CABI to launch major push for improved soil health knowledge across Africa
Project will give farmers and policymakers in Sub-Saharan Africa knowledge they can use to improve soil fertility and boost farm productivity for millions
Press release, 6 December 2010
CABI, the non-profit science and development organization, has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that will contribute to radical change in the understanding and use of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) techniques in Sub-Saharan Africa, enabling smallholder farmers to grow more and better crops.
The four-year, $4.5 million project will work closely with scientists from research institutes in the region and Europe and in ongoing development initiatives, particularly the AGRA Soil Health Program. Using an open consortium approach, it will ensure that the wealth of research and new information available on the subject of ISFM is successfully brought together, communicated, and translated into action by everyone involved in farming systems development – from policymakers and university lecturers to extension workers, input suppliers and the farmers themselves.
“Soil fertility degradation has been described as the second most serious constraint to food security in Africa,” said Morris Akiri, Regional Director, CABI Africa. “After decades of reliance on biological approaches to soil fertility improvement, partly because fertilizer has not been easily available, agriculture experts now agree on the need to integrate fertilizer use with other aspects of soil fertility management. However, there is a desperate lack of knowledge, not only amongst farmers but amongst service-providers and decision-makers too. This project will address that knowledge gap.”
The project will work to combine the most up-to-date research information and, using participatory approaches, adapt it in a variety of formats so that it is suitable for use by the different groups of people involved in soil management. It will engage with high-level stakeholders and policymakers; build the capacity of country-level information providers; and support local project development teams to work with existing initiatives.
“Development of communication products and processes to apply and use knowledge is key to bringing about sustainable change in developing countries that are experiencing many and complex difficulties,” said Dennis Rangi, Executive Director for International Development, CABI. “We are proud to work with the Gates Foundation on a programme that will tackle one of the fundamental barriers to farm productivity and quality in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
“Knowledge of how to restore soil health while boosting productivity is essential to Africa’s small farmers,” said Christian Witt, senior program officer with Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “This project is ultimately about expanding the choices and tools small farmers have to improve their incomes and to build better lives.”
This grant to CABI is part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Agricultural Development initiative, which is working with a wide range of partners to provide millions of small farmers in the developing world with tools and opportunities to boost their yields, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families. The foundation is working to strengthen the entire agricultural value chain—from seeds and soil to farm management and market access—so that progress against hunger and poverty is sustainable over the long term.
For more information on The Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) visit the ASHC website>