By Duncan Mboyah                                                                                                  Lack of soil micronutrients especially manganese, iron, zinc and boron is to blame for poor food security, stagnant growth and severe health problems in West and East Africa, the latest Food Africa reports says. The report concludes that overcoming micronutrient deficiencies will help solve the problem that haunts Africa’s agriculture.

“Good and healthy soil also has the potential to provide a robust and sustainable solution to human micronutrient deficiency,” says the report based on a study conducted in Benin, Cameroun, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.

Mercy Nyambura, Head of Spectral Laboratory, University of Mahammed VI Polytechnic in Morocco and one of the lead researchers says that “governments must start moving away from availing blanket fertilizers by offering customized fertilizers to offer balance for nutritious crops while customized fertilizers help reduce risks incurred by farmers and increasing good harvests,”

“Soil micronutrients are important for plant, animal and human nutrition,” she notes. Johanna Lindahl a veterinary epidemiologist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) says that new methods they developed reduce aflatoxins in crops by 80 percent.

Lindahl however says that Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAC) may provide a useful bio-control method to reduce exposure to aflatoxins from contaminated cereal and dairy products.

Steven Franzel, an agricultural economist at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) notes that Volunteer farmer Trainers (VFTs) has been found to be effective extension approach for helping farmers improve food security.

He says that as a result, 85 organizations across four countries adopted the volunteer farmer trainer approach, or modified the approach they were using, in part due to exposure to the research.

“The approach empowers women and improves their access to extension services that is currently lacking in most African countries,” he adds.

Funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland, the research-based Food Africa has been improving food security through understanding and then implementing sustainable food production; food safety and nutrition; and market access and extension.

So far 20,000 farmers from the six countries have improved the security and quality of their food supply thanks to the program. It is estimated that the program has had an impact on the lives of over 200,000 people from the countries.

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