5 May 2017 – More extension workers can now use the Fertilizer Optimization approach to advise farmers on more efficient and profitable use of fertilizer in Sub-Saharan Africa as a result of the awareness raising and capacity building initiatives of the CABI-led Optimizing Fertilizer Recommendations in Africa (OFRA) project.

The most recent training of 35 extension workers in Kenya took place at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) centre in Njoro. The extension workers were drawn from Narok, Nyandarua, Kericho and Nakuru counties. Dr Catherine Kibunja of KALRO and the Principal Investigator for the OFRA project in Kenya, explains the significance of the training session:

“This workshop is part of a series of capacity building activities that the project has been undertaking for the last two years. From this training, the extension workers are better equipped to advise farmers to make more efficient use of fertilizer within the context of their resources. At this workshop, we are training extension workers from the Central Rift and South Rift areas, addressing key food security concerns in these areas. We are enabling farmers to make fertilizer use more profitable at the farm level”

The training covered a number of themes including an overview of the current soil fertility status and management practices in Kenya, Integrated Soil Fertility Management, emerging issues in fertilizer use, and how to advise farmers on implementing the Fertilizer Optimization approach.

Dr. Kayuki Kaizzi of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) (Uganda) and the regional coordinator of the OFRA project in East & Southern Africa emphasized how the skills imparted during these workshops allow the extension workers to work closely with the farmers in making informed decisions to increase profitability of fertilizer use. Dr Kaizzi explains:

“Fertilizer is a resource that needs to be invested in wisely because of the difficult financial situations of smallholder farmers. The OFRA project has so far trained more than 2,450 extension workers in 13 countries in Eastern Southern and Western Africa on the Optimization approach.  We strive to equip the extension workers with additional knowledge and skills to enable smallholder farmers to obtain maximum financial returns from fertilizer use. One way to achieve this is through the effective use of the Fertilizer Optimization Tool.”

The Fertilizer Optimization Tool is a decision support tool that allows an extension agent to take into account a number of the farmers’ circumstances and investment goals to maximize the benefits of fertilizer use on their farms. The tool incorporates the crop’s value, size of land, nutrient requirements of the crops, and the financial resources that the farmer has to invest in fertilizer. The tool also ensures that fertilizer use decisions are made in line with Integrated Soil Fertility Management practices, further ensuring cost-effectiveness for farmers.

The OFRA project is supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The project is implemented by CABI in collaboration with the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and 13 National Agricultural Research agencies from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, Niger, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

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