N2Africa plans for 2013

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As Phase 1 of the N2Africa project comes to a close in October this year we have reviewed and agreed on work plans for the remaining period (and of course the finances). The planning of this year’s activities has been guided by what needs to be done to achieve our objectives for delivery and dissemination (D&D). On the other hand we will conduct an ‘early impact assessment’ to evaluate the success and draw lessons on how D&D of legume and BNF technologies can be improved in future. Further, we want to implement a strategy to ensure that the gains we have made in the past years are sustained.

In Western Kenya and in Rwanda and DRC we are currently preparing D&D activities for the next cropping season, but will wind down the agronomic research. Focus is on data management, soil analysis and data analysis. Elite rhizobium strains are being tested in the greenhouse and in the field in Western Kenya. In DRC, bioprospecting for elite rhizobium strains is ongoing (see the report in this Podcaster). Students are testing strains in the greenhouse and field in Rwanda.

In Nigeria and Ghana surveys for the early impact assessment have been initiated, initiatives are taken to ensure that inputs will still be available to farmers for the next growing season. Whereas N2Africa was been largely responsible for input distribution in the past, we will make use of different mechanisms in the coming season and will monitor uptake of the technology. We are partnering with Advance (see report in this Podcaster) to stimulate further dissemination and outscaling. We will conduct training on rhizobium inoculant production and aspects of quality control of rhizobium inoculants as part of our strategy to establish sustainable inoculant supply.

In southern Africa (Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique) we are currently in the middle of the season, after which we will concentrate on the ‘early impact assessment’ and putting mechanisms in place for continued and sustainable input supply. In many countries our partners have taken the dissemination of legume and BNF technologies to new areas beyond our original mandated areas and we will actively support these development wherever this is needed.

The early impact assessment (EIA) will use three instruments: a household survey, a partner survey to assess impacts on the way they work, and an agrodealer survey to assess stocking of inputs for legume crop production. The EIA will be complemented by specific case studies, on topics such as diffusion of technologies, mechanisms of adoption and adaptation by farmers, or on ‘seed systems’ to look into the critical issue of seed multiplication and access. Further, PESTEL analyses will investigate broader environment that may enable or constrain uptake of our technologies across the different countries. PESTEL stands for the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal macro factors for which, there is an established set of variables. For N2Africa, additional ‘Development’ and ‘Agricultural Research’ indices will be selected and applied by students from the Management School at Lancaster University.

Finally, in this podcast we report on a successful agrodealer training conducted in Western Kenya. Considerable time was devoted to the discussion on "What we can do to secure the availability of BNF technology products" and we agreed on concrete action points that involve improving the collaboration between our outreach partners, farmer associations and agrodealers, extending loans (from suppliers) to outreach partners to enable them to purchase inputs and providing loan guarantee to the suppliers. This exemplifies how we want to implement our ‘exit’ strategy to ensure sustainable supply of technologies. The full report is available on the project website (www.n2africa.org).

Jeroen Huising, N2Africa project coordinator