N2AFRICA is a large scale, science-based “research-in-development” project focused on putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers growing legume crops in Africa.

Legumes bring atmospheric nitrogen into the crops and the soil through a symbiosis with Rhizobium bacteria, and they are an important source of protein in a healthy diet. Enhanced productivity of legumes thereby contributes to improvements in soil fertility, household nutrition and income. N2Africa enables African smallholder farmers to reap these benefits through the implementation of effective production technologies including inoculants and fertilizers.

N2Africa links scientific research with capacity building (from farmers to traders, development workers in extension and NGOs), educating MSc and PhD candidates, women’s empowerment, and access to input-output markets through Public-Private Partnerships. A strong network ensures continuous and independent improvement of technologies and market access.

With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, N2Africa has been active since 2013 in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, and since 2009 in DRCongo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. Focal legume crops are common bean, chickpea, cowpea, faba bean, groundnut and soyabean.

From best-bets to best-fits

The performance of a grain legume and the associated amount of nitrogen fixed depend on the interaction between the genotype of the legume, the genotype of the rhizobia, the environment and the management of the crop and field: (GL× GR) × E × M in short.

N2Africa selects and tests good-potential legume genotypes, does research to identify the best matching rhizobia strains and tries to optimize the management of legume fields. Testing of legume technologies by large numbers of farmers allows for tailoring and adapting legume technologies to specific sites and specific farmers. This results in a set of best-fit principles and options for each project area.


Direct beneficiaries of N2Africa are the farming households with increased benefits from biological nitrogen fixation – such as greater food and nutrition security or increased incomes – and the households benefitting from the network that was built to improve access to information, agricultural inputs and markets. By 2017, N2Africa had already reached more than 600,000 smallholder farmers with improved technologies for grain legume production.

Other beneficiaries are producers of legume seeds, legume-specific fertilizer mixes and inoculants through an increased demand for their product, as well as agro-dealers trading these products. Development project staff and scientists are exposed to new ways of doing science through the ‘development-to-research’ framework, and hands-on capacity building activities.

By working through national systems, training key stakeholders from farmers to traders, development workers in extension and NGOs, and by educating MSc and PhD candidates in each country, we build the capacity that can in the future sustain an independent and continuous improvement of legume production technologies.



N2Africa Map Overview : Core countries (dark green), Tier 1 countries (light green).

logo The Story of N2Africa  - an online magazine that provides a flavour of the richness of learning over the past ten years of the project N2Africa: Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa 

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Latest News

Title Summary #
Can we trust land area estimates?
Estimated vs measured I expect that many readers of the N2Africa podcaster would readily answer ‘no’ to that question. However in spite of knowing that land area estimates can be unreliable, N2Africa and other agricultural development projects often rely on estimates of plot areas, and that on top of estimates of crop yield. We may have no other choice if we want a lot of data, preferably for multiple (past) seasons, for several crops in different countries.
Evaluation of the Productivity and Profitability of Soyabean (Glycine max [L.] Merr.) Production Technologies in the Nigerian Savannas
Soyabean is an important crop in Nigeria, that has gradually evolved to be a crucial cash crop for rural households in the Nigerian Savannas due to its rising industrial demand. Nigeria is the second largest producer of soyabean after South Africa producing 700,000 Mt of soyabean per year. Despite its growing importance in the Nigeria savannas, soyabean yields are low due to several production constraints including poor soil fertility with emphasis on phosphorus, intermittent drought and low biological nitrogen fixation by adapted varieties. This study was carried out to assess the effect of integrated input management systems on productivity of soyabean in the Nigeria savannas. Bebeley
Rainfed soyabean with integrated input bundle (S+P+M+I) that is Supplementary irrigation + Phosphorus fertilizer+ Manure + Inoculant
Genetically diverse microsymbionts belonging to novel and other defined symbiovars are responsible for cowpea root nodulation in Northern Mozambique

Cowpea Simbine
Cowpea plants inoculated with different rhizobia strains isolated from cowpea root nodules sampled from farmers fields in Northern Mozambique

Cowpea is an important food legume that is well-adapted to the semi-arid regions of the tropics. The bacteria nodulating cowpea exhibit a large diversity which has been reported in different regions of the world. Little is known about the rhizobia nodulating cowpea in Mozambican soils. In this study ERIC-PCR was used to characterise cowpea rhizobia. This method allowed us to distinguish 20 groups at a similarity level of 20%, indicating a high genomic diversity for the native rhizobial populations in the two agroecological zones. Many reports have shown that there are more rhizobial types in tropical and subtropical than temperate regions. Therefore, studies of rhizobial diversity in tropical environments such as Mozambique could lead to the discovery of diverse rhizobia with interesting traits for use in agriculture. ...

Although the funding for N2Africa ended in June 2019 we are still busy with reports, impact studies and scientific papers. In November, the IITA N2Africa team received an award from the Board of Trustees of IITA Award for Excellence for Outstanding Team in 2019, recognising the excellent work done over the past ten years to promote nitrogen fixing grain legumes in Africa. Congratulations to our colleagues for this important recognition.


Photo: IITA DG Dr Sanginga presenting the Board of Trustees Excellence for Outstanding Team Award to Freddy Baijukya, Bernard Vanlauwe and Nkeki Kamai, with Hilde Koper, Master of Ceremonies.

Award IITA N2Africa
N2Africa in the news

FCRN linked to The story of N2Africa in their Fodder entry.

N2Africa Policy recommendations reports advocacy follow-up in Ethiopia and Tanzania

N2Africa organised two policy advocacy activities in Tanzania and Ethiopia, between October 2018 and May 2019. Following the policy recommendation workshops in Addis Ababa on 3 May and in Iringa on 8 May, the two policy recommendations reports are now finalised, and follow-up activities by the N2Africa country coordinators are ongoing. In Tanzania there is much interest by politicians to support soyabean for livestock production. ...

Pollicy WS Eth 2019
Policy workshop Ethiopia 3 May 2019
N2Africa publications 7
Related newsletters 10
Reports and other output uploaded on the N2Africa website 8
Verifying contribution claims
TG CA workshop WUR Feb 2019
Giel Ton at Contribution Analysis brainstorm session at Wageningen University in February 2019

N2Africa has gathered and monitored a lot of information about the impact of its work. However, the diversity of N2Africa’s interventions, their dynamism, and the widely different contexts where these have been implemented, make it tricky to derive strong inferences about the project’s impacts from suvey-based impact evaluations. ...