Local phosphate resources for sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa. (CR/02/121N).


Soil degradation and infertility are major constraints to the sustainability of agricultural systems in many developing countries, particularly those located in the tropical humid lowlands of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) deficiencies are recognised as major constraints to sustainable agricultural productivity. Whereas nitrogen deficits can be restored, at least in part, through the application of organic crop residues and manure or by the use of cover crops, the restoration of soil P-status can only be achieved by the use of phosphate fertilisers. The socio-economic situation for most African farmers is, however, such that they are unlikely to be able to afford to purchase manufactured mineral fertilizers required to replenish this deficit. The most vulnerable groups of subsistence farmers, such as those practising shifting cultivation or cultivating marginal lands are already seeing production levels fall as soil fertility declines. Most developing countries in SSA need to meet the needs of growing populations without damaging the resource base. DFID's Sustainable Agriculture Strategy [1995 #1760] clearly identifies the need to increase crop yields through the prevention of erosion, the introduction of stable farming systems, improving genetic material, and the use of organic and, inorganic fertilisers.

Agronomists, agricultural economists, renewable natural resources and mineral resources advisers in local and national governments, international bodies including development agencies, and NGOs working with poor farmers, may not be adequately aware of locally available phosphate rock resources and their agronomic potential, as a low-cost source of phosphate, for the enhancement of soil fertility and productive capacity of relatively poor, smallholder farmers. There is a need to ensure that the use and development of local resources is considered as an option for restoring the P-status and productive capacity of degraded soils. Unfortunately, much of the information required to inform the consideration of this option is widely dispersed in reports, scientific publications, symposia and workshop proceedings that may not be readily available to advisers working in the developing countries of sub-Saharan Africa. This report presents the first of a series of three regional reviews (covering sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America) that seek to provide advisers with a concise summary of national and regional information on locally available phosphate resources. The report deals with the Sub-Saharan Africa region with special emphasis on Angola, Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The first section of the report contains regional or generic reviews of:

Phosphate mineral resources of Sub-Saharan Africa including information on phosphate rock and phosphate fertilizer production, consumption, and export

Phosphate rock products and processing options

Estimated investment required for mining, infrastructure and processing options

Constraints for utilisation of phosphate rock resources

Environmental constraints related to heavy/hazardous elements contained in the rock phosphates or their by-products.

Existing or anticipated direct use of phosphate rock in agriculture including general results of agronomic and economic assessments.

Role of phosphate rock in strategies for dealing with soil fertility

The second section of the report comprises thirty-one country profiles, each of which summarises:

Quantity, quality and location of local phosphate rock deposits/sources in each country. Maps indicate the location of the phosphate resources and major transport routes

Past and current phosphate rock production including export as intermediate/raw materials and local use in agriculture

Agronomic and agro-economic assessments of rock phosphates and associated phosphate fertilizer products, including information on the soil types and crops likely to show a positive response to direct application of rock phosphate fertilisers.

A summary of the quantity, quality, production, agronomic testing, use and development potential of the phosphate resources of sub-Saharan Africa, together with their geological type and age is provided in the final section of the report.

Local Phosphate Resources for Sustainable Development is an 'enabling project' which aims to support the context for poverty reduction and elimination. In order to enable poverty alleviation, the project focuses on the promotion of local use rather than the export of phosphate. The project cannot ensure that poor communities and farmers will not be adversely affected, for example, by ensuring that areas that are currently used, for whatever purpose, by poor people are not recommended as areas for phosphate rock extraction. Only the appropriate advisers and local authorities can achieve this. This review report is not targeted to ensure that the knowledge in them will be readily accessible by the poor, but is directed at people who work with and on behalf of the poor.

This report is available to download in full colour (3378 kb) and black and white (3378 kb).


Local phosphate resources for sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa. (CR/02/121N).

Published 1 January 2002