Administrator Samantha Power at the U.S. Global Fertilizer Challenge Event

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Saturday, November 12, 2022
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ADMINISTRATOR POWER: It's been a great pleasure – personal pleasure – and privilege of mine to get to work so closely with Secretary Vilsack on this whole range of issues that we will now touch upon as it relates to the developing world in this second panel. I want to thank not only Secretary Vilsack – who is an incredible partner, as you can imagine, but the discussion in the first panel didn't stray from the topic that we're grappling with here, which is what can be done in developing countries.

Indeed, I found it very moving to hear the German State Secretary talk about the unsustainability of previous approaches in light of the crisis level of need that is gripping so many communities in sub-Saharan Africa – which when we'll hear about from the Commissioner, but well beyond. It's been amazing to work with the International Fertilizer Association and Alzbeta and – just the dynamism that you saw from her here with Sustain Africa – I didn't even see you – working so closely with Yara and with other companies. 

I think this is really just the beginning of what a public-private partnership on this range of issues can look like. So, I couldn't be more thrilled by the Fertilizer Challenge that has been issued today – already by the partnerships that USAID and other U.S. governmental actors have been able to nurture and grow through Sustain Africa and beyond – and I really think – never let a crisis go to waste – we have a chance to lay a foundation in the way we interact with one another now that is going to serve us not only in this moment of dire need, where fertilizer prices are where they are, and where issues of accessibility, affordability, and sustainability – the trifecta – are so challenging, particularly for smallholder farmers. But, this can lay a foundation for rendering that effort sustainable in the future. And so, I think the first panel really gave a great preview of what we're going to talk about here in our discussion. 

I don't really have to start with much of what President Obama used to call admiring the problem – framing – everybody is familiar with the prices that have put fertilizer out of reach. Everybody is familiar with the supply chain challenges. Russia's invasion of Ukraine and all that has wrought, first and foremost for the people of Ukraine, but then the cascading effects of the fertilizer export bans that President Putin put in place before the war – and then of course, the compounding of the pre-existing inflationary and other supply chain price increases that the war has caused. 

But, any of you who have traveled to sub-Saharan Africa – or really just about any part of the world – where in the developing world, you've encountered farmers who are just unsure what to do in this moment. They, many of them, have incurred debt, making assumptions about how much fertilizer they will be able to get access to. 

Or they're turning up at the local shop to procure their fertilizer, and they see it's twice or sometimes three times the price and they are asking themselves – okay, what do I do here – do I plant half as much – well, I can't because actually, my school fees for my kids are dependent on me planting just as much – there's no margin here – and that is why this community coming together is so very important. 

We, at USAID, have been doing work through Feed the Future and other programs for a very long time on issues of accessibility and sustainability. It is incredibly important that we have met collectively the President's goal of raising $100 million – as was announced, I know, before I got here. I think we have so much proof of what works – so much proof of concept about precision deployment of fertilizer customization. 

We, at USAID, are funding the space to place initiative, which allows us to take advantage of the data and the satellite technologies that now exist – and get right down to a smartphone – the information that the smallholder needs to know – just how much fertilizer to deploy and how to do it there – the information the knowledge is there. The innovation is continual. But, we need to scale these efforts.

It's, to me, thrilling to see the empirical results of the work that we're doing in the field, and heartbreaking to know how few farmers still have access to the innovations that in the United States, mercifully, so many farmers are now able, you know, to take for granted – thanks in part to the work of Secretary Vilsack and the USDA. So, when we do a fertilizer precision program and see an 80% decrease in fertilizer waste, and a doubling of yields, we want to take that on the road. 

And so, a few weeks ago, I announced an additional $27 million to expand an effort that we have launched in Ethiopia – to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. And we think again, the sky is the limit on these programs. We're eager to see the African Union Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan. 

We want to support this effort – taking up a coordinated plan – and syncing our activities will allow us to avoid duplication, but also achieve that scale. And African voices have to be at the center of this enterprise. We know that has not always been the case, or even not often been the case, in some of these initiatives. We have a chance to do things better, and differently as we meet the moment and lay a foundation to be able to weather future crises, because we know – sadly – that this will not be the last. So, thank you all.

U.S. Center Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

Last updated: December 06, 2022

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