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AFRICA soil health consortium

Soil Health

September - December 2011



Technical advisory team leads ISFM product development E

ight members of the Africa Soil Health Consortium Technical Advisory Group (TAG) recently took part in the writing of a handbook on general principles of ISFM. Led by Dr Thomas Fairhurst of Tropical Crops Consultants Ltd. who is the Consortium Technical Editor, the group developed the structure of the handbook. The write shop that took place in Nairobi in October 2011 provided an opportunity for the authors to review each other’s manuscripts. Another TAG member, Dr Paul Van Mele (of Agro-insight), visited 6 countries in West, Central and East Africa to shoot a video (in English, Portuguese and French) that describes the principles of ISFM. With support from staff in several projects, he captured different practices in the project’s priority cropping systems: maize/legume, lowland irrigated rice, sorghum/millet/cowpea, coffee/ banana and cassava.

deficiency booklets that will enable agricultural practitioners (with Bachelors’ degree or other college level education) to identify and correct nutrient deficiencies and other disorders in the farmers’ fields. The TAG consists of 15 research and development specialists, drawn from institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa such as IFDC, Wageningen University, SOFECSA, CIAT-TSBF, Africa Rice, IPNI, ICRW, Agro-Insight, Michigan State University, Tropical Crops Consultant Ltd, AGRA and CABI. AGRA has a permanent membership as ex-officio member. The role of the TAG is to oversee the Africa Soil Health Consortium project. The scientists, whose membership may be reviewed in the course of the project, are experienced in knowledge management, policy processes, gender issues and development communication. At the ASHC project’s Inaugural

Dr Thomas Fairhurst and Dr Shamie Zingore are developing nutrient

“It does not have to be a choice between organic or inorganic; both approaches can work well together at different stages in agricultural development.” (Dr Bernard Vanlauwe, TSBF-CIAT CIALCA Conference, 2011)

In this issue

Technical advisory group takes lead in ISFM product development Mobile phone transforming agricultural information sharing and exchange Minjingu - viable Phosphate source in Tanzania ASHC adopts outcome mapping to track progress Scientists and communication specialists meet to share knowledge Scientists favour ISFM to state fertilizer subsidies Small scale farmers to benefit from new TV series

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Published thrice-annually by: The Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) Contributors George Oduor Jane Frances Asaba Caroline Nyakundi Rodney Lunduka Abigael Mchana Collins Abuga Danny Romney Florence Chege Joseph Mburu Duncan Sones

Some TAG members, project staff and other partners during the write-shop for the ISFM handbook

Continued from page 1 Design and Layout Caroline Nyakundi All Correspondence to: The Communications Unit Africa Soil Health Consortium CABI Africa ICRAF Complex P.O. Box 633-00621 Nairobi, Kenya Tel: +254-20-722 4450/62 Fax: +254-20-712 2150 Email: Website:

Fr o m t h e esk: Editorial d

Workshop held in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2011, the project’s advisory team (TAG) was constituted, with Dr Peter Okoth (CIATTSBF) as the Chair and Dr Shamie Zingore (IPNI) as the Vice Chairperson.

Prof Ken Giller of Wageningen University. The TAG members worked closely with the research fellows to write different sections of the handbook during the write-shop in Nairobi in October 2011.

Two TAG members guide and mentor ASHC post doctoral fellows, one in policy (Dr Rodney Lunduka) and the other in cropping systems (Dr Lydia Wairegi). Dr Lunduka is guided by Prof Valerie Kelly of Michigan State University as Lydia is mentored by

Through intensive e-discussions among the TAG members, a press release: “Smarter investment in agriculture needed to help Africa feed itself” distributed to international traditional and social media outlets for World Soil Day, December 5.

This is our second project newsletter in which we feature some of the Consortium’s activities in the last quarter of 2011. TAG members have not only been involved in providing technical, managerial and institutional advice, but have also been undertaking various activities to raise levels of awareness on Integrated Soil Fertility Management. These include development of a handbook and shooting of a video to promote ISFM, and development of nutrient deficiency booklets. They have also been active in mentoring the post-doctorate research fellows and crafting a press release that was circulated worldwide.

The project partners and scientists in Uganda and Tanzania have worked with staff where they have shared their communications interventions in disseminating ISFM information generated by scientists, and have collaborated in developing information materials to effectively address the needs of farmers, extension staff, agro-dealers, policy makers and other target audiences. These include audio-visual, print materials and mobile-based applications. The year 2012 promises continued information generation and sharing and collaboration by generators and disseminators of information in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Consortium will focus on enhancing, facilitating and promoting farmer’s awareness and use of viable technologies like organic and inorganic fertilizers and improved seeds for better crop yield and improved livelihoods. We wish all our readers Happy New Year, 2012!


Mobile phone transforming agricultural information sharing and exchange in sub Saharan Africa


n the early 2000s, functionality of mobile phones was limited to just receiving and making calls but with technological innovations a decade later mobile phones have more advanced features including digital camera, Mp3 player, FM radio, GPS service support and blue tooth. The mobile phone has evolved from a simple, expensive “call-and-receive” gadget to an ultimate communication device, a necessity rather than luxury, for calling, text messaging, taking and storing pictures, playing music and videos, and accessing the internet. The smart phone or PDA (personal digital assistant) phone has advanced capabilities for accessing e-mail, Internet and E-books. Grameen Foundation innovation Grameen Foundation in Uganda, have developed an ICT application through which agricultural information is conveyed to farmers using Android phones. Recommended packages of technologies are given to farmers as simple actionable information by Community Knowledge Workers (CKWs) using handsets (IDEOS - Huawei phones) loaded with an AppLab application. Grameen’s initial mobile phone innovation, Village Phone was a success in Bangladesh and was adapted and rolled out in Ghana and Indonesia. The Village Phone concept was Grameen’s initial approach in

Uganda and Rwanda but as mobile infrastructure and reach became more robust with mobile phones being common in the villages, the model evolved to focus on CKWs. The present model (data network) that uses a data connection in collecting and transmitting information is 500 times more efficient than SMS. Although farmers do not pay for the

Mobile phone used by Community Knowledge Workers in Uganda to provide extension information, courtesy of Grameen Foundation

information received through CKWs, callers are expected to pay for information to be provided by a call centre. M-agriculture is designed in a way that collects resources from numerous agricultural institutes and provides a unique platform to make agricultural knowledge and information available and accessible to rural communities and small holder farmers. Combined with more traditional media, such as radio, innovative use of ICT tools makes Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) knowledge available and accessible to improve soil health.

By raising awareness and educating farmers, extension staff and agroinput dealers on useful and affordable technologies, ISFM knowledge has improved farmers’ profits through knowledge of management of nutrient deficiencies, proper crop management, fertilizer use, pest and disease control, post-harvest handling of produce, among others. The Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations estimated a 50% reduction in crop loss by farmers because of access to “correct information” through mobile phones rather than “guess work”. IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL) in India enabled thousands of farmers’ questions to be answered, through a series of voice messages everyday in local language concerning crop protection and animal health. Some researchers have argued that mobile phones can lead to poverty if families prioritize airtime over food; some may be affected by restricted bandwidth of phones, low battery and navigation problems. With expansion of national grid and development of low cost, solar charged phones with good graphic interfaces, and improved standards of living, these problems can be overcome. Abigael Mchana, Communication Assistant - Caroline Nyakundi, Communication Specialist -


Minjingu - viable Phosphate source in Tanzania


ith fertilizer prices becoming increasing expensive and unaffordable, farmers in Tanzania are adopting a cheaper Phosphorus fertilizer. The Minjingu Rock Phosphate (MPR), a locally available mineral is used for improving soil fertility to increase crop yields. MPR is found in Northern Tanzania and is mined by Minjingu Mines and Fertilizer Ltd. in Arusha, through a privatization program by the Government of Tanzania. The mines have close to 10 million tonnes of Rock Phosphate deposits.

From left to right:Minjingu Phosphate in powder and granular, and Minjingu Mazao

MPR belongs to a class of minerals called Lacustrine phosphates. Located in the Eastern Rift Valley, the lacustrine-biogenic Minjingu phosphate deposits are mainly found near the Minjingu Hill. Because of its unique composition and high solubility of its phosphates, MPR has proven to be very beneficial to cash crops and is increasingly being used in maize crops intercropped with legumes like common beans, pigeon peas and soybeans.


The Minjingu Mines and Fertilizer Ltd. currently mines the MPR and exports its to South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. The mine, which has a capacity of 30,000 tons annually, also has a Granulizer Plant that converts the BRP into a ready to use fertilizer (Minjingu Hyper Phosphate), in granular or powder form. Minjingu Mazao is made by mixing fine soft Minjingu ore with urea, then granulated or compacted. It is a more popular fertilizer than Minjingu Phosphate, since it provides Nitrogen in addition to Phosphorus. Ms Elishililia Alex, a small scale Tanzanian farmer intercrops maize, pigeon pea and common beans using manure, Minjingu and urea. When the ASHC team visited her farm in Arusha in November 25, 2011, she was in high spirits due to the unexpected rains and robust maize crop at six weeks. With information acquired from training sessions and information materials distributed by

“I have been a widow for six years and have educated my children through farming. I have also built a permanent house. If you have farm animals which provide manure, prepare your land well, use good seeds and fertilizer you will get a good harvest. This season I planted maize and pigeon peas and applied Minjingu. Although pests destroyed the pigeon pea, the maize looks good,” she says. “Last season I harvested 8 bags of maize per acre where there was Minjingu. But, in another farm, I didn’t plant with Minjingu and only harvested 3 bags of maize,” she adds. Elishililia and other members of the community receive training from Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI)’s agricultural officers about the importance of adopting technologies like improved seeds and Minjingu fertilizers. The new pigeon pea variety matures and pods quickly and yields 5-6 bags of pigeon pea per acre, up from 1- 2 bags. This fetches her about Tsh. 80.000-85,000 per bag. SARI distributes brochures, calendars and leaflets during the Nane Nane agricultural shows and farmer field days to educate farmers on fertilizer use. The quantities given are, however, insufficient for all targeted farmers.

Ms. Elishililia Alex, a maize/legume farmer

local agricultural institutes, she successfully applied organic manure before planting, Minjingu when planting and urea when top dressing.

Caroline Nyakundi Communication Specialist

Outcome mapping used to track ASHC’s impact How will ASHC know it is having impact?


Collins Abuga (far left) leads a Focus Group Discussion with some farmers in Arusha, Tanzania. Outcome mapping aims at establishing the impact of communication activities on target audiences.

ne important aim of the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) is to influence the behaviour and attitudes of different target groups, including farmers, scientists, extension workers, agro-input dealers and policy makers, through developing appropriate information and communication products on Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM).

as well as whether the target groups’ behaviour in relation to ISFM has changed.

ASHC aims to ensure policy makers recognise and understand ISFM principles and apply them in policy development.

Most standard M&E approaches are not good at capturing behaviour change. Outcome Mapping (OM) is an approach adopted by ASHC to enable it to track progress in bringing about behavioural change, facilitate learning and allow mid-course adjustments to be made to activities when necessary.

For scientists the aim is for them to recognise that their findings need to be repackaged into suitable forms that can be easily used by target groups. Often this will entail working with communication specialists to develop appropriate content, in different styles and for a variety of delivery channels. ASHC advocates that ISFM materials be rigorously tested with the relevant audiences, and necessary changes made before dissemination. For farmers the aim is to make available appropriately packaged information for better decision making on the adoption of ISFM. The monitoring and evaluation (M&E) strategy to track ASHC’s progress and achievements assesses both tangible outputs, such as numbers of communication materials produced,

What is outcome mapping? Outcome mapping is an M&E tool developed a decade ago by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) as a methodology for planning, monitoring and evaluating development activities that aim to bring about social change. The tool centres on assessing outcomes: changes in the behaviour of the people, groups and organisations (‘boundary partners’ in outcome mapping) with whom the program works. An important principle of OM is that, although the changes observed can logically be linked to the program’s

activities, they are not necessarily directly caused by them. This is because of the reality that no program operates in a vacuum – the target actors likely react to other stimuli and influences in addition to those which represent the program’s, (in this case ASHC’s) contribution. OM is essentially recognition of the fact that development is accomplished by and for people: although changes in state occur, such as higher crop yields due to more fertile soils, these can only occur when there is a corresponding change in behaviour. OM is participatory - whereas monitoring and evaluation is largely an external process OM actively engages the program team in the design of a monitoring framework and evaluation plan and promotes self-assessment. Collins Marita Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist Contributions from Duncan Sones


Scientists and communication specialists meet to share knowledge on improving soil fertility in Africa “Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.” Martin Luther King Jr.


esearch scientists and extension workers from several national institutions met with information service providers such as graphic designers and media specialists to develop messages and information materials for farmers, in a fourday workshop in Arusha, Tanzania organized by the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC). During an interactive workshop to develop extension materials to promote up-scaling and adoption of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) technologies, the participants discussed and confirmed the priority needs for information on ISFM and initiated the process of collaboratively developing communication products, for various user groups, like farmers. In developing the products, the participants decided on the purpose of the products, context of use, and audience intended for, which influenced the content and presentation of the materials. For example, if the goal was to create awareness on the availability and benefits of a new maize variety among maize producers, the content focused on persuading the audience to try short duration and drought resistant types. This would build upon their knowledge of traditional varieties.


One of the brochures produced during the ASHC workshop in Arusha, Tanzania

Some of the ISFM information materials that were designed include brochures, calendars and leaflets, posters, with simple messages and attractive designs - short, bold headlines, eye-catching pictures, sufficient empty space to prevent cluttering and attractive colours. A media training session was incorporated facilitated by AGRA communications staff - Sylvia Mwichuli and Linda Odhiambo. This enabled scientists to understand how media operates and have more control over their media appearances. The scientists had experience working with journalists from television, radio and newspaper firms. To confirm their resolve to share knowledge that will boost soil fertility and agricultural production, the scientists developed a work plan for developing communication products

suitable for several agro-ecological zones of Tanzania. The ASHC Project, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was launched in January 2011 to contribute to synthesizing information on among agricultural-sector stakeholders in Africa, who are being engaged to plan and produce a range of information materials on ISFM technologies to be diseminated widely among target audiences. The ASHC project is already being implemented in Tanzania, one of the four focus countries in subSaharan Africa. Look out for more developments in our next issue. Jane Frances Asaba Information Coordinator



Scientists favour ISFM to state fertilizer subsidies


ome soil scientists are against national governments providing fertilizer subsidies without promoting an integrated approach to managing soil fertility, which provides more sustainable solutions. A study published in the Journal of Biological agriculture & horticulture vol. 19, no.3 investigating the effect of applying combinations of manure/ crop residue compost (2 tons/ha) and mineral fertilizer on yields of millet in the semi-arid agro-ecological zone of Senegal, found that the net profits from using compost and mineral fertilizer was US$68/ha - higher than using mineral fertilizer US$53 alone. During the 26th Soil Science Society of East Africa Conference in Jinja Uganda from November 21 - 25 scientists agreed that combining organic and inorganic fertilizer and use of leguminous crops is superior to using each technology alone. The scientists, argue that the use of inorganic fertilizers, organic manure and improved seed varieties significantly increases crop yield. Does an integrated approach make sense economically? The findings of the study indicated the net return from the use of compost alone was US$43. Evidence from East Africa in maize based systems provide even more interesting results. In Kenya, use of manure and inorganic fertilizer gave a higher profit margin than fertilizer alone.

With an integrated approach to managing soil fertility, farmers get better crop yield and increased income, which enables them afford fertilizer and consequently reduces pressure for subsidies.

There was an additional profit of US$180 from maize when fertilizer was combined with manure than when fertilizer was used alone. In the Tanzania trials, fertilizer maize under intercrop had the highest profit of US$305/ha which was about US$100 more than sole maize crop. Interestingly intercropping maize with half the recommended fertilizer rate gave almost similar profit margins to sole full rate fertilized maize

“But subsidizing is only a band-aid, masking its high cost and low productivity without sustaining growth. Such bandaids ... can also be a distraction, drawing attention away from the interventions needed for largescale improvements.� Maggie McMillan, in a recent online article

US$231.80/ha respectively.



National governments promoting fertilizer subsidies need to encourage adoption practices that can improve the use-efficiency of the subsidized fertilizers. By applying organic manure and intercropping with legumes, the amount of inorganic fertilizers can be reduced without reducing total output and net revenue, resulting in reduced fertilizer subsidies and less pressure on government budgets. Rodney Lunduka Post-doctoral Fellow (Policy) For additional discussions: follow us on Twitter @ ASHC_2011 Also check out our website www.cabi. org/ashc/


Small scale farmers set to benefit from TV series aimed at ‘shaping up’ shambas in East Africa


new Television series in East Africa called “Shamba Shape Up” whose aim is to make agricultural information more available to small scale farmers has begun. Shamba Shape Up is a practical, ‘make-over’ style TV series aimed at reaching out to East Africa’s rapidly growing rural and peri-urban TV audience. An estimated 11 million rural people in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are targeted, to receive up to date and contemporary information on crop and animal farming, to improve their productivity and incomes. Filming is ongoing, with the Shamba Shape Up team aiming to visit more than 30 farms in different agroecological zones, in East Africa in the next 2 years. Actors and experts will demonstrate how to transform their shambas at low or even no cost. Shamba Shape Up builds on the success of Mediae Company’s documentary Schools Shape Up, and on the popularity of a pilot episode of Shamba Shape Up produced in 2007 and tested in Kenya and Tanzania.

Pilot video of Shamba Shape-up: Thomas Kaudia, a poultry specialist shows George Njuguna how to dust his indigenous chicken to manage external parasites.

The series will cover land preparation, diagnosing and managing acidic soils, use of manure, selection of appropriate seeds for planting, use of biological crop inoculants – for maize and legumes (like soybean), fertilizer use during planting and top dressing, diagnosing/detecting nutrient deficiencies in crops, pest and disease control, among other topics. When the series broadcasts (in March 2012) there will be an interactive mobile phone SMS/Text service that will enable viewers to request additional information on featured

technologies. Shamba Shape Up partners include Africa Soil Health Consortium, CABI, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC), the Kenya Financial Sector Deepening programme (FSD-Kenya), Kenchic, Syngenta, Cooper, Unga, D.Light, among others. Florence Chege Contributions by Joseph Mburu (Shamba Shape Up) For more information, visit: shamba_shape_up

Project Team George Oduor Project Manager

Dannie Romney Project Executive

Kelly Stenhoff Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist

Collins Marita Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant


Lydia Wairegi

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Cropping Systems

Florence Chege Project Support

Abigael Mchana Communications Assistant

Caroline Nyakundi Communication Specialist

Rodney Lunduka Post-Doctoral Fellow, Policy

Jane Frances Asaba Information and Communication Coordinator

Thomas Fairhurst Technical Editor

Louise Mailloux Gender Specialist

ASHC Newsletter Sept-Dec 2011  

Newsletter from the Africa Soil Health Consortium, an initiative coordinated by CABI to improve productivity and therefore livelihoods, in S...

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