N2Africa Phase II

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As indicated above, we have been busy the past few months with a proposal for Phase II of N2Africa. We ran a number of partnership workshops, including a workshop in Uganda where all countries were represented in June 2013, and submitted a proposal to the foundation in July. Since then we have worked closely together with our two senior project officers at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Charlene McKoin and Vi Shukla, to address a number of comments and concerns from referees.

N2Africa’s new 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 inoculants and fertilizers. The legacy will be strong national expertise in grain legume production and N2-fixation research and development. The capacity built will sustain the pipeline and delivery of continuous improvement in legume production technologies tailored to local settings. Activities will focus on cowpea, groundnut and soybean in Ghana and Nigeria, on common bean, cowpea, groundnut and soybean in Tanzania and Uganda, and on common bean, soybean, chickpea and faba bean in Ethiopia. Within five years, building on local expertise, legume production will be enhanced in the major legume growing areas in of each partner country, providing opportunities for the poor and addressing gender disparities. New value chains will be established and the food and nutritional security of the poor will be enhanced. In Phase II, N2Africa will reach more than 550,000 farmers.

Discovery research within N2Africa will move from a focus on inoculants for soybean to bioprospecting to identify new elite strains of rhizobium for the other major grain legumes – common bean, cowpea and groundnut. Molecular tools will be used to characterization rhizobial biodiversity. New elite strains will be made available to inoculant producers for scaling up the technology. N2Africa will play a catalytic role by engaging with public and private parties to create sustainable input supply chains. Delivery and dissemination approaches will be tailored to local settings focusing on "last-mile" delivery networks. New, innovative tools for monitoring and evaluation will strengthen feedback loops and enable continuous learning, allowing the concept of ‘best fit technologies’ at the field and farm-scale to be translated into ‘best-fit approaches’ at the country or regional scale. By the end of the project, sustainable supply and marketing chains will ensure availability of the best legume technologies for African smallholder farmers to ensure food and nutrition security.

Aligning with the new strategy and priorities of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, N2Africa Phase II will focus on five core countries – Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda – but will maintain activities in what we term the "Tier 1" countries – DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. We hope to be able to share some positive news regarding Phase II soon!

Ken Giller and Bernard Vanlauwe