In a March 29 commentary entitled, “Food for thought: In the short term, chemical fertilizers are the best way to feed Africa,” Nature opines:
Chemical fertilizers get a bad press, with some justification. Their use can pollute water supplies and generate significant greenhouse-gas emissions. But they are an excellent way to boost crop yields: they help to grow food. And in sub-Saharan Africa that means they can help to fill empty bellies and save lives…
Ultimately, the move towards a more sustainable form of agriculture will require investment to help farmers in Africa take advantage of alternatives to chemical fertilizers, although they will need to be convinced of the benefits of these new approaches.
The key to success is for farmers to choose the practices that will work best for them — past development efforts have shown that without buy-in from local communities, initiatives simply don’t work. For now, that has to mean improved access to fertilizers, because the choice between food and famine is an easy one.