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).

Responding to Fall ArmyWorm (E-conference July 10-12, 2019)

Fall armyworm (FAW) is threatening food security across the Asian continent. How can we stop it? The Sustainable Development Solutions Network is organizing a fully online e-conference on July 10-12, 2019, to discuss this important issue. The event will bring together scientists, practitioners, government officials, and NGO representatives to discuss the FAW outbreak in Asia, effective responses, and innovative ideas to face the challenges ahead.

     Click here to download the N2Africa Final Report of the First Phase.

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Latest News

Title Summary #
Allocation of grain legume fodders in mixed crop-livestock systems of northern Ghana

Stored grain legume fodder

Crop residues are a major feed resource in smallholder mixed crop-livestock (MCL) systems in West Africa. The current decline in grazing land as a result of the ever-increasing population and associated increased demand for land for housing and crop production has further heightened the importance of crop residues as livestock feed. Grain legume residues, ...

Photo: Grain legume fodders stored for stall feeding

Feeding a hungry planet

We are pleased to announce the re-launch of Feeding a Hungry Planet: Agriculture, Nutrition and Sustainability!
This new run of Feeding a Hungry Planet will launch on 9 September 2019 as a year-long self-paced course.

Learners can join at any time and access all the material at once, completing the course in its entirety or choosing the content that is most relevant to them. Enrollment is open now.

Diverse Bradyrhizobia strains can nodulate cowpea in Nigerian soils
phylogeny cowpea

Cowpea is an important grain legume valued for its N2-fixing ability and nutritional attributes of its grain and leaves. The symbiotic relationship of cowpea with its microsymbiont rhizobia do account for 96% of its N requirement, can as well contribute to the N needs of subsequent cereal crops in Sub-Saharan Africa, ...

Figure: Maximum likelihood phylogeny of cowpea nodulating rhizobia from Nigeria based on concatenated sequences of 16SrRNA-glnII-gyrB-recA genes


Enhancing biological nitrogen fixation and yield of soyabean and common bean in smallholder farming systems of Rwanda

Climbing bean is a very important crop in Rwanda especially in the highlands of the Northern Province. However, yields achieved by farmers in the area remain low. This is due to overexploitation of the tiny lands with little or no fertilizer use. ...

Figure: CND (a, c) and DRIS (b, d) nutrient index values for leaf tissue at Kinoni (a, b) and Muko (c, d) sites.

nutrient index values
Genetic diversity and symbiotic efficiency of indigenous and naturalised soyabean root nodule from Zimbabwe

I carried out glasshouse and laboratory work at Murdoch University, with Zimbabwean isolates of soyabean root nodule bacteria that I collected from soils with a history of inoculation in Zimbabwe. I worked with a total of 137 soyabean root nodule bacteria isolates that were revealed by molecular methods to be drawn from the four species, Bradyrhizobium diazoefficiens, B. elkanii, B. japonicum and B. ottawaense. ...

Genetic diversity of indigenous rhizobia nodulating soyabean in grassland and cultivated fields of South Kivu, D.R.Congo

We studied the genetic diversity of indigenous rhizobia nodulating soyabean in South Kivu province of D.R.Congo in order to compare the diversity in grassland and cultivated farms but also to identify indigenous rhizobia with potential of increasing soyabean’BNF and productivity. Soyabean (Glycine max) is an important crop worldwide and especially in Democratic Republic of the Congo, promoted since 1990 to deal with high malnutrition induced by political strife (Kismul et al., 2015). ...

Influence of product bundling on farmers’ preferences to buy soyabean inputs: A conjoint study in Ethiopia

In my previous year PhD update, I qualitatively explored and highlighted the influence of smallholder farmers’ perceptions of legume seeds, inoculant, fertilizer and improved practices on their adoption intentions. As farmers perceive high relative product advantage with the legume inputs, they also perceive low compatibility with prices and packaging of the inputs. ...

Picture: Farmers on soyabean input product preference rating task at Bako district.

Bako preference rating

While we are busy with a range of studies assessing the impacts of N2Africa across the different countries, there are still many ongoing PhDs who are writing up their theses and publishing their work. ...

Photo: Focus group discussion in northern Ghana, June 2019. See article "Sharing project benefits" by Eva Thuijsman

Ghana focus group discussion
Legume Technologies’ adoption among smallholders: Role of ICT market interventions and impact
African farmers are increasingly presented with innovative technologies to maximise their agricultural production potential and remain food secure. One of the innovations has been through the biological nitrogen fixation project N2Africa promoting proven legume technology packages (Improved seed varieties, phosphorus fertilisers, inoculants for improved productivity. ... Diagram
My PhD results’ harvest!

In June I successfully defended my thesis entitled ‘Harvesting nutrition. Grain legumes and nutritious diets in sub-Saharan Africa!’ What a special day! 

The figure shows an overview of the studies we conducted within a framework based on the theoretical concepts of agriculture and nutrition pathways and the food environment.

N2Africa publications

Nodulation, Nitrogen Fixation and Productivity of Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) Varieties as Influenced by Rhizobial Inoculation and Phosphorus Application on Farmers’ Fields in Minna, Southern Guinea Savanna of Nigeria. 2018 by O.A. Adediran, A. O. Osunde, A. Bala, M. Dianda, H. Ibrahim, O. O. Olufajo and J. A. Oladiran.

Overview of students that, to date, completed their PhD

See which nine PhD graduated and find the link to their theses.

Related newsletters

SeedSystems blog: Institutionalizing Quality Declared Seed (QDS) Systems in Uganda;
Icrisat news: First ever high-yielding chickpea variety developed using marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC) released in Ethiopia;
Tropical Grasslands: Forages for the future newsletter 9.

Reports and other output uploaded on the N2Africa website

Responses to inoculation of Phaseolus beans on N2Africa trials in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

Responses of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp) varieties to rhizobia inoculation, phosphorus application and sequential cropping system in Minna, Nigeria

My study aimed to exploit rhizobia inoculation, phosphorus application, varietal differences and sequential cropping system to improve the productivity and profitability of cowpea per unit area in Minna, Nigeria. Glasshouse and field experiments were conducted between 2015 and 2017. ...

Sharing project benefits

Last June, a small case study was done in northern Ghana to investigate how farmers perceived their interactions with N2Africa. Any agricultural development project – N2Africa included – can work with only a limited number of people.

Photo: Focus group discussion in northern Ghana, June 2019

Fucus group discussion Ghana
Symbiotic interaction between chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) genotypes and Mesorhizobium Strains in Ethiopia
NodFixShoot Patterns

Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) is one of the grain legumes that symbiotically interact with Mesorhizobium strains and fix atmospheric N. The efficiency of the symbiotic N fixation partly depends on the host genotype (GL) and rhizobium strains (GR). Here, we studied GL x GR interaction between genetically determined Mesorhizobium strains and chickpea genotypes primarily in jars and subsequently in pots in Ethiopia. ...

Figure: Nodulation, fixation and shoot biomass patterns of GL x GR in chickpea. Where, cSDW is corrected shoot dry weight; Chickpea genotypes are indicated on the x-axis while strains are indicated on the y-axis.

The Role of the Integrated Maize-Soyabean-Chicken Value Chains in Sustaining Diverse Diets: the case of Southern Highlands of Tanzania
particip workshop Iringa

Six months after his MSc Animal Sciences, Wilson Charles returned to Wageningen University in April 2018 for a PhD program while registered at Plant Production Systems group. Primarily, he joined N2Africa and The Missing Middle project ...

Figure: A participatory workshop on value chain mapping and stakeholders analysis in Iringa region.

Understanding smallholder farming systems in the Guinea savanna of Ghana for targeting grain legume intensification options

In this update, I provide a highlight from my last chapter focussed on providing an improved understanding of smallholder farming systems in the Guinea savanna of northern Ghana for targeting of grain legume intensification options. 

Figure: Food availability and food self-sufficiency of farm households in (a, c) Northern region (NR) and (b, d) Upper East region (UER) of Ghana.

Food availability and self-sufficiency