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 nutritional 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, hosted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) ―one of the project’s partners, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
High value but low yield
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.
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, 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.
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 rhizobium. 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, the project’s team leader in Tanzania, said N2Africa will be implemented in the Southern, Eastern and Northern parts in Iringa, Ruvuma, Njombe, Lindi, Mtwara, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Shinyanga and Dodoma regions. It will focus on cowpea, common bean and ground nuts 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 & 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.
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.