Nitrogen management for future food security: Sub-Saharan African case-study

Cargele Masso, Peter Ebanyat, Fredrick Baijukya, Mateete Bekunda, Sifi Bouaziz, John Wendt, Bernard Vanlauwe


One of the definitions for food security is having sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet dietary needs. There is an overdue need to optimize nitrogen use for food and nutrition security in developing countries particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, while minimizing environmental risks. In the past, nitrogen related environmental issues have often been associated with excessive use; however, of recently, challenges related to ‘too little’ nitrogen use has been recognized. In sub-Saharan Africa, nitrogen management must address the ‘too little’ and ‘too much’ paradox. Too little nitrogen is used in food production, which has led to chronic food insecurity and malnutrition. Conversely, too much nitrogen load in water bodies due mainly to excessive soil erosion, leaching, limited nitrogen recovery from wastewater, and atmospheric deposition still contributes to eutrophication in some areas. Significant research has been conducted to improve N use for food production, whereas little has been done to effectively address the ‘too much’ issues. The current research gaps must be addressed, and supportive policies operationalized, to maximize on nitrogen benefits, while reducing its negative impacts on the environment. Innovation platforms involving key stakeholders are required to address the nitrogen use efficiency along the full food supply chain in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as other World regions with similar challenges.