Nourishing tomorrow by fulfilling the Zero Hunger Challenge today

Blog by Charlotte Hebebrand

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:

How the Fertilizer Industry can contribute to the Zero HungerChallenge

  • 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 Zero Hunger 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 UK Department for International Development (DFID)  revealed that farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa  used an average of 5 to 10 kg of fertilizer per hectare, compared to 50 kg/ha in South Africa and 165 kg/ha in Brazil. 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 African Fertilizer 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.  We must redouble our efforts to address inefficient fertilizer use, which can lead to suboptimal yields and to nutrient losses to the environment.  Many of our members have nutrient stewardship programs underway, but the challenge of reaching out to millions of farmers remains formidable.  Governments and international organizations, such as the FAO, partnered with the industry during the Green Revolution in the 1960s to demonstrate the benefits of fertilizers to farmers, and thus helped to bring about impressive productivity growth.  Today, there is a need for the industry to partner with governments and other stakeholders, such as farmers’ associations and other players in the agrifood chain, to reach out to farmers again in order to effectively disseminate 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.

IFA-headshot Charlotte Hebebrand

Charlotte Hebebrand is the Director General of the International Fertilizer Industry Association, a Zero Hunger Challenge participant.

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