N2Africa moving to scale in 2011

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I join Kenton in saying thanks to all of you - our partners, collaborators and wider community of N2Africa friends - for your support over the past year. We look forward to your continued commitment in 2011 as we start to scale up activities.

New Challenges

As the project progresses to reaching roughly 30,000 farmers in each country: we will encounter the numerous challenges of working at this extent, a new experience for us all. To meet it successfully and to stay on track, our partnerships must work optimally - we must communicate affectively - and we must plan well ahead. 

A major focus of our Annual Review and Planning Meeting in Harare in February will be project planning, communication and co-ordination. N2Africa’s success in 2011 depends on our renewed strength and commitment. Alongside our capacity to plan, co-ordinate and deliver successfully, all the inputs and activities called for by the project and its farmers. All support and delivery tasks will be required in amount, in timely fashion and well ahead of the growing seasons! We will continue to work on our communications strategy and planning with TASKSCAPE ASSOCIATES Ltd – with whom we filmed a number of educational films in East and Central Africa in May. These videos are available on the N2Media page of the project website – and provided to educational establishments on DVD, on request.

“The Market Paradox”

Some new challenges are already receiving our attention. A major conundrum is “the market paradox”. Although there is a huge national market deficit for legumes such as soya bean in almost all countries where we work, farmers lack ready markets for their legume grain. This is essentially an institutional problem, typical of rural economies in which fledgling technologies need investment to help ‘grow’ the market before they and it can work fully independently.  We know that substantial emphasis in N2Africa must be focused on making linkages to overcome the institutional barriers to allow legume markets to work.

Access to inoculants and other inputs

Challenges associated with output markets mean N2Africa will work to ensure ready access to high quality rhizobial inoculants and other inputs such as phosphorus fertilisers, in sufficient quantities for purchase by farmers. The lack of quality control regulations for rhizobial inoculants in Africa at present can lead to problems of cross-border trade in inoculants and sub-standard inoculants finding their way onto the market. These issues on inoculant quality will be addressed together with the African Association of Biological Nitrogen Fixation (AABNF) – see below.

 Research Plans

Some of the emerging issues we have faced, such as the “non-responsive soils” we have encountered in several countries will demand extra attention. Detailed plans for significant and co-ordinated research like this are being prepared and will be presented and considered at the Annual review and Planning Meeting in February.

Training and Knowledge Transfer

The challenge is to facilitate knowledge transfer and provide a variety of training at all levels: and we recognise the urgent need for training and knowledge transfer on many levels – from farmers and extension, to laboratory technicians and scientists, to policy makers and government. The latest tools and techniques should be broadcast and used throughout the project and the latest technologies find their rightful place in farmers’ fields. However, we recognise that our efforts are unlikely to be sufficient on their own: and we will continue to seek fresh opportunities to collaborate with organisations like AGRA to provide more training.

Please join me in continuing to be committed to harnessing and utilising the best expertise from around the world for the project. We can facilitate and achieve our goal with your help and put the very best nitrogen fixing legume technologies in the hands of the African farmers. 

Ken Giller

Chair, N2Africa Steering Committee