N2Africa is a large scale, science-based “research-in-development” project funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and focused on putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers growing legume crops in Africa. N2Africa aims to enhance productivity of grain legumes of smallholder farmers which in turn helps to increase income, improve household nutrition, and enhance soil fertility. The vision of success is to build sustainable, long-term partnerships to enable African smallholder farmers to benefit from symbiotic N2-fixation by grain legumes through effective production technologies, including improved seeds, inoculants and fertilizers, linking scientific knowledge with capacity building.

During the first phase of N2Africa (2009-2013), activities focused on research in relation to legume agronomy, cropping system design and rhizobiology; and generated interest from the first generation of dissemination partners. The initial set of countries (e.g. Ghana, Nigeria, DR Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe) covered a critical range of agro-ecologies with a variety of farming systems and priority legumes, providing an excellent framework for evaluating the diversity of legumes and their benefits. This resulted in proven technologies for scaling during the second phase of the project (2014-2018); that included additional countries, namely, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

N2Africa has increasingly evolved from a direct implementation approach to being a catalytic and knowledge provider in its second phase. In DR Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe (termed Tier 1 Countries), N2Africa focused on disseminating Phase I products to partners for scaling as part of a gradual exit strategy, institutionalized legume expertise within national systems, and shifted activities to other donors and private partners through co-funding.

To ensure sustainability of the project results, an exit strategy was an integral part of the project design and implementation. Three areas were identified as key to achieve sustainability of results after the project ends: 1) to ensure sustainable input supply, this means smallholder farmers have access to quality inoculants, seed of improved varieties, and fertilizers that are required to produce legume crops. 2) to ensure that activities to enhance production and productivity of legume crops are fully integrated into specific country national structures and 3) at the end of the current phase of the project N2Africa will become a Pan-African information sharing platform. N2Africa activities will continue with full funding in the Core Countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda) throughout 2018.

Field visit DR Congo (Credit: J.M. Sanginga)

Through its catalytic role, N2Africa partnered with several organizations (research, regulatory, development partners, and private sector): partnerships that deliver the intended results at scale. To this end, each of the countries collaborated with varied partners to ensure the integration and implementation of interventions which are key to sustainability and will guarantee smooth exiting, as outlined in country reports below. Throughout the years, each country has achieved various levels of success towards the sustenance of results. Smallholder farmers are guaranteed access to key technologies such as inoculants, seeds and fertilizers through private sector partners who mostly were part of the various partnerships. National systems have obtained capacity and mainstreamed activities into national plans to continue dissemination and adaptation of technologies.

No doubt, this has been a journey, identifying the right partners to collaborate and support the interventions, getting the commitment – especially of the private sector – to invest in the production and provide continuous access to the technologies, having the national systems to mainstream the key technologies and methods in their structures. In this Podcaster we outline the exit strategies of each of the Tier 1 countries. These are summaries of longer reports that can be downloaded from the N2Africa website through the links provided. We hope you share our pride in the results achieved and look forward to your feedback. In the end, the successes seen in the countries are the results of partners’ contributions and commitment.

Theresa Ampadu-Boakye (M & E Specialist) and Fred Kanampiu (Project Coordinator)

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