20 Apr N2Africa: Improving Africa’s smallholder legume farmers wellbeing
Paul M. Dontsop Nguezet, Theresa Ampadu-Boakye, Fred Kanampiu, David Ngome, and Bernard Vanlauwe
Food security, nutrition, lowering the risk of climate change, and increasing soil fertility are critical challenges that concern many African countries now and in future. In addition, producing food in a sustainable manner is important in agriculture and food systems.
In this regard, legume crops could play an important role because of their multipurpose nature. They are a good source of high-quality food and feed, they contribute to reducing emission of greenhouse gases, and they allow the sequestration of carbon in soils. Legumes also have socioeconomic benefits and perform well in conservation, intercropping, and rotation systems, which are very important in developing countries with low access to inputs and low-yielding farming systems. In addition, legume crops fix atmospheric nitrogen, release in the soil high-quality organic matter, and facilitate soil nutrients’ circulation and water retention as well as playing an important role in integrated soil fertility management (ISFM). Based on these multiple functions, farmers’ adoption of ISFM-technologies is expected to play an important role in achieving better growth in the agricultural sector.
Against this background, since 2009, N2Africa through well-established public-private partnerships (PPP) had been disseminating a set of legume technologies including improved legume seeds varieties, fertilizers, inoculant (such as NoduMax), and agronomic practices aimed at increasing legume productivity, crop income, food security/household nutrition as well as promoting gender empowerment. After more than 5 years of project implementation, a study was conducted in several countries including Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania to assess the level of awareness/exposure, adoption of legume technologies, and the impact of adoption on legume productivity and crop income.
N2Africa is a “research-in-development” project focused on putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers growing legume crops in Africa. It is led by Wageningen University and Research and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with IITA and ILRI as main implementing partners. The project is implemented in 11 countries across Africa including DR Congo, Ethiopia; Ghana; Kenya; Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria; Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, referred to as core countries. The project aimed to contribute to increasing biological nitrogen fixation and productivity of grain legumes among African smallholder farmers to enhance soil fertility, improve household nutrition, and increase their income levels.
During its implementation, N2Africa established public-private partnerships to enable African smallholder farmers to benefit from symbiotic N2-fixation by grain legumes through effective production technologies including inoculants and fertilizers adapted to local settings. Yield was enhanced in the major legume growing areas in each target country using the ISFM package plus inoculant such as NoduMax, legume fix, etc. The story focuses on Ethiopia, Ghana, (Borno) Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda.
A total of 61,401 beneficiaries have been trained since 2014, 36% of them female. Implementation of project activities was done through establishment of 43 partnership arrangements in 2018 of which 67% addressed input markets, and 61% output markets. For this study, 3,744 legume farmers households were interviewed across the four countries as follows: Ethiopia, 744 (19.8%); Ghana, 603 (16.1%); Borno, Nigeria, 599 (16.0%); Nigeria, 595 (15.9%); Tanzania, 609 (16.3%);and, Uganda 594 (15.9%). Female-headed households represented about 21% of the total sample.
In Ethiopia the major legumes adopted were chickpea and soybean, with adoption rates of 63% and 35%, respectively. In Ghana improved varieties of cowpea (Apagbaala, Kirkhouse, Padituya, Songotra, Wang kae, and Zaayura), groundnut (Chinese, SAMNUT 21 to 23), and soybean (Afayak, Jenguma, Soungpungu, TGX 1835-10E, TGX 1904-6F) were well adopted by legume farmers at 44%, 34%, and 56%, respectively. Similarly, the same improved varieties were enthusiastically adopted by more than 52% of farmers in Borno and more than 65% in Nigeria as a whole. In Tanzania, improved varieties of bush bean (Jesca Lyamungu 90, Njano uyole) and soybean (SC Samba, SC Semeki, UY Soya 1 to 4, Uyole Soya 2) were adopted by farmers at 39% and 24%, respectively.
In addition to improved legume germplasm, 29% and 37% of Ethiopian farmers, respectively, adopted fertilizer and inoculant in their farms. In Ghana, 36% of the farmers adopted legume fertilizers, whereas 25% adopted inoculant. Similarly, in Borno State, 13% of the farmers adopted fertilizer and 25% adopted inoculant. The rate of adoption of legume fertilizer was 9% in Nigeria, 17% in Tanzania, and 20% in Uganda. That of inoculant was 13% in Nigeria, 4% in Tanzania, and 12% in Uganda.
Farmers also simultaneously combined improved varieties and other inputs such as fertilizer and inoculant, with 34% of farmers in Ethiopia, 31% in Ghana, 25% in Borno, 17% in Uganda, 12% in Nigeria, and 8% in Tanzania. In addition, at the time of the survey (2018 cropping season), about 26% of those who were combining the technologies were still using the technologies in Ethiopia, 20% in Ghana and Borno, and less than 20% in the remaining countries.
Adoption of N2Africa technologies had a positive and significant impact on the quantity of soybean harvested per hectare by smallholder farmers across all the countries. In Ethiopia, the expected soybean yield for households that used N2Africa technologies was 1453.5 kg/ha while in the counterfactual case, farmers who used N2Africa technologies would have obtained a yield of 598.1 kg/ha had they decided not to use them. Consequently, the use of N2Africa technologies had increased soybean yield by 855.4 kg/ha. In other countries, the expected soybean yield for households that used N2Africa technologies was 1064.2 kg/ha in Ghana, 1077.1 kg/ha in Borno, and 1086.2 kg/ha in Nigeria. In the counterfactual case, they would have obtained 447.4 kg/ha in Ghana, 638.1 kg/ha in Borno, and 743.9 kg/ha in Nigeria had they not decided to use those technologies. Hence, use of N2Africa technologies had positively and significantly increased soybean yield by 616.8 kg/ha in Ghana, 439.0 kg/ha in Borno, and 342.3 kg/ha in Nigeria.
Similarly, increased soybean yield contributed to a significant increase in the level of income received from crop sales. The expected income from crop sale by user households was $441.0 in Ethiopia, $435.2 in Ghana, $373.0 in Borno and $364.7 in Nigeria. Had they decided not to use the technologies, they would have obtained the $373 in Ethiopia, $365 in Ghana, $441 in Borno, and $435 in Nigeria, respectively. Therefore, use of N2Africa technologies increased income from crop sale by $40.5 in Ethiopia, $35.8 in Ghana, $91 in Borno, and $79 in Nigeria.
Findings show that users of N2Africa technologies were better off than the non-users in terms of soybean yield and income received from crop sale. Majority of farmers that were exposed to those technologies eventually used them. However, the current level of awareness and adoption suggest the need for efforts geared toward dissemination and sensitization campaigns in all countries to close the information gap. In this regard, any intervention that will help increase the level of awareness will also contribute to adoption. Therefore, PPPs developed through this project should be maintained and encouraged to ensure wider dissemination of technologies. In addition, it was also shown that if given the opportunity, women that adopt N2Africa technologies will benefit more than the men. Hence, activities for promoting these technologies should be gender friendly.