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Impatient for change!

N2Africa is all about learning. Learning how best to put nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in the eleven countries of sub-Saharan Africa where we work. Learning which farmers are best able to both diversify and intensify production on their land using the best grain legume technologies. Learning how best to deliver new technologies to farmers, to ensure that the necessary infrastructure and institutions are in place to support them and to remove barriers that may impede theme from benefiting. We work around the ‘development to research’ model that we developed during the first years that N2Africa was active, which is explained in the adjacent diagram.

A key to effective learning is ensuring that our ‘feedback loops’ or ‘learning loops’ are working fast enough to change and refine the focus of our activities. In the first article of this Podcaster, Joost van Heerwaarden describes the N2Africa data capture and management system of which we are very proud. It is the culmination of a substantial effort from many N2Africa staff and is a flexible system that stores data and makes it available for all to use in any format they wish. Getting data from surveys or experiments into a form that can be used quickly is a real challenge for all concerned and we are constantly looking for ways of speeding up this process without compromising quality. One major indicator for success of N2Africa in my view is that our activities change – and don’t simply stay the same from season to season. So if you want to hold us to account (and if we want to make sure that our Country Coordinators are doing a good job!) just keep asking the questions "What have we learned?" and "What have we changed?" in project activities since last we heard from you!

N2Africa is a "development to research project" in which delivery and dissemination (D&D) are core activities that take N2-fixing technologies to thousends of farmers, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) provide the learning of what works where, and why for whom, and research feedback loops analyse and feed back to improve the technologies and their targeting in D&D.


In addition to the update on data capture and management systems we have a bias of stories from southern Africa where the season has just ended. These include an update from the far south of Tanzania and reports from our three countries in southern Africa - Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. On our theme of learning there is also an MSc thesis update, and two articles that provide contrasting examples of learning at an early age – one from Kenya where N2Africa has been working with school children and a surprise story from the USA where N2Africa has provided inspiration for a university MSc project.

We’re always interested to hear how you are learning with N2Africa so please do send in your stories.

Ken Giller