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Farmer-driven organic resource management to build soil fertility and improve food security


At a glance


The decline of soil fertility is a major threat to agriculture and food security in

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Enforced organic matter production by modern agroforestry

systems (planting of nitrogen fixing trees, leguminous shrubs together with food crops),

as well as the use of mulch and compost have shown to increase and maintain soil

fertility. Yet these techniques have failed to be implemented in farmers’ cropping

systems on a large scale. This research project, therefore, aims at identifying the

agronomic, socio-economic, cultural, and communicative reasons that promote the

adoption of tested agricultural technologies. We assume the integration of farmers in

the design and management of innovations to be important to reverse the trend of

declining soil fertility. In the proposed project farmer-driven soil fertility management

techniques will be developed jointly with researchers at both on-station and on-farm

levels. As part of an outreach campaign these innovations will be disseminated to

farmers’ communities in order to assess challenges and to identify hindering and

favoring factors associated with its adoption. The application of research results in

farming practice is an important focus of the project with communication involved in

all processes. Political and societal groups will be involved and informed on the

outcome of the project in order to influence their working procedures.

The study will be conducted in relatively humid and arid climatic zones of Mali, Ghana,

Kenya and Zambia. In each of these countries FiBL and IAM/ZHAW researchers will

collaborate with partners at universities and research stations, extension services and

farmers. Most research will be done by PhD students and associated MSc studies

supervised by local and international experts in the respective field, leading to peer

reviewed publications. The study is expected to improve research design, provide easily

adoptable soil fertility management techniques, address institutional barriers and soil

governance, change habits and attitudes of farmers and local society towards

agricultural sustainability, and identify the best processes of communication according

to farmers' needs. It is further expected that our interdisciplinary approach applied in

the four countries will be scalable to the whole Sub-Saharan Africa. This project has

the potential to contribute significantly to agricultural productivity, environmental

stability, and the resilience of food systems.

Further information