Tweeting from The Economist: Feeding the World conference 
    The annual ‘Feeding the World’ event from The Economist continues to provide a vital platform for discussions on food and nutritional security. 

    One of the highlights of the event is that is unites the private sector, governments and NGOs on Twitter, as attendees share live updates and images with their followers to help disseminate key quotes and presentations, whilst also raising the profile of the event. 

    This year IFA president, Esin Mete, was part of a panel discussion on ‘Tackling malnutrition now – getting the right nutrients to those that need them’. It was great that throughout the panel Twitter become a welcome extra member, expanding on topics and themes that the panel discussed. 

  3. Live Tweeting from the IFPRI Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security conference
    Another key event this year was the IFPRI 2020: Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    It was encouraging to see that IFPRI had chosen Africa for the location of the conference, as the continent will play a key role in building resilience to climate change and increasing food and nutritional security.

    Again, the volume of Tweets on the event helped to raise the profile of discussions on food and nutritional security.

  4. Launching the IFA blog
    This year we launched the IFA blog in January to enable us to provide commentary on key reports and events, such as the latest Millennium Development Goals report or The Economist: Feeding the World. 

    o far, the blog has enabled us to provide more detail online about the fertilizer industry’s role in the food and nutritional security debate.

  5. Live Tweeting from the IFA Annual Conference in Sydney and interacting with attendees 
    Although there are plenty of opportunities for IFA members and conference attendees to provide feedback it is great that people are now reaching out to IFA on Twitter whilst live at our annual conference.

    This year we were able to capture key discussions and the atmosphere in Sydney online, by Tweeting live updates and replying live to attendees. 

To get the latest IFA news and updates you can follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn here – here’s to the next 5,000 followers!

In the build-up to the UN World Health Organisation’s Second International Conference on Nutrition (to be held in Rome from 19 – 21 November), the dialogue surrounding malnutrition is growing. Bill Gates, Devex and the FAO have all shared content focusing on this topic.

As our blog on the outcomes of the MDGs highlighted, this is an area that desperately needs addressing. With 162 million young children still suffering from chronic malnutrition, this recent attention is certainly welcomed by the IFA.

In his short video, ‘Why are Millions in Africa Well-Fed But Undernourished?’ Gates presents some humbling facts. Whilst many children may now consume sufficient food to ensure that they’re growing and not dying, when short on food they are unable to put energy into brain development. If a child lacks basic protein, vitamins and nutrients in their first 1,000 days of life, they can never make it up. Perhaps the most stark statistic of all those quoted in the video is that 40% of children in sub-Saharan Africa are physically stunted, and will subsequently go on to underachieve in any measure of cognitive ability. Through this video, and by highlighting the destruction of human potential caused by not having an adequate diet, Gates reinforces the message that we need to address hunger and nutrition in unity, and not as separate issues.

The FAO, meanwhile, has looked at the issue from another interesting angle –the cost of malnutrition. The article goes beyond focusing on the shocking effects of malnutrition in children, and assesses the impact of obesity globally – reminding us that being overweight increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, cancer, joint problems and gall bladder issues.

The article also sets out the impact malnourishment has on adults: they are less able to work, contribute to local economies and provide care for their families.  Assessing the impact on families, the article reminds us that malnourished mothers are more likely, unsurprisingly, to have underweight children, who will go onto suffer the impacts highlighted in Gates’ video (physical and cognitive impairment), so perpetuating a cycle of poverty and economic stagnation.

The article sets out the economic cost of malnutrition in an infographic (reproduced below), concluding with a recommendation for investment: “Investing US$1.2 billion annually in micronutrient supplements, food fortification and biofortification of staple crops for five years would generate annual benefits of US $15.3 billion”.

Finally, Devex tackles the issue from the nutrition perspective in their article ‘4 issues that matter in nutrition’. The article begins with some stark statistics: official development assistance committed in 2012 for basic nutrition ($734.5 million) is just over half of that allocated to malaria control (nearly $1.3 billion). In the period 2008 – 2011, when ODA financial assistance for basic nutrition rose from $261.7 million to $443.1 million, child mortality due to undernutrition dropped from 3.5 million to 3.1 million. However, progress in reducing this figure further has been slow and the article, again, highlights the serious problem of stunting.

Beyond this, the article reiterates the economic point made by the FAO’s article, stating that, according to the World Bank, malnutrition can reduce a developing country’s GDP by as much as 3%. It also explores the theme of obesity, pointing out that this problem is prevalent in the developing world: 62% of overweight and obese people live in developing nations.

Crucial in tackling this problem, according to Devex, is increasing awareness with people on what to eat – but a ‘one size fits all’ approach to messaging will not work: it must be tailored, including targeted messaging for men and women, rural and urban.

The private sector also has a crucial role to play, with Brian Thompson, Chief Nutritionist at the FAO, quoted as saying, “There’s a great deal of potential, lessons and guidance, advice and experiences from the large private sector that we would be foolish to miss out on. I think that public-private partnership is something that provides a way of harnessing this knowledge, this expertise for the common public good.”

In conclusion, whilst it is positive to see this surge in articles, videos and references to malnutrition in the build-up to the Second International Conference on nutrition, we must ensure that malnutrition remains consistently at the top of the global hunger agenda if it is to be eradicated.

Increasing the profile of global malnutrition will help to raise awareness of the inputs needed to tackle the issue, spreading vital information about available solutions – particularly to developing countries.

This is why the IFA developed the Fertilizing Crops for Human Health series, to ensure key information about malnutrition and the role fertilizer plays in growing nutritional food is readily available online. IFA’s infographics also offer a visual summary of the key messages around fertilizer and nutrition.

By Alan BullionPrincipal Analyst and Special Reports Publisher at Informa Agra
Re-published from Agra Europe

A new Working Paper from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) finds that there are at least 570 million farms worldwide, of which more than 500 million can be considered family farms.

Furthermore, the study by development economists Lowder, Skoet and Singh says that the vast majority of the world’s farms are very small, with more than 475 million farms being less than two hectares in size, and over 410 million of these less than 1 ha in area.

The most interesting aspect is the geographical spread. Of the 570 million farms, 74% are located in East Asia and the Pacific or South Asia, however defined. China alone represents 35% and India a further 24% of the total.  

Just 9% of global farms are located in sub-Saharan Africa and 7% in Europe and Central Asia. Only 4% are situated in Latin America and the Caribbean. A further 3% of the world’s farms can be found in the Middle East and North Africa.

Those countries with the largest share of the world’s agricultural area in 2010  were China, followed by Australia, the US, Brazil, and Russia, where average farm size data is unavailable.

Data limitations      

The UN has declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. However, the authors admit that there are serious limitations with the existing available data, which is mainly derived from the lengthy World Census of Agriculture (WCA), which commenced in 1930, and has been conducted at least once every decade by the FAO since 1950.  

To improve data collection, the latest WCA round, for 2006 to 2015, recommends that countries, whenever possible, coordinate their population census with the agriculture census. Clearly, in some developing countries, this is easier said than done.

Although the agricultural holding measure is largely standardised, it does nevertheless vary from one country to another. For example, most countries establish a threshold farm size above which farms are included in the census.  

In both India and China, the countries reporting the largest number of farms, very small farms are included in the census. In China in 2006, farms as small as 0.007 ha were included in the census, and slightly more than 200 million agricultural holdings were reported for the entire country.  

In India in 2011, no minimum farm size was established, and about 137 million holdings wee counted. This contrasts with neighbouring Bangladesh, where farms were only included if they were larger than 0.2 ha. Rwanda also counts agricultural households, rather than holdings, which makes cross-comparison more complex still.
So any such study would inevitably be a very rough estimate of the total number of very diverse entities, including quite small operations which are little more than ‘hobby’ farms, to family subsistence farms, and large scale industrial businesses.   

The authors of this particular FAO paper used six different FAO rounds dating back to 1960, based upon farm census from some 167 countries, 157 FAO members, and 10 non-members. In fact, they conclude that the 570 million figure for total farms worldwide is most likely an under-estimate, as no reliable data was available for a remaining 37 FAO member states.

For example, the last agricultural census for three of the countries, Brunei Darussalam, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, was conducted in 1960, a serious data series omission, especially for the latter two large African countries.  

“Farm sizes and the total number of farms change greatly over time as a result of population growth, agricultural development, land policies and other factors. We might expect that in some countries the number of farms in past decades has little bearing on the current number of farms in these countries,” the paper notes.
Nevertheless, the study concludes that 84% of the world’s farms recorded are smaller than 2 hectares and they operate about 12% of global farmland. Conversely, 16% of the world’s farms are larger than 2 hectares and they represent 88% of total farmland. 

These are in fact mostly family-run farms for self-sufficiency, and sometimes a small surplus for sale. The data suggests that more than 90% of the world’s farms are family-run, and that they control about 70% of the world’s farmland. Non-family farms comprise the remainder, and are generally larger in size and scale. 
Average farm sizes and the number of farms worldwide has also increased from 1961 to 2000, largely due to increases in the total number of farms in low- and middle-income countries, which represent the vast majority of farms worldwide. Australia is a particular example that would skew the data due to the large number of farms covering thousands of hectares.


But the FAO conclusion is that smaller farms remain the norm in low and lower-middle-income countries. In contrast, average farm size in the high-income country group has increased. 

However, more recent demographic data from Masters et al suggests that the trend towards decreased farm sizes continues in Africa, but that consolidation has already started in Asia, where average family sizes are contracting. They conclude that while most Asian farmers seek labour-saving innovations, most African farmers seek to increase labour power per hectare.       

Urbanisation is of course another key trend to consider here. In 1900, worldwide, there were 6.7 rural dwellers to each urban dweller; now there is less than one and some projections suggest close to three urban dwellers to two rural dwellers by 2025.

Much has also been made that there are now more ‘urban’ than ‘rural’ dwellers in China, and the implications this will have for future food security. But from the end of July, Chinese citizens will now be classified simply as ‘residents’ rather than as ‘agricultural’ or ‘non-agricultural’ workers. This is a significant change in the traditional household registration system, known as hukou. 

No doubt Chinese farming will have to become more efficient and competitive in turn, adopting more Westernised standards for safety.

‘Quiet revolution’

Masters et al. have suggested that global agriculture is increasingly diverse, operating along two main axes – commercialisation, and resource ownership, based on farm size. They contend there has been a ‘quiet revolution’ in China and other countries from lower transport costs to ports and cities, even as many farmers remain in hinterland regions.    

Crucially, they also argue that agricultural research to improve nutrition and health should be tailored to diversity and change in farm size, and commercialisation factors, as well as the impacts of climate change. 

In ‘dynamic’ zones along transport routes, for example, research should aim to accelerate agricultural growth using innovative technologies adapted to local farmer requirements. 

Here also the increased use of ‘big data’ by seed and agricultural companies is crucial, to measure commercialisation and resource ownership, as well as agro-environmental conditions. Also to capture the rapid expansion of dynamic zones, technological innovation, and climate change.

Link to publication by FAO:

What do we really know about the number and distribution of farms and family farms in the world? Background paper for The State of Food and Agriculture 2014

A review of IFPRI’s publication “Food security in a world of natural resource scarcity, The role of Agricultural Technologies”

Agricultural Technologies Could Increase Global Crop Yields as Much as 67 Percent and Cut Food Prices Nearly in Half by 2050.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has certainly garnered attention since the launching of its book “Food Security in a World of Natural Resource Scarcity, The role of agricultural Technologies” in February on the impacts of agricultural innovation on farm productivity.

Given the scarcity of natural resources and the high cost (both financially and as impact on biodiversity) of increasing agricultural land, it has become clear that increasing world crop production must result from increasing yields and cropping intensity. For this reason, governments, private sector and researchers have taken a special interest in technological innovations for restoring soil fertility and achieving a more sustainable agricultural production. While the effectiveness of various agricultural technologies has for long been debated, the findings from Food Security in a World of Natural Resource Scarcity offer a new insight on the quantifiable results of various methods which could significantly benefit developing countries.

The book delves into eleven agricultural practices and technologies and estimates their future impacts on farm productivity, food demand, prices and trade flow for maize, wheat and rice. An important feature of this study is that it uses a revolutionary modelling approach for comparing yields in different regions and under climate change conditions.

The book concludes that there is an immense potential for yield growth and hunger reduction. Fertilizers in particular could have important positive effects on yields, while limiting environmental impacts. Nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE) technologies for instance are the highest contributors to the decline malnourished children. Efficiently developing and adopting NUE technologies could “increase rice crop yields by 22 percent” and “help reduce the number of food-insecure people by 12 percent”, experts say.  IFA recently published a position paper on Nutrient Performance that provides more insights on the importance of Nutrient Use Efficiency and the industry’s views on measurement

Studies also show that combining fertilizers and organic inputs is the best method to achieve higher crop production. This technique, known as Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) has the largest potential in low-input regions within Africa, in South Asia, and also in part of East Asia and the Pacific. ISFM provides particular opportunities in Africa where soils have been depleted of nutrients and where access to organic fertilizers is particularly problematic. IFA and 7 partner organizations have launched a campaign in the context of the International Year of Family Farming to promote the access of fertilizers to smallholder farmers in Africa: Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizers in Africa
In spite of this positive outlook, there is no quick fix to the environmental and global food security challenge. Because agricultural technologies impacts differ substantially across continents, countries and regions, no single remedy will ease hunger.  As expressed by Mark Rosegrant, director of IFPRI’s Environment and Production Technology Division “we must advocate for and utilize a range of these technologies in order to maximize yields.”

In order to allow policymakers and researchers easy access to the vast data generated by this study, an online tool was developed. Its use also gives the opportunity to share knowledge about resource-conserving agricultural management practices, such as ISFM and precision fertilizer application, which is paramount for increasing food production, in spite of climate change and declining resources.

Research will play a fundamental role in bringing us a step closer to narrowing the yield gap between potential and actual average farm yield and lifting millions of smallholders out of subsistence.

As we approach the deadline of 2015 for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were established in 2000, the UN has released a report that outlines which of the eight goals have been met and which ones will require more work post-2015. So what are the results for the eight MDGs?

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieved: global poverty has been halved, reducing the number living in poverty by 700 million. 
    Still to achieve: The proportion of undernourished people in developing countries has decreased by 10% from 1990 to 2013 but progress has slowed in the last decade. Meeting the target of halving the people suffering from hunger by 2015 requires additional effort. 162 million young children are still suffering from chronic undernutrition.

  3. Achieve universal primary education
  4. Achieved: 90% of children in developing countries are now in primary education and disparities between boys and girls have narrowed. 

  5. Promote gender equality and empower women
  6. Still to achieve: in January 2014, only 46 countries had more than 30% female members of parliament.

  7. Reduce child mortality
  8. Achieved: the likelihood of a child dying before the age of five has halved, saving 17,000 children a day.

  9. Improve maternal health
  10. Achieved: the maternal mortality ratio dropped by 45% between 1990 and 2013. 
    Almost 300,000 women died from preventable causes during pregnancy in 2013.

  11. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  12. Achieved: between 2000 and 2012 an estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria were averted due to improved interventions. Since 1995, 22 million lives have been saved from tuberculosis.

  13. Ensure environmental sustainability
  14. Still to achieve: global emissions of carbon dioxide increased and were almost 50% above their 1990 level. Millions of hectares of forest are also lost still every year and water resources are becoming scarcer.

  15. Global partnership for development
  16. Still to achieve: the debt burden of developing countries remained stable at around 3% of export revenue but the amount of aid reaching developing countries has decreased.
Evidently the MDGs have helped to drive significant positive change, particularly in developing countries, with global poverty halved and over 25 million lives saved from diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis due to improved access to medicine and prevention methods (such as malaria nets).

However, as the results above show, there is still much more to be done. The failure to assign a clear goal for malnutrition has led to only a 10% decrease from 1990-2013 in undernourished people, which has had a huge impact on reducing child mortality. The UN children’s agency Unicef has said reducing child mortality by two-thirds will not be achieved until 2028 at the current rate of progress.

Gender equality is another area that requires increased efforts, with the majority of parliaments still male-dominated and basic pregnancy care, such as antenatal checkups, severely lacking in developing countries – only half of women in developing countries get the recommended antenatal checkups.

With an ever growing population and a focus on the global economy after the economic crash of 2008, the environmental sustainability goals have also suffered. More rainforests and land have been destroyed than ever before and emissions have increased since the goals were set.

This list of successes and failures for the eight MDGs conveys the extent of the challenges our planet faces. It is unacceptable that 162 million young children are still suffering from chronic undernutrition just as it is unacceptable that in 2014 women only represent 30% of global parliaments. The Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals present an opportunity to learn from and expand upon the MDGs, they need to go further by directly addressing child malnutrition and stunting whilst also focusing more on environmental sustainability and gender equality.

In the lead up to the Post-2015 goals IFA has created and collated materials to present members with solutions on how we address these key global challenges.

These materials include:

Quality over Quantity: Why Indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals Must Be Contemplated with Care

By Jørgen Haslestad, Chairman of the IFA Agriculture Committee and CEO of Yara International ASA

hen considering the sustainable development of our planet, one sector sits squarely at the cross section of protecting natural resources, feeding the world and reducing carbon emissions: agriculture. 

That is why agriculture must, and will be a critical component of the Sustainable Development Goals. As the world population grows, food production must keep up, but it must do so whilst limiting harmful impacts on the environment. 

We know that agriculture accounts for 70% of water use worldwide, and is responsible for up to 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, including land use changes associated with agriculture. Fortunately, experience shows that better management of agricultural practices can drastically reduce these numbers. Improvements in crop production since the 1960s have reduced carbon emissions by up to 13 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Drip irrigation methods can save up to 60% more water when growing food. Furthermore, more precise use of fertilizer can improve nutrient use efficiency and reduce the amount of nutrients that may end up in the environment.

As successors to the Millennium Development Goals, which have been criticized for being too broad and difficult to track, the Sustainable Development Goals must set forth measurable outcomes, to ensure that bold ambitions for a better planet are met. Targets and indicators to help meet the SDGs are also likely to encompass the use of inputs as a measure of sustainable intensification, but we must ensure that any such targets are meaningful and can actually be measured. 

Let us consider nutrient use management, for example. The use of fertilizers underpins increasing agricultural productivity. One kg of fertilizer can boost yields by up to three times, and up to ten times in Africa where the yield gap is more acute, but there is no simple formula for measuring how efficiently nutrients support crop productivity. What may appear as a seemingly straightforward equation is in reality quite complicated, given regional variations, a number of scientific uncertainties, and insufficiently available data to facilitate such measurements. 

Each patch of soil all over the world has its own unique recipe for the nutrients it should receive. Educating farmers, on the 4Rs – that is, applying the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place or other nutrient stewardship systems, will ensure that fertilizers are not overused, or misapplied, thus reducing carbon emissions and runoff. Would charting how many farmers who have been educated on the 4Rs or other nutrient stewardship systems, not be a more tangible, effective and measurable indicator? 

Furthermore, a focus on quantitative nutrient use efficiency targets risks being seen as a call for a simple reduction of inputs, leading to complacency in parts of the world that still use woefully little inputs. We must also keep in mind that although increased nutrient use efficiency is a noble goal, it is just one of several elements of a sustainable food system. A singular focus on nutrient use efficiency must be avoided; it should always be assessed in conjunction with other, complementary indicators relating to crop productivity or soil health. This could mean assessing the productivity per unit of land area or of water, or measuring how fertile the soil is naturally. 

Agriculture will play an essential role in the Sustainable Development Goals: the need for increasing agricultural productivity must remain, but reducing agriculture’s impact on the environment will be just as important. The SDG process provides an important opportunity for the global community to focus on this double challenge facing the agricultural sector and for establishing meaningful and measurable targets and indicators.

This blog originally appeared on the Global Food Security Blog 

For the next month all eyes are on Brazil as hosts of the World Cup, this focus presents an ideal opportunity to highlight the significant role agriculture plays in Brazil. So before you switch on the football today here’s five things you need to know about Brazilian agriculture…

  1. Agriculture contributes 14% of the Brazilian GDP and employs approximately 29.8 million people, which is 15% of the Brazilian population. 

  2. In ten years prevalence of undernutrition in Brazil decreased from 12% to 7% and the country also surpassed the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the number of child deaths by 73% before the 2015 deadline. On top of this, Oxfam reports that between 2000 and 2007 the proportion of people living in hunger in Brazil was reduced by one-third. These impressive reductions have led to Brazil being at the centre of campaigns to reduce hunger and malnutrition in developing countries, one such example is the Zero Hunger Challenge, which uses Brazil’s agriculture model.

  3. Female farmers make up nearly 25% of the agriculture labour force in Brazil and this number is growing every year.  

  4. Brazil is one of the world’s largest importers of fertilizer – importing around two thirds of its fertilizer. The latest 2014 IFA Fertilizer Outlook predicts that phosphate and nitrogen imports will both grow in the region and a recent article from Bloomberg highlighted how Brazilian farmers “are investing more in fertilizers because they have funds from sales”.

  5. Brazil is the third largest exporter of agriculture goods in the world
  6. It is evident from the impact on the economy and the dramatic decrease in malnutrition and hunger in Brazil that Brazilian agriculture can benefit significantly from accurate fertilizer use. That’s why events, such as the upcoming IPNI Meeting on Soybean Research on 14 August in Brazil, are important in promoting the benefits of sustainable fertilizer use in the country. 

June 17th celebrates the World Day to Combat Desertification and the global fertilizer industry sees this as a momentous occasion to examine integrated soil fertility management as a vehicle for sustainable development, climate change adaptation and mitigation and soil amelioration within the post-2015 framework.

Soil is a central element to sustainable development. Maintaining and enhancing soil fertility contributes to food security, economic development and environmental protection. It helps address climate change concerns by increasing the carbon stored in the soil and is vital to combat desertification.

© UNCCD, Pablo Oliveri - El infiernillo Tucuman, 
   © UNCCD, Tongjing Lu - Alshan, China  

Plants require energy, water and nutrients to flourish. With the exception of water, oxygen and carbon, the substances needed for plant growth – including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, calcium, magnesium, boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc and sometimes cobalt – are added to the soil as either organic or mineral fertilizer. If the soil cannot deliver enough of any nutrient, the growth of the plant is limited. In addition, nutrients are extracted from the soil with any crop product that leaves the farm. Sound agricultural management and replenishing soil nutrient pools is vital to maintain or improve soil health and secure future bountiful crops.

Particularly relevant for preventing or alleviating desertification is the fact that adequate nutrition predisposes plants to absorb and use water more efficiently. Adequate moisture allows plants to take up optimal levels of nutrients. Furthermore, fertile soils retain more water, which is good for crops over time and is an important part of the natural water cycle. Thus there is an inextricable link between crop nutrients and water availability. This relationship cannot be disregarded when developing strategies to combat land degradation in arid and semi-arid areas. According to the International Plant Nutrition Insititute (IPNI) “an important step towards improving water use efficiency is to encourage healthy plant roots. Maintaining proper soil conditions will enhance the volume of soil that roots explore.”

Key political figures have recently acknowledge the merits of fertilizer in improving soil quality, alleviate soil degradation and improve crop yields. At the recent Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium held in Washington D.C. in May, Ambassador Susan Rice underlined in her address on the climate change, environmental degradation and agriculture nexus the importance of fertilizers and seeds that are drought-resistant, and stressed that “we must ensure that better practices become routine.” 

Moreover, former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan in the Africa Progress Report 2014 stated that “fragile soils in rain-fed areas combined with underinvestment in inputs such as fertilizer and hybrid seeds are one factor behind low crop yields in Africa.” This renewed focus on soil quality and the stringent issue of soil degradation is encouraging and should constitute a guiding principle in formulating the post-2015 development agenda. The importance of soil fertility for balanced nutrition and other aspects of human well-being, climate change mitigation, water management, the fight against desertification and biodiversity loss is a reality.

Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and  dry sub-humid areas, primarily caused by human activities and climatic variations. Local conditions often mean that only a very low population density can be supported without damaging soil fertility. Although other regions, mostly in Asia and Latin America, are also concerned, the most dramatic examples of desertification are found in Africa, where degrading soil fertility is linked to stagnating or declining agricultural productivity. 

However, there are solutions. Improving soil fertility management can help alleviate desertification in several ways. High levels of soil organic matter improve water retention. Furthermore, fertile soils can support a more vigorous crop cover, which can help prevent erosion that contributes to desertification. Integrated Soil Fertiliy Management (ISFM) is the most effective strategy for restoring degraded soils, replenishing nutrients and rebuilding landscapes in all countries that suffer from land degradation, soil erosion and desertification. IITA scientist Bernard Vanlauwe aptly defines ISFM as “soil practices  and the knowledge to adapt these to local conditions, which maximize fertilizer and organic resource use efficiency and crop productivity.” In The Role of Fertilizers in Integrated Plant Nutrient Management, Vanlauwe further states that under drought stress conditions, a soil covered with organic matter can hold more soil moisture and this extra moisture may result in improved uptake of applied fertilizer nutrients.

  Dr Bernard Vanlauwe, Integrated Soil Fertility 
Management (ISFM) Conference 2012


Concentrated efforts are being undertaken in Sub-Saharan Africa but progress can only be achieved through effective strategic cooperation between governments, private sector, researchers, rural advisory services and farmers. Soil quality is linked to human well-being. According to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) scientist Birte Junge, solutions to combat desertification and erosion exist and they include fertilizers. In order to advance sustainable livelihoods we must address the challenge from the ground up and tackle desertification as well as other soil and environmental and climate threats.

The soil on which we grow the crops to feed an increasing population is at the heart of many of the sustainability issues facing policymakers today. There are numerous linkages between soils and food  production, climate change , biodiversity, markets, innovation, infrastructure. Therefore, on the World Day to Combat Desertification, let us reflect on the synergies between different agri-food and industrial sectors, governments, researchers and smallholder farmers so as to best address the threat to the foundation of our livelihoods that is land degradation in general and desertification in particular.

For more information about desertification, soil fertility and land degradation, the organizations below provide a breadth of resources:
•  United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) 
•  International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
•  Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

Originaly published in Global Food for Thought, 22 May 2014

This post is a recap of the "The Climate-Food Nexus and What It Means for Conflict, Economic Growth, and Sustainability" panel at the fifth Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington, DC.

The first session of the 2014 Symposium brought together a renowned panel with a wide range of backgrounds including a journalist, two private sector representatives, an NGO executive, a farmer, and a scientist.

Susan Rice, US National Security Advisor, 2014 Global Food Security Symposium

The panel aimed to assess the risk and prioritize the opportunities for global food security in light of climate change. Michael Gerson, columnist at The Washington Post and ONE senior fellow, chaired the session, kicking off with a bold statement that even smallholder farmers in remote developing places can adopt conservation practices. The focus on smallholder farmers continued and the panel reached the consensus that if we teach climate smart practices to farmers, and they understand the benefits, then they will adopt them.

President & CEO of Save the Children, Carolyn Miles, stressed that women and children are the most vulnerable victims of weather disaster and hunger. She went on to stress that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critical—and after the age of 3, the damage from malnutrition is irreversible.

Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was confident that the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report should help global food systems start adapting to climate change now. She added that the way to respond to climate extremes today is by understanding how they will intensify tomorrow. Every country is vulnerable.  Thirty countries are expected to face a food crisis and 20 of these are in Africa, so there is a need to expand climate models outside North America. "The problem is not that we don't have the data, the problem is getting it to the people that need it,” said Rosenzweig, “We need to make data appropriate and available at the community level to empower local first responders in crises."

William Reilly, senior advisor at TPG Capital, highlighted that crop yields can be increased sustainably with innovation, water conservation, technology, and that most malnutrition in the world has been due to governmental instability.

Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc. CEO Obinna Ufudo insisted on the need to set up markets and warehousing facilities so as to reduce post-harvest losses on the African continent. He sees the private sector as playing a vital role in making the food system more sustainable and resilient to shocks. Ufudo also emphasized the role of smartphone technology for smallholder farmers in his country to improve agricultural productivity.

Panelists agreed that smallholder farmers need better access to crop and weather insurance for their assets against disaster.

Trey Hill of Harborview Farms, the only farmer on the panel,  stressed that education on best practices is needed throughout the food supply chain. "Rather than be competitors we should be accomplices,” said Hill, thus highlighting the need for increased multisectorial and multilateral partnerships for climate smart agriculture.

Lastly the panel converged around the idea that agriculture is and should be treated like a business. Greater emphasis on access to agro inputs for smallholder farmers is needed if we are to increase production sustainably to feed a growing population while safeguarding biodiversity and halting climate change.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) along with partners, including the private sector organized an international conference on “Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” on May 15-17, 2014, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The event brought together over 800 participants from around the world in a concentrated effort to share expertise and best practices around resilience for food and nutrition security.


The conference was preceded by a Communications Workshop for young agriculture and development professional which was co-hosted by Farming First and IFPRI. 30 young professionals from Sub-Saharan Africa, The Caribbean and the South Pacific joined this capacity-building exercise. The need to engage both the traditional and social media on these important topics was an overarching conclusion.

The vibrant city of Addis Ababa, constituted an appropriate setting for the theme of the conference with Ethiopia being an example for resilience and lessons well learned after successive droughts and famines. Throughout the conference there was consensus that resilience means the capacity of communities to overcome adverse shocks without these shocks resulting in long-term detrimental consequences. Moreover, resilience entails building trajectories to capture growth, not just bouncing back from shocks. As IFPRI Director General, Shenggen Fan, aptly said “Without building resilience we will not be able to end hunger sustainably in our lifetimes.” Smallholders play a central role in securing food and nutrition for all. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)’s Director General, Kanayo Nwanze, 500 million small farms throughout the world supply up to 80 percent of food production. Nonetheless, it is oftentimes these smallholders who suffer most from malnutrition. 90 percent of malnutrition is concentrated in only 34 of the 193 United Nations member states.

Haile Gebreselassie, Olympic Gold Medalist

But the story is not always negative. While there is still much work to be done, progress has already been achieved through multi-lateral and multi-sectorial partnerships. Olympic Gold Medalist Haile Gebrselassie’s inspirational anecdotal address recalled his early life growing up on a farm and concluded that livelihoods in his rural community have significantly improved over the past 20 years.

With smallholder farmers as the building blocks for food and nutrition security, it comes as no surprise that agriculture was a central part of the 3-day discussions. Several speakers focused on micronutrients as a tool for reducing stunting. Irish Aid for example revealed that it will focus its development assistance on micronutrient supplementation in the Horn of Africa. Jonathan Shrier of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) stressed that Feed the Future’s main nutrition goal is to reduce stunting by 20 percent through biofortification. An additional focus on micronutrients came from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) with Bonnie McClafferty saying that "We have to look beyond productivity and focus on nutrient-rich foods". This shows that the recent focus on Fertilizing Crops to Improve Human Health by our industry is most opportune. The fertilizer industry has an opportunity to form strategic partnerships and educate governments and other partners on the merits of agronomic biofortification as a solution to stunting and other micronutrient deficiency-related conditions.

The fertilizer industry and its partners along the agri-food supply chain have a key role in building resilience. Lystra Antoine of DuPont revealed that $83 billion per year are required to ensure global food security in light of a growing population and much of this investment will mostly come from the private sector. Margaret Catley-Carlson, who is on the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) board, stressed the importance of distribution channels for fertilizer and other inputs to enable sustainable agricultural development.

Soil quality and health was also a key theme of the conference. Prof. Alisher Mirzabaev of the Center for Development Research (ZEF) presented his study revealing that poor households are more likely to reside on degraded land, which binds them in a cycle of poverty. Naoko Ishii of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) also underlined that soil depletion is the main cause for low crop yields across Sub-Saharan Africa. But solutions exist. The Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn also stressed that access to inputs and public-private partnerships are a priority for his government. In addition, the Ethiopian agriculture minister Tefera Deribew announced five new local fertilizer blending facilities, while the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) is working on new soil fertility maps for Ethiopia.

Khalid Bomba, CEO Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency

It seems that now more than ever governments, multilateral organizations and research institutes are welcoming the private sector to join the effort for building resilient and dignified livelihoods. It is up to each industry to organize itself around working for these important goals. IFA’s renewed focus on Africa with the Africa Fertilizer Volunteer Program and its upcoming campaign around the African Union’s Year for Agriculture and Food Security on Smallholders Access to Inputs in Africa constitute two opportunities for the industry to liaise with the reality in the fields and work together with strategic partners to advance both the development and business aspects of investing in sustainable agriculture.

Today is the International Day of Families and in the UN’s International Year of Family Farming it is essential that we all unite to promote and support family farmers throughout the world.

Social media can be a great way to raise awareness, so we have six ways you can use your digital channels to support the 500 million family farmers around the world: 
  1. Watch this video – This great video from the sustainable food think tank, Food Tank, highlights just how important family farmers are in eradicating hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity

  2. Know your facts – share some of the incredible facts on family farming with your followers - for example did you know that family farmers are responsible for 56% of agriculture production?

  3. Promote access to inputs for smallholder family farmers -Many smallholder farmers in the developing world are family farmers – in Africa family farmers work on 62% of the continents land - yet these farmers often lack access to inputs, which has a significant impact on yields. We can use today and the International Year of Family Farming to raise awareness of this by sharing this suggested Tweet: “On #FamilyDay let’s work together to promote the need for access to #inputs for family farmers to address the #yieldgap #iyff14”.

  4. Attend an event – There are hundreds of events taking place this year to celebrate family farmers - from an Agricultural Fair in Turkey to an event looking at research on family farming with CGIAR in Montpellier – check out all the events here (and don’t forget to share live updates!).

  5. Share the faces of family farming – Images gain nearly 50% more Re-Tweets than any other content on Twitter so this will definitely make an impact and the FAO has a great collection of images to choose.

  6. Spread the word – simple additions to your social media activity, such as using #IYFF14, changing your profile picture to a family farmer or sharing any of the above content, takes minutes but will help raise awareness of the incredible work family farmers do around the world everyday!
Follow @FertilizerNews and subscribe to our International Year of Family Farming Twitter list to stay up to date.

Re-published from Global Food Security


If 2014 is truly to be Africa’s Year of Agriculture and Food Security, then Africa’s production potential has to be addressed, says IFA Vice President for Africa Alassane Diallo.

   Alassane Dialo, IFA Vice President Africa

   Directeur Général, ICS Industries Chimiques du Sénégal

Africa has awoken. Ten of the world’s fastest growing economies are now in Africa, with around one third of our 54 countries seeing annual GDP growth of over 6%.

However, this momentum has not yet spread to all sectors. Cereal crop yields in Africa are only one-third as high as in developing Asia, and only one-tenth  as high as the United States. When one in five Africans still goes to bed hungry – how can this sector be ignored?
The African Union has named 2014 to be the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in order to set out steps towards a hunger free and sustainable Africa. In my view, one major part of this puzzle that must be tackled is Africa’s incredibly low use of fertilizer.


Fertilizer storage in Africa. But use is relatively low on the continent.

Image: IFDC/Danielle Mbesherubusa on Flickr


Sub-Saharan Africa represents 10% of the total global population yet only 0.8% of total fertilizer use. Considering 75% of sub-Saharan Africa’s soils are degraded, this makes little sense. It is estimated that nutrient losses from agricultural soils in sub-Saharan Africa are worth the equivalent of $4 billion annually. The African Union has called for an increase in the level of use of fertilizer from the average of 8 kilograms per hectare in 2006 to at least 50 kilograms per hectare by 2015.


But what will it take to make this happen?


Room for growth


The first way to improve access to fertilizer is through investment in infrastructure. Without adequate road and port facilities, costs of transporting fertilizer remain high, and well out of reach for many smallholders. Currently, only 16% of Africa’s 1.8 million kilometres of roads are paved – an obvious area for improvement.

Improving port facilities to receive greater volumes of fertilizer as Yara is doing in Tanzania, will also temper prices. Rwanda has subsidized transport costs since 2008 and as a result has seen its maize yield increase by 73%.

There are barriers to fertilizer accessibility and affordability.
Image: IFDC

Another route to improved fertilizer use is through proper training programs for farmers and agricultural input retailers. Fertilizer will have the most impact if farmers use the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place.

The fertilizer industry, in partnership with international and national research and extension organizations, is addressing this education challenge. The Africa Fertilizer Volunteer Program, which we at IFA recently launched, supports global fertilizer experts in volunteering their time and knowledge to help build a vibrant African fertilizer value chain, and thus improve smallholder access to fertilizer.

Harnessing potential


Of course, access to fertilizer is only one of the many interventions that African farmers need to boost their productivity in the future. The work carried out by One Acre Fund, for example, bundles the timely, local distribution of inputs like fertilizers and improved seeds with three other interventions a farmer requires – namely, credit, training to improve farmers’ profits and links to a market to sell their produce. This model has been shown to double beneficiaries’ yields, giving those farmers not only the food and nutrition security they need, but also a resilient livelihood.

Fertilizer also has an important role to play in terms of levelling the field for female farmers. FAO has recorded women’s use of fertilizer as being significantly lower than men’s, mainly due to lack of access to this vital input. This is a major factor that contributes to their yields being around 20-30% lower than men’s. It has been cited that this gap could be bridged sizably by improving women’s access to fertilizer and such an intervention could feed a further 150 million people.

Women applying fertilizer to Cassava plants in Nigeria.
Image: IITA on Flickr

When equipped with the means to use fertilizer effectively, Africa could see its food production soar. When this effective use of fertilizer is coupled with improved seeds and the application of up-to-date engineering and agronomic knowledge, studies have shown cereal grain yields can triple, from one tonne per hectare to three tonnes per hectare.

We already have 60% of the world’s potential additional farmland, and by giving its soil the nutrients it needs could have a dramatic impact on crop yields, the livelihood of African smallholders, and consequently food and nutrition security levels on the continent and around the world

If 2014 is truly to be Africa’s Year of Agriculture and Food Security, then the Africa fertilizer gap has to be addressed; we must find ways to get this vital input into farmers’ hands. Only then can a Green Revolution in Africa truly flourish.

March always presents the perfect platform to discuss gender equality throughout the world with International Women’s Day and the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). In the opening address of CSW58 this year, UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcukastrongly stated: “We cannot ensure food security and adequate nutrition for all without ensuring that the world’s women farmers and food producers have access to land, credit, and technology and the right to feed themselves and their families.” 

Women in Leadership Roles

Dinnah Kapiza, Investment Chairperson for The Africa Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), is helping to shape the future for women in agriculture.

Kapiza, who originates from a farming village in Malawi, is unfortunately all too aware of the rarity of women reaching the position she holds at AFAP, as she states: “It’s a pity that few women are in the agri-businesses sector because most food in my country is produced by women.”

In fact only 16.2% of ministerial-level positions are held by women worldwide, leaving women with little power at policy level. This has a huge impact on the ability of governments to supply all farmers with the necessary inputs and tools, as the needs and struggles of female farmers are not communicated at this level. AFAP aims to fill this current gap at policy-level by working with the public and private sector to ensure farmers have access to fertilizers to increase yields and profits.  

Ensuring women, like Kapiza, hold positions of responsibility at organisations such as AFAP is vital to both ensure the needs of women are considered when providing access to fertilizer and to encourage more women to aim for a career in agri-business, as Kapiza says: “Although I started small, I am glad that my dream is becoming a reality, more farmers are using fertilizer, therefore boosting their yields” 

Levelling the field

Last month the World Bank and advocacy group ONE released the report ‘Levelling the field: Improving opportunities for women farmers in Africa’. The report addresses the yield-gap between women and men in Africa. Sipho Moyo, Africa director at advocacy group ONE, highlights the economic disparity that still exists between men and women in agriculture saying: “It is a real injustice to Africa’s women farmers and their families that women make up nearly half of the labour force in agriculture but on average produce less per hectare than men.”

Moyo’s statement reinforces previous statistics from the UN Food and Agriculture’s (FAO) 2010-11 State of Food Insecurity in the World report that also looks at the gender yield gap. The FAO found that if women were given equal access to resources agriculture output would increase by 2.5-4% in developing countries.

It is evident that addressing equality in agriculture is still a major issue in 2014. As the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals are established we hope the Millennium Develop Goal to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education will go further to address the yield gap in agriculture.


Leading up to 2015 follow these Twitter accounts to join the gender equality dialogue:

by Charlotte Hebebrand, IFA Director General

The second volume of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report “The Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” was released yesterday. It shows the dramatic impacts to be expected in the near future on agriculture and food production patterns Agriculture practices will need to evolve quickly and both farmers and the fertilizer industry will need to innovate. The industry believes that one of the most important actions to building climate-smart agricultural practices is to improve outreach to farmers on correct and balanced fertilizer application.
The fertilizer industry regards farmers – large and small - worldwide as strategic partners since they are the ultimate customers and users of our products. We depend on farmers, big, medium and small, men, women and youth, to use our products appropriately and cost effectively so they can raise their yields, increase their incomes, improve their livelihoods and take care of their soils and the environment.
In my view, the climate change debate around agriculture and fertilizer centers around the following key three questions:

How is fertilizer production and use linked to the environment and climate change?

Crop nutrients, whether organic or mineral, are the food that feed the plants, which in turn feed the people. Therefore fertilizers constitute key ingredients for food security. Where soils are degraded and lack the appropriate macro and micro nutrients, yields are dismally low and the nutritional content of crops is deficient, also contributing to poor health for the population. There are not enough organic fertilizers available to meet agricultural demand worldwide. In regions where organic matter and residues are not available because of little livestock and small farm volumes, supplementing with mineral fertilizers is imperative to avoid nutrient mining and soil degradation.

Mineral fertilizers have contributed 40 percent (1)  to the increase of our global food supply in the past 50 years. Moreover, they help us to maximize the potential of our increasingly scarce arable land around the world and thus preserve our forests and biodiversity. Fertilizers facilitate sustainable agricultural intensification. An astonishing 89 percent of agriculture’s future greenhouse gas mitigation potential is based on soil carbon sequestration, and forests of course play a vital role. Farmers therefore play a very important role – with help from fertilizers – to mitigate climate change.

When taking into account the production, distribution and application of mineral fertilizers, it is estimated that fertilizers contribute about 2.5 percent of total global emissions (estimated at 1240 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2007). When you break this figure down, it becomes apparent that the largest part of these emissions occurs at the point of application/consumption of fertilizers: 1.5 percent of total global emissions accounting for 60 percent of fertilizers emissions, compared to 0.93 percent of total global emissions from the production of fertilizers and 0.07 from their distribution (Fertilizers, Climate Change and Enhancing Agricultural Productivity Sustainably -2009).  Emissions from fertilizer use of course have to be evaluated in the context of the need for mitigation.

How can we most effectively minimize the negative impacts of fertilizers on the environment?

The fertilizer industry is actively taking steps to reduce emissions of ammonia and nitrous oxide, as well as nitrate leaching and phosphate runoff into surface and groundwater. Some of these steps involve innovation and research that have resulted in new technologies such as:
- foliar application;
- coated soluble granules to allow controlled release of nutrients in the root zone;
- urea deep placement: using super-granules of urea in rice production to improve nitrogen recovery;
- adding inhibitors to slow the conversion of urea fertilizer to ammonia and thereby minimize potential ammonia loss to the atmosphere;
- fertigation: adding soluble fertilizer to irrigation water to deliver nutrients to the root zone in a more precise and timely manner.

In addition to new fertilizer products, the methods of application at the farm level play an important role in the lifecycle of fertilizers. The industry is a strong proponent of the 4R nutrient stewardship framework. This framework conveys to farmers the principles of using the right fertilizer sources at the right rate, right time and right place so as to achieve economic, social and environmental goals. It has been shown that improved management practices such as application rate, timing, and method, plus cover crops and reduced tillage can reduce nutrient losses by up to an average of 30 percent (Fertilizer Best Management Practices - 2007).

What are the common interests that the fertilizer industry and farmers should pursue?

The framework of how to establish best management practices already exists, but we must focus more on how it applies to specific regions and crops and how to better disseminate this type of knowledge among the world’s millions of farmers. By promoting nutrient stewardship at national and regional level, we can safely and sustainably feed a growing population, while reducing nutrient loss to the environment and thus helping mitigate climate change.

Our industry has a role to play in empowering smallholders in Africa, Asia and Latin America to rise above subsistence and become dynamic commercial farmers and we are hopeful that farmers’ organizations can help us in this outreach effort. At a time when most governments can no longer bear the cost of expensive public extension programs, advisory services, training, and sharing of best practices requires more public-private partnerships and greater use of information technology.

In conclusion, sustainable agricultural intensification and climate change mitigation must not be viewed as a trade-off. These two are sides of the same coin. Any sustainable development effort must reflect input from food security experts, environmental scientists, and farmers as food security, the environment, and the farm are inextricably linked. Farmers and the fertilizer industry can and should work together to develop site-specific outreach and training programs in order to ensure that the world’s farmers can continue with the most important task they have of feeding the world, and do so with reduced environmental effects, while becoming more resilient to climate change.

(1) Smil, V. 2002. Nitrogen and food production: Proteins for human diets. Ambio, 31: 126–131cited in FAO (2006). Fertilizer Use By Crop. Fertilizer and Plant Nutrition Bulletin. 17. Page 3.

Five Important Quotes from The Economist: Feeding the World 2014

March 3, 2014

The Economist’s Feeding the World conferences unite organisations, businesses, policy-makers and NGOs to discuss global food and nutritional security every year. This year’s event took place in London on February 13th and the conference focused on ‘Sustainable solutions for a global crisis’. 

Speakers at the event included Deputy Director of the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Kanayo Nwanze and IFA President, Esin Mete. 

To capture the tone and scope of the discussion, we look at some of the most important quotes from this years’ event: 

1. "Ten percent of global health problems can be traced back to micronutrient deficiencies" - Esin Mete - include Zero Hunger Challenge 

For years food security has been at the top of the global development agenda but this year’s event proved that the issue of nutrition should be treated with equal urgency. Many speakers raised the global malnutrition crisis but this quote from IFA’s president really put the crisis into a harrowing context.

2. "When women are economically empowered, children are better fed. To transform rural areas, invest in rural women" Kanayo Nwanze 

With International Women’s Day taking place on the 8 March it’s important to highlight this quote from IFAD president Kanayo Nwanze. Women are at the heart of global development because as primary caregivers they are essential to providing children with the necessary nutrients for the first 1,000 days of life, which is recognised by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) organisation as a crucial period for the long-term health of children. 

3. “A one percent increase in agriculture GDP will have 5 times more impact than same GDP increase in any other sector" Mark Goldring (Oxfam) 

Agriculture was absent from discussions at COP19 in November last year yet this quote from the Chief Executive of Oxfam in Great Britain, Mark Goldring, illustrates why agriculture needs to beat the forefront of such discussions. This is particularly important to highlight in the lead up to the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. With five times more impact than any other sector, agriculture must be included in these goals next year.

4. "African farmers need local agrodealers to provide region-specific fertilizer blends and seeds" Sir Gordon Conway 

Delivering context-specific solutions for rural farming communities is essential if the necessary inputs are to reach those at the heart of food and nutritional security, smallholder farmers. Moreover, smallholders need better access to extension services so that they acquire the know-how that will enable them to maximize the return on these region-specific inputs.

5. "Scaling up innovation for agriculture is a high priority for food security given climate change" Jonathan Shriers 

The pressure on farmers to produce enough nutritious food to feed a growing population increases every year as the population rises. Yet the sector must also develop solutions to mitigate its impact on the climate, as agriculture uses a significant amount of the world’s resources (currently the sector uses 70% of the world’s available water). 

Innovations in the industry, from new farming methods to new technology, have the ability minimise the resources agriculture requires to produce enough nutritious food yet these often struggle to reach farmers, particularly those in rural areas. Ensuring farmers have the capacity to adopt new technologies is essential for the sustainable development of the sector. 

The above quotes convey the challenges facing the agriculture industry, from gender equality to building local knowledge for farmers, yet one message that stands out from this year’s event is the central role of nutrition must play in global development. 

IFA’s Director General Charlotte Hebebrand highlighted recently in her blog on the Zero Hunger Challenge website “we have managed to halve poverty in 10 years; the same determination should be shown for facilitating access to nutritious food for everyone, everywhere.” This determination must be driven by ensuring nutrition is raised at events like The Economist: Feeding the World conference. Goals set by the Zero Hunger Challenge, which include zero stunted children under the age of two, can also help ensure nutrition is not neglected from the Sustainable Development Goals – discover more about the Zero Hunger Challenge today: 

Follow #econenviro and the below Twitter accounts to join the online dialogue from The Economist: Feeding the World.

IFA @fertilizernews 
Kanayo Nwanze @knwanze
Oxfam GB @oxfamgb 
Agriculture for Impact @Ag4Impact
Jonathan Shrier @StateDeptGFS 

Nourishing tomorrow by fulfilling the Zero Hunger Challenge today
by Charlotte Hebebrand, IFA Director General

February 13, 2014

Charlotte Hebebrand, Director General of the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), wrote this post to coincide with today's The Economist: Feeding the World Summit in London, the theme of which is "Feeding the World 2014: Sustainable Solutions for a Global Crisis."

Eradicating hunger and malnutrition in our lifetime needs to be set explicitly as a societal goal. We have managed to halve poverty in 10 years; the same determination should be shown for facilitating access to nutritious food for everyone,everywhere. This is the International Fertilizer Industry Association’s main motivation behind joining the Zero Hunger Challenge. It is the right choice, one that makes sense as both a global citizen and a private sector actor. 

By providing the essential macro- and micro-nutrients for crop growth, fertilizers are an essential ingredient in the drive towards world food security. IFA represents the global fertilizer industry, which produces 170 million tons of crop nutrients annually that are used in every corner of the globe to grow the crops that feed a growing population.

We at IFA believe the Zero Hunger Challenge to be a key accelerator for the Millenium Development Goals and a terrific kick-start for the Sustainable Development Goals. We are thrilled to be working alongside any and all stakeholders from the private sector,multilateral organizations, national governments and research institutes to advance this goal of food and nutrition security for all which is realistic,common-sense and most importantly, achievable within our lifetime.

The five elements of the Zero Hunger Challenge perfectly complement the fertilizer industry’s contribution to food and nutrition security:
  • The fertilizer industry contributes to better nutrition for all through micronutrient fertilization which yields spectacular results and benefits children under the age of two and women in the early stages of pregnancy. This is particularly true in the case of Zinc micronutrient fertilization which increases yields and eliminates stunting.
  • The products supplied by the fertilizer industry help increase crop yields and food production, thus helping feed an increasing global population.
  • Using extension services and nu­trient stewardship,the fertilizer in­dustry promotes the efficient use of fertilizer, mitigating nutrient losses, reducing carbon footprint, preserving water quality and thus rendering food systems more sus­tainable.
    Fertilizers also help increase smallholder productivity and income by providing the pro­per crop nutrients and advisory services through public-private partnerships.
  • Lastly, the fertilizer industry de­velops products that extend the lifecycle of food, such as cal­cium-based and boron-supple­mented fertilizers,which improve post-harvest integrity of crops and reduce loss of food.
IFA leadership has taken up the Zero Hunger Challenge and actively promotes it among its 560 member companies in 84 countries – half of which hail from developing countries, where food and nutrition security is a hot topic under which more work still needs to be done. Given our association’s demographics, it was a logical choice for us to embark on a mission to advance food and nutrition security, which is most lacking in poverty-stricken areas of the less-developed and developing world.

The diversity of our members does not always permit uniform standardized action, but we actively encourage all our members (producers, traders,transporters, technology-developers) to apply the five elements of the ZeroHunger Challenge as a scorecard within their companies and within their communities to enhance contribution to eradicating hunger and malnutrition in our lifetime.

While fertilizers thus play a key role in fostering global food security, there is still much that the industry can do in order to contribute to the goal of Zero Hunger.  I would like to highlight two issues in particular:

I. The most food insecure regions have the lowest fertilizer application rates. Research conducted by the UKDepartment for International Development (DFID)  revealed that farmers in Sub-SaharanAfrica  used an average of 5 to 10 kg offertilizer per hectare, compared to 50 kg/ha in South Africa and 165 kg/ha inBrazil. We at IFA are putting a spotlight on the Sub-Saharan region and have launched an Africa Initiative to address the reasons such as infrastructure, access to markets and extension services that make fertilizers inaccessible to many farmers in Africa.  To this end we have partnered with the AfricanFertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) on the Africa Fertilizer Volunteer Program (AFVP) which will be launched on February 20 at the Africa Fertilizer Conference (FMB Africa) in Marrakesh.

II. Despite the importance of our products to global food security, the fertilizer industry cannot rest on its laurels.  Wemust redouble our efforts to address inefficient fertilizer use, which can leadto suboptimal yields and to nutrient losses to the environment.  Many ofour members have nutrient stewardship programs underway, but the challenge ofreaching out to millions of farmers remains formidable.  Governments andinternational organizations, such as the FAO, partnered with the industry duringthe Green Revolution in the 1960s to demonstrate the benefits of fertilizers tofarmers, and thus helped to bring about impressive productivity growth. Today, there is a need for the industry to partner with governments andother stakeholders, such as farmers' associations and other players in theagrifood chain, to reach out to farmers again in order to effectivelydisseminate fertilizer best management practices.

We do our share of promoting the five elements of the Zero Hunger Challenge among our members, related industries along the agrifood chain and with policy-makers. IFA has systematically promoted the ZHC principles and visual in all our communications: side-events, speeches, presentation, blogs, articles, as well as through our social media channels.

We are grateful for the opportunity of working towards a noble and necessary goal and are hopeful that other industries, multilateral organizations, think tanks, NGOs, research institutes and national governments will soon join the Zero Hunger family so that together we can nourish today’s world and shape a sound and prosperous tomorrow.

This post does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of the Zero Hunger Challenge, and does not imply endorsement by the United Nations.

The Importance of Corporate Reputation in the Fertilizer Industry

Earning the trust and support of key stakeholders is crucial to any industry, as it can help spread essential messaging to a wide audience. In the case of the fertilizer industry, a positive corporate reputation can help facilitate educating the sector on the safe and sustainable use of fertilizers whilst also promoting the role fertilizer plays in food and nutritional security. When tackling complex issues such as these, though, it can be difficult to ensure your corporate messaging is delivered effectively to such a wide spectrum of people. That's why events such as the upcoming 'Bridging Thoughts' conference, which aims to engage stakeholders in the importance of clear communications for the industry, are so valuable.

From 28-30th January IFA is hosting 'Bridging Thoughts - joint Communications/Agriculture/Innovation & Research Meeting' an event aimed at highlighting the importance of communications and corporate reputation in agriculture, and the fertilizer industry in particular. 64 Key IFA members from all categories (producers, transporters, consultants, research institutes, national associations) and from 17 countries attended sessions about 2014 communications strategies, sustainability and reputational analysis. 

One key element of corporate reputation is transparency. Being open and honest about your company’s goals, achievements and challenges can build trust, as well as increasing the authenticity of your messages. Building trust is particularly beneficial to the fertilizer industry as it can ensure stakeholders are sourcing information from the industry itself and therefore listening to the true facts about fertilizer, rather than ill-informed speculation. The fertilizer sector is particularly vulnerable in this respect because it is often assimilated to negatively perceived industries, such as crop protection, seed and biotechnology.  

The ever-increasing influence of digital channels offers the fertilizer industry the perfect opportunity to reach out to stakeholders, providing useful information and so building trust. Social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, and online content generation, such as videos, infographics and images, offer the industry the opportunity to be transparent about their actions and to highlight key contributions to the societal goals we share. Our top tips for how the fertilizer industry can successfully use digital channels to both their and their stakeholders advantage are:  
1 - Create an engaging website that provides the sector with a hub of reliable information about your company (such as safety regulations and product information), This will also drive those with questions about the fertilizer industry to your website to find the information they need.
2 - Develop a recognisable voice for your company online using social media platforms, such as Twitter. This enables your company to interact with the online dialogue on fertilizers, giving you the opportunity to offer timely answers, advice and news on the topic. It also offers your company the chance to build on IFA’s Twitter account (@FertilizerNews) and respond to key global events, such as World Water Week, so you can explain the link between fertilizer, food and water security to a wider audience. (see list of top Twitter users to follow below) 
3 - Display complex or data-heavy information in an infographic, video or image, instead of a graph or report. This can help a wider audience to understand some of the more complex issues around fertilizer use and enables your company to share information in a quick and simple manner. 

This level of transparency is already benefiting agricultural businesses. Some companies in the sector have taken the lead. On the input side, Syngenta's 'Good Growth Plan' outlines a clear strategic plan for the company, offering six commitments for Syngenta to achieve by 2020. Creating a designated section for the Good Growth Plan on their website and using a #goodgrowthplan hashtag, so that social media users can track their progress, demonstrates Syngenta's desire to be transparent about its activity over the next six years. This has already led to positive perceptions of Syngenta, with the Financial Times stating: 
"What sets Syngenta’s initiative – the “Good Growth Plan” – apart from other corporate programmes is the ambitious targets it has set for itself – and the pledge that it will be audited by external organisations every year."

This example of how the industry can openly share targets, data and results clearly shows the benefits of managing your corporate reputation. Unilever’s Living Plan is also a good example from the food processing sector. 

The 'Bridging Thoughts' event hopes to unite the fertilizer industry around the power of effective communication, and its potential to transform corporate reputations and build trust for the fertilizer industry around its strategic role in sustainable agriculture and in ending hunger and malnutrition. 

Want to join the online conversation? Here's some key Twitter accounts to follow:

Canadian Fertilizer Institute @CdnFertInst 
Clyde Graham, Vice President of the Canadian Fertilizer Institute @clydegraham
Mosaic Company @MosaicCompany 
Zero Hunger Challange @ZeroHunger 
UN Food and Agriculutre Organisation @FAOnews
GrowGreenUSA @GrowGreen_ 
Syngenta @Syngenta 
Food Tank @Food_Tank
CargillFoodSecurity @foodsecureworld
4R @4Rnutrients
IFPRI @ifpri
CropLife International @CropLifeIntl
Farming First @FarmingFirst
CCAFS @cgiarclimate

Keep up to date with all the latest news from IFA: 
Twitter: @FertilizerNews