The world should focus on managing phosphorus fertilizers in a better way, especially after the future phosphate peak. Overall, we are on the right track as countries like Morocco are trying to use their resources to reduce current hunger levels and provide for future populations.
I want to assure you, my dear readers, that even if phosphorus decreases or disappears, don’t panic; we will not starve to death. The world keeps evolving and science will never stop surprising us.
Morocco, a small country in North West Africa, at the border of both the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic Ocean, is on track to become one of the major players in global food security. In fact, the Kingdom of Morocco will contribute greatly to the challenge of feeding the world, especially since the estimated number of the world population in 2050 is 9.6 billion according to the United nations 2013 report; feeding the population is and will remain one of the major challenges we face.
Morocco, is going to play a key role in solving hunger problems not only in Africa, but also in the rest of the world. You may wonder how a country that barely could feed itself several years ago will be able to feed a whole continent, or even the whole world.
In 2009, Morocco launched an agricultural campaign that involved the use of phosphorus fertilizers to increase crop productivity in the country. This plan allowed the country to depend on its own agriculture to reinforce its food security. Morocco has more than half of the world’s phosphate reserves and is willing to use its “white gold” carefully and effectively to revolutionize African agriculture and reduce poverty in the region but the country.
This key nation will also play a major role in the international scene by providing countries with its “white gold.” However, we will learn that this fertilizer use may encounter several issues, including a price increase. Hopefully, the world will not have to face a “phosphorus shock” or a “phosphorus peak” like the “oil shock” experienced earlier in the 20th century. I believe that the increase of phosphorus fertilizer is quite different from other energy resources including oil; this essay will tell you why.
Several positive outcomes from Morocco’s project have been recently witnessed. The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) (2013), a Canadian-based, international public policy research institute for sustainable development, conducted a case study entitled, “Food Price Inflation and Food Security: A Morocco case study” explaining how the country reduced its Canadian lentils imports in 2013, a time predicted by the United Nations as a global food crisis and a time of food price inflation. This was made possible through the “Green Morocco Plan” (GMP). In 2008, the plan “puts agriculture at the forefront of its strategies on economic growth, poverty reduction and trade liberalization.”(Huppé, Shaw, Dion, Voora, para.2). Even if the agriculture in Morocco still suffers fromseveral setbacks including archaic agricultural practices, Morocco has decreased its amount of food imports.
Indeed, the country has increased its exports towards several developed countries and regions such as Russia, North America and the European Union. According to Fresh Plaza online magazine (2014), in 2012-2013 “Russia has become Morocco’s number one citrus client, taking 60% of exports, North America between 10-15%, and the European Union 30%” (Fresh Plaza, para.1). As a matter of fact, fruits exports are Morocco’s largest exports especially citrus, which include lemon, citron, orange and lime.
Additionally, thanks to the GMP, Morocco has participated for the first time inDubai’s “World of Perishables” Exhibition. According to Zawya magazine (2014), “Morocco’s participation in the 2014 Dubai WOP exhibition is a real occasion to explore new opportunities for business partnerships and to communicate concerning the Moroccan exportable supply, which could offer significant growth prospects in this market.” (para.8).
The fact that Morocco could participate in such an event in the first place means that the country’s agricultural is moving forward: in this exhibition, exporters mainly present Morocco’s rich supply–including fruits and vegetables. Moreover, Morocco was recently awarded with the Rome Prize of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “for outstanding progress in fighting hunger” (FAO, 2014, para.1). This prize is in recognition of Morocco’s success in achieving major goals including eradicating hunger and reducing malnutrition through the promotion of the role of agriculture in the country’s sustainable development.
Also, According to the Moroccan ministry of Agriculture, the food-processing sector represents only 24 percent of the industrial units in the country (para.9). In fact, Morocco’s agriculture has not been developed for years, and now thanks to the Green Morocco Plan, it will evolve positively and therefore could be compared to the already developed agriculture such as some of the European countries close to Morocco.
Another solution exists to use phosphorus fertilizer carefully and efficiently: Even though it is impossible to synthetize phosphorus or substitute it by another element, scientists can modify plants in order to absorb less phosphate.
According to GMO Safetygroup, “Plant researchers are working on ways of improving the take-up and utilization of nitrogen by crop plants” (2012, para.5). To put it another way, since phosphorus fertilizer adds the essential element of nitrogen needed for plant growth, scientists are trying to find a way for plants to grow in soils of lesser nitrogen deposits. The U.S. company, Arcadia Biosciences, has done an experiment which involved genetically modifying crops such as rice to produce more amino acids when there is a lack of nitrogen in soils (GMO Safety, 2012,para.6). In short, these crops will still be able to grow even without adding a huge amount of phosphorus fertilizers. These scientific findings allow me to believe that the use of phosphorus fertilizer can be managed carefully in the future, and that includes Morocco’s use of phosphorus.
Certainly, the Green Morocco Plan is a huge improvement in Morocco’s agriculture. However, like I stated earlier in the paper, this plan still needs to work on several issues such as managing phosphorus fertilizers carefully and taking into consideration these scientific findings. Otherwise, Morocco will end its resource earlier than expected and all the great projects that the country planed for the African continent and the world will go up in smoke.
Overall, an increase of phosphate price would not necessarily have a negative aftermath in food production. However, it forces experts to find alternatives. With today’s technology, scientists have already found interesting solutions, which have the added effect of preserving the environment. I believe that with future’s technologies it will be even better. It is just a matter of time.
To conclude, Morocco should also focus on altering phosphorus fertilizers in their crops. Additionally, The Green Morocco Plan still has a lot of work to do in order to successfully reach all of its goals by 2020. The plan must include socio-economic and environmental solutions. However, Morocco will still play a major role in feeding the future world’s population. We know now that phosphorus isn’t going anywhere quite yet which is why its availability should be capitalized on. Yet phosphorus reserves are going to decrease, and prices will increase, forcing scientists and governments to think of alternative solutions.
*Ayate Temsamani is an undergraduate student at School of International Service, American University Washington DC.