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African Leaders Meet to Tackle Food Crisis

African leaders, farmers and international agriculture experts are meeting in Nigeria to come up with solutions to soil degradation and food shortages on the world's poorest continent.

The so-called African fertilizer summit hopes to adopt strategies that could boost food production on the continent.

Some 200 million people in Africa are said to suffer from hunger, partly due to low soil fertility.

Experts say increased use of fertilizer is very important to achieving the green revolution Africa desperately needs.

"Clearly, African farmers need to replenish the soil nutrients. That means using chemical fertilizer and organic methods, both," said Jeffrey Sachs, a professor of sustainable development at Columbia University in New York. "This is critical, because we know that when farmers can use these better inputs, their food outputs can be doubled or tripled, or even quadrupled in some cases. Africa is a hungry continent, in part, because the soils are depleted of nutrients."

Farmers in Africa use an average of eight kilograms of fertilizer per hectare yearly, as opposed to between 100- and 200-kilograms in other regions.

Average farm yields have continue to decline, leading to hunger and malnutrition.

Professor Sachs says rich countries have a responsibility to help Africa reverse the trend.

"The key, however, is not only what to do, but how to get it done, because Africa's poor farmers are too poor to buy the chemical and organic soil nutrients that they need," he added. "So, the rich world, instead of shipping food aid, should be helping small-holder African farmers get the inputs of fertilizer, improved seeds and organic methods, so that the farmers can grow more food on their own, and feed the African continent."

More than 500 delegates, including donor agencies, African agriculture ministers, farmers and international agriculture experts are attending technical sessions that opened in Abuja on Saturday.

Several African leaders and heads of international development agencies are expected in the Nigerian capital on Tuesday to endorse a framework for agricultural growth, food security and rural development.