Friday, December 13, 2013

N2Africa project prepares for second phase with US$25 million grant

Woman farmer tending a soybean field
Project team and partners of the N2Africa project gathered in Nairobi to share and learn from the successes of its first phase and plan for the second after receiving the good news of additional funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The project started in 2009 and works with smallholder farmers in Africa to exploit the nitrogen-fixation potential of legumes to improve soil fertility and contribute to improving food security and nutrition. It has reached more than 250,000 farmers across eight countries with better legume varieties and improved farming practices — including the use of phosphorus fertilizers and rhizobia inoculants.

Many of the beneficiary farmers more than doubled their legume yields and also significantly increased the yields of successive crops as a result of improved levels of soil nitrogen.  Annual net household income rose by an estimated average of $355.

The project was led by Wageningen University together with IITA and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). The first phase, funded by the Gates Foundation and the Howard G. Buffet Foundation, was implemented in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe.

With the new funding from the Gates Foundation, N2Africa Phase 2 will focus on five core countries—Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda—but will maintain activities in the other countries involved in Phase 1.

In addition to enhancing production in the major legume-growing areas of each partner country, Phase 2 will strengthen partnerships with both the public and private sectors, such as seed, inoculants, and fertilizer companies, to ensure a sufficient and consistent supply of inputs to the smallholder farmers and to improve markets.

“In the second phase, we will build on the successes we achieved in Phase 1. We will work with the public and private sector to create sustainable input supply and marketing chains to ensure the best legume technologies, including the inoculums, are easily available and affordable to African smallholder farmers,” says Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA’s Director for the Central Africa Hub and natural resource management. We will drive the adoption of these technologies by linking the smallholder farmers to
local, regional, and international legume markets.” 

Phase 1 focused on identifying inoculants for soybean. The second phase extends the search to include inoculants for other legumes such as common bean, cowpea, and groundnut, among others, to enhance
legume production. It will also build the capacities of national researchers to conduct research on legume and rhizobial inoculants, based on the priorities for each participating country.

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