IFA Chairman and Chairman and CEO of OCP Group
We are gathering to discuss sustainable plant nutrition because it is a key element of a serious global challenge that is also a huge opportunity: how to feed a growing global population, and make farming a sustainable and productive livelihood for all the world’s farmers – including the poorest smallholder farmers – while protecting the environment, adapting to climate change, and serving as responsible stewards of the planet’s natural resources.
Pushing ourselves to improve constantly in providing sustainable plant nutrition solutions to the world’s farmers is certainly an essential element of our response to this larger challenge. Maximizing the sustainable productivity of global agriculture means assuring that each acre under cultivation provides the maximum amount of nutritious food possible while only using the appropriate and necessary amount of inputs – including fertilizers – to achieve that best result. It is also essential to assure that we don’t use for agriculture any more of the planet’s land than we need to.
Getting this right is not just about the technical characteristics of the inputs we provide farmers, but the quality of the information, knowledge and support that farmers have to make the right decisions. We need to challenge ourselves to be not just input providers, but solution providers. This also means that we need to work more closely with a broader range of partners in the value chain who also contribute to helping farmers make the most of their land while minimizing any negative impact on that land and the larger environment – and indeed making agriculture a more positive force in managing climate change by enriching the soil’s capacity to absorb and store carbon.
This is a global challenge with regional variations. In much of the global North, the challenge is to help farmers maintain their high productivity under changing conditions while strengthening their stewardship of their land and the larger environment. In parts of the global South, and particularly Africa, the challenge is to help farmers maximize their currently- low productivity in a sustainable fashion, to improve their livelihoods. While this first Forum will focus on the global challenges and opportunities, in 2020 we will convene again in Kigali to turn our focus to Africa.