Unraveling Soil Fertility Dilemma By Smallholders In Sub-Saharan Africa: Do Arbuscular 1 Mycorrhiza Fungi Have A Role To Play?
Mugendi, Njeru E.
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Declining soil fertility continues to pose a major threat to sustainable food production by smallholders in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). With increasing population pressure and expansion of infrastructure there is rapid sub-division of the available land for farming from small to very small. Consequently, the 20th century farming systems predominated by shifting cultivation are no longer feasible. The global climate change has deteriorated the situation especially in arid and semi-arid lands, which are dominated by pastoralist communities. Poor farming methods, particularly continuous cropping without proper soil management strategies, have contributed significantly to soil fertility degradation. Being resource limited, most smallholders in SSA cannot afford the conventional soil fertility management strategies dominated by high use of inorganic fertilizers and agrochemicals considering their escalating prices. Therefore, low external input or organic farming, which involves effective utilization of ecological processes and soil microorganisms, such as arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi (AMF), could play a significant role in enhancing sustainable crop production in SSA. The evidence available suggests that adoption and effective utilization of AMF by smallholders in SSA could substantially contribute in augmenting soil fertility. This paper explores various strategies, opportunities, and challenges towards the embracing of AMF technology by smallholder farming systems in SSA. Particular attention is devoted to soil nutrients, mainly P, soil stability, soil biodiversity and key intervention strategies towards achieving soil fertility sustainability via AMF integration. As evidenced by studies from different parts of the world and our previous work, we believe that AMF adoption in the region will contribute significantly to food sustainability enhancement in SSA. Key words: Soil Fertility, Sub-Saharan Africa, Smallholders, Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi, Low Input Agriculture