We present the first nitrogen footprint model for a developing country: Tanzania. Nitrogen (N) is a crucial element for agriculture and human nutrition, but in excess it can cause serious environmental damage. The Sub-Saharan African nation of Tanzania faces a two-sided nitrogen problem: while there is not enough soil nitrogen to produce adequate food, excess nitrogen that escapes into the environment causes a cascade of ecological and human health problems. To identify, quantify, and contribute to solving these problems, this paper presents a nitrogen footprint tool for Tanzania. This nitrogen footprint tool is a concept originally designed for the United States of America (USA) and other developed countries. It uses personal resource consumption data to calculate a per-capita nitrogen footprint. The Tanzania N footprint tool is a version adapted to reflect the low-input, integrated agricultural system of Tanzania. This is reflected by calculating two sets of virtual N factors to describe N losses during food production: one for fertilized farms and one for unfertilized farms. Soil mining factors are also calculated for the first time to address the amount of N removed from the soil to produce food. The average per-capita nitrogen footprint of Tanzania is 10 kg N yr−1. 88% of this footprint is due to food consumption and production, while only 12% of the footprint is due to energy use. Although 91% of farms in Tanzania are unfertilized, the large contribution of fertilized farms to N losses causes unfertilized farms to make up just 83% of the food production N footprint. In a developing country like Tanzania, the main audiences for the N footprint tool are community leaders, planners, and developers who can impact decision-making and use the calculator to plan positive changes for nitrogen sustainability in the developing world.
Hutton, M. O., Leach, A. M., Leip, A., Galloway, J. N., Bekunda, M., Sullivan, C., & Lesschen, J. P. (2017). Toward a nitrogen footprint calculator for Tanzania. Environmental Research Letters, 12(3), . https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa5c42