Friday, February 21, 2014

Project boosting legume production to improve soil fertility, N2Africa, launched in Tanzania

N2Africa is seeking to increase the production of legumes such as cowpea, common beans, groundnuts and soybean, among small-holder farmers, due to their ability to enrich soils with Nitrogen and for their nutritive and commercial value.

Trials on the use of fertilizer to boost yield of climbing 
beans in Butere, Western Kenya as part of 
N2Africa Phase one activities.
The Putting Nitrogen Fixation to Work in Africa (N2Africa) project which aims at encouraging smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to grow legumes due to their ability to fix nitrogen from the air into the soils thus improving soil fertility, and for their nutrition and commercial value, has launched its activities in Tanzania.  
N2Africa was officially launched by the Director for Research and Development in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Fildelis Myaka on behalf of the Permanent Secretary Ms Sophia Kaduna at the start of a two-day project planning workshop, from 19 – 20 February in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 

It was hosted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) ―one of the project’s implementing partners. 

Speaking at the event, Dr Myaka lauded the project for singling out legumes. He said despite their obvious benefit to the country’s food security, employment, and even contribution to GDP, their productivity was low and yields were far below their potential. 

Expanding area under legume production and increasing yield

Dr Fidelis Myaka, Director for Research and Development 
making the opening remarks.He lauded the initiative for  
focusing on legumes.
He attributed the low yield to inadequate application of scientific knowledge by both farmers and development practitioners and other factors. He was therefore pleased to note that N2Africa was working to expand the area and enhance yields of grain legumes through the application of scientific knowledge including the use of improved varieties and rhizobium inoculants to maximize the yield potential of grain legumes. 

“The application of scientific knowledge, especially by smallholder farmers, has always been constrained by poor targeting of the technologies to the diversity of farmers and farming conditions, poor packaging of technologies, and issues relating to input supply and output market. I am aware that N2Africa’s approach puts into consideration all these factors through farming systems analysis to target technologies to the farming conditions of smallholder farmers and through a value chain approach,” he added.

Development for Research model
Other speakers at the forum included the Director of the Project, Prof. Dr Ken Giller from Wagenigen University who gave an overview of the project. Dr Giller said the aim of the project entitled ”Putting Nitrogen Fixation to Work in Africa” aims at increasing the land area cropped with legumes. 

Prof Ken Giller gives an over view of the project.
He said the project was following a Development-for-Research model and was disseminating the already available technologies for legume production such as improved varieties, and use of innoculants. The research would now focus on the challenges farmers were facing in adopting and adapting these technologies in their farming systems. 

Dr Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA’s Director for Central Africa, also at the event, conveyed greetings from IITA’s Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga. Dr Vanlauwe noted the initiative was important to IITA as part of its Natural Resource Management activities.

According to Dr Fredrick Baijukya, N2Africa team leader in Tanzania, said the project will be implemented in the Southern, Eastern and Northern parts of the country in Iringa, Ruvuma, Njombe, Lindi, Mtwara, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Shinyanga and Dodoma regions. It will focus on cowpea, common bean, groundnuts and soybean which are amongst the most important legumes in the country.

The project launch brought together a wide diversity of stakeholders from those in legume production, input development, and supplies including seeds and fertilizers, processing, marketing, and regulatory bodies to policy makers.

The project which is now in its second phase is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Wagenigen University. Phase one of the project initiated in 2009 was implemented in DR Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe. The second phase started in January 2014 and will focus on five core countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda but will maintain activities in the other countries under Phase 1. 
N2 Africa target areas for Tanzania

Implementing partners are IITA, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). They will collaborate with the National Agriculture Research Systems and local and international NGOs.