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Thursday, June 1, 2023

the distribution of ammonium sulphate fertilizers sparks a debate on their environmental impact

In Madagascar, the distribution of improved ammonium sulphate fertilizers, supposed to boost agricultural yields and allow the country to achieve food self-sufficiency, was a promise from the authorities. However, putting them on the market raises a lot of concerns about their environmental impact. The government, on this ground, wants to be reassuring. Explanations.

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With our correspondent in Antananarivo, Sarah Tetaud

In February 2023, Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina announced the official launch of the Improved Ammonium Sulfate Fertilizer Distribution Program. Nitrogen fertilizer from the nickel and cobalt production process extracted from the Ambatovy mine and offered to the Presidency by the mining giant. This endowment of agricultural inputs to farmers is one of the “Velirano”, the President’s promises, designed to allow the Big Island to achieve food self-sufficiency.

Only, the marketing of this fertilizer sold at low cost raises a lot of concerns as the ecological issues are important. For its part, the government wants to be reassuring.

If we acidify the soil too strongly, it’s over »

The properties of ammonium sulphate to increase yields no longer need to be demonstrated. Agronomists are unanimous on this point. However, its use on the island raises eyebrows among many experts who fear that this fertilizer, which has the main characteristic of acidifying the soil, will cause a disastrous effect on those which already have a marked acidity, such as the especially on the whole east coast.

>> To read also: In Madagascar, the strategic choice of “ricefish farming”

For an agronomist, who preferred to remain anonymous as the subject is sensitive, the risk is too great. ” If the soil is acidified too strongly, it becomes uncultivated, it’s over, he says. And after that, it’s years of work to restore it. The concern comes mainly from the fact that the circulation of products is difficult to master and control in Madagascar. We know it. We have simple and recent examples. »

It develops : ” For example, locust control uses chlorpyrifos to control locusts in the southern and western area of ​​the island. However, we now find residues of chlorpyrifos on products from the east coast, hundreds of kilometers away, where there are no locusts! It clearly shows that phytosanitary products cannot be limited to a specific area. They travel, they are exchanged, there are always parallel networks that are set up. And it is on this that we will have to be very careful because the real problem will be to master a product that everyone would like to use since its price will be very attractive. »

We have communicated very clear recommendations »

Well assessed risks, says Harifidy Ramilison, the Minister of Agriculture, who ensures that measures have been taken to avoid any danger: “ We started with 11 regions. And we supervised the distribution by setting up farmer trainers. We have communicated very clear recommendations on the types of soils on which we should not use this fertilizer. In addition, we work with Jica [l’agence japonaise de coopération internationale, Ndlr]. Japan has been using ammonium sulphate since 1941. And so there is experience, expertise brought by our partners, to precisely help to mark out these risks. »

Massive formations, with reminder stings. Controls, above all, and staff mobilized to do so. In short, a lot of money. So ” the real needs “, explain the professionals of the sector.

>> To read also: Madagascar: agro-ecology, a model for achieving food self-sufficiency?

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