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Integrated soil fertility management triples farmers’ yields

Over 1.8 million smallholder farmers from sub-Saharan Africa have embraced integrated soil fertility management in a bid to triple yields and foster food security in Africa after extensive training as conventional fertilisers and chemicals take a toll on soil fertility.

According to a new report released by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) titled Seeking fertile ground for a green revolution in Africa, depletion of essential soil nutrients threatens food security and nutrition in Africa. The report further indicates that the continent loses about US$4 billion a year from poor crop yields resulting from soil health issues.

The integrated soil fertility management being fronted by AGRA includes promotion of practices such as the use of fertilizers, crop rotation and planting leguminous crops to improve soil quality. 

According Bashir Jama the director of AGRA’s Soil Health Program, integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) is a set of agricultural practices adapted to local conditions to maximize the efficiency of nutrient and water use and improve agricultural productivity. “ISFM strategies center on the combined use of mineral fertilizers and locally available soil amendments such as lime and phosphate rock and organic matter to replenish lost soil nutrients. This improves both soil quality and the efficiency of fertilizers and other agro-inputs. In addition, ISFM promotes improved germ plasm, agro forestry and the use of crop rotation and intercropping with legumes (a crop which also improves soil fertility).”

ISFM programme which began way back in 2009 has so far witnessed success. Jama explained, “We have so witnessed positives from all over sub Saharan Africa among countries that we have been having a presence.” Jama further noted that the first step towards food security is ensuring that small-scale farmers understand the importance of soil health when it comes to crop production” AGRA trained 1.8 million smallholders on ISFM and promoted the concept to a further 3.5 million farmers in over 10 sub Saharan countries.

One of the major proposals of the ISFM programme is for small-scale farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa to increase their fertiliser use from an average of eight kilograms a hectare to 50 kilograms in accordance with the Abuja declaration of 2006, says Qureish Noordin, a programme officer at AGRA. “In Tanzania, 28,000 farmers participated and average maize yields more than doubled, from 1.5 to 3.5 tonnes per hectare while pigeon pea yields increased from 0.6 to 1.4 tonnes.”
In Kenya, the integrated Soil management practices have been promoted among farmers in western and Eastern Kenya. Smallholders from Kenya’s Makeuni County, are among the beneficiaries from ISMF. According to Urbunus Mutua, a small-scale farmer who leads a group of about 10,000 other farmers in the county, since its’ adoption, he has witnessed better yields from his five acre farm of sorghum. In addition, he also promotes the practices among his peers in a bid to ensure that his area self sufficient with food. 

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