The five major Objectives for N2Africa Phase II are:
Working through national institutes and linking with international initiatives (e.g. TLII and PABRA) which are all clearly embedded in the national system, N2Africa leverages a position to ensure sustainability of the project. Rural development NGOs and national extension services play a key role in the dissemination of legume technologies in all countries. We align with key partners and widen our partnership with NGOs and extension services, allowing us to reach a much larger number of farmer households and effectively scale out legume technologies. By engaging with public and private parties we play a catalytic role to create sustainable input supply chains and to provide technical backstopping where needed. Because research and extension systems vary between countries, the exact implementation of the project is tailored for each country and detailed planning of project activities takes place on a seasonal basis in each country.
N2Africa functions as a ‘knowledge broker’ and makes the project’s knowledge available to the wider public. Communication of key extension messages is supported through direct extension campaigns as well as through local newspapers and radio broadcasts. There is a close link with the M&E activities in Objective 5 in terms of technical and progress reporting, and scientific outcomes are communicated in peer-reviewed journal articles.
MSc and PhD candidates embedded in local universities conduct research on legume agronomy, rhizobiology and approaches and methods for dissemination and extension. In this way, important research issues for N2Africa are addressed and at the same time capacity is built in key specializations.
Dissemination is done via N2Africa-led dissemination campaigns, partner-led dissemination campaigns and awareness creation through use of the media. In the new Core countries Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, dissemination campaigns are mostly N2Africa-led, in close collaboration with and through the national research extension systems (NARES). The Tier 1 countries and the Core countries Nigeria and Ghana already participated in Phase I and have legume technologies available for indirect dissemination. Here, the tested technologies are included in the programs of other rural development organizations. Rather than directly disseminating technologies, N2Africa thus becomes a knowledge provider, and facilitates direct access to inputs through business development along the supply chain. The specific delivery and dissemination approaches are tailored to local settings.
Training is provided along the value chain and we develop and distribute extension materials for extension staff, private sector and farmers in both Core and Tier 1 countries. Training and extension materials include the aspects of legume agronomy, post-harvest technologies, processing, nutrition, and market/business management.
Depending on the strength and sustainability of the local interest, we work to facilitate import or local production of high quality inoculants, including local quality control systems. In addition, we facilitate the marketing of inoculants and fertilizers, linking to distribution networks and to other service providers such as finance. In terms of seed supply, we work together with PABRA, PASS, TLII and other seed initiatives to facilitate development of a multi-channel seed supply strategy. Because legumes are self-pollinating and desired traits are conserved within carefully managed fields, decentralized, farm-based seed enterprises are also supported. Along the value chain, we focus on ‘last-mile’ delivery networks, to assure that value chains extend far enough to individual households.
Legumes are generally considered as secondary crops and therefore as women’s crops. However, gender roles and relations with respect to traditional women’s crops are dynamic and change as the crops become more commercialized. One of the risks facing legume crop improvement and commercialization is that female producers lose control over the crop and their current share of benefits. Changes in legume production system also affect associated workload of women, both positively and negatively. Adoption of fast cooking bean varieties in Tanzania for example reduced the workload for women in terms of time spent collecting firewood and cooking, but an increased production in groundnut in another area resulted in a greater workload for women in shelling the increased production.
Through both gender mainstreaming and focussing on strategic gender activities, N2Africa integrates gender as a cross-cutting theme into all research and development objectives. Strategic gender activities include introducing labour saving technologies from which women benefit, recognition of women as key players in the value chain and creating market opportunities that can benefit women. To improve the nutrition security of women and children, we adapt household level processing technologies for the production of nutritionally improved traditional and legume-based novel food products.
4: Tailor and adapt legume technologies to close yield gaps and expand the area of legume production within the farm
Legume yield is determined by the interaction between the genotype of the legume, the genotype of the rhizobia, the environment and the management of the farmer; (GL ×GR)×E×M in short. N2africa screens the best multi-purpose legume genotypes through on-farm field testing and participatory variety selection. Multi-purpose legumes have the potential to improve the productivity of mixed crop-livestock systems and should have high N2-fixation potential with enhanced grain and enhanced residue production. Elite rhizobia strains for soybean were already identified during Phase I. To ensure the most effective BNF in common bean, cowpea and groundnut, new elite strains of rhizobium for common bean, cowpea and groundnut are identified and made available for inoculant producers during Phase II. Although these crops are rather promiscuous in their symbiosis with rhizobia, a symbiosis with certain elite rhizobia strains might result in higher BNF than a symbiosis with indigenous rhizobia strains. In terms of the environmental and management factors, site specific options for controlling pests and diseases and for nutrient management are developed and tested.
The suitability of a legume genotype depends on the environment and on the purpose (e.g. grain or fodder, maximizing BNF or filling the ‘hunger gap’) and is thus site and farmer specific. Biophysical status of the fields and management levels of the crops often depend on the resource endowment status of the farmer. With our M&E (objective 5) we characterize for each production area the environments and socio-economic conditions to assess key constraints to both the productivity of legumes at farm scale and the major factors influencing the delivery and dissemination of seeds, inoculants, fertilizers, practices and access to markets. Within action sites, we define farm typologies and value chain structures and take into account the history of agricultural research for development interventions. These factors, constraints and typologies form the institutional, biophysical and socio-economic boundaries within which we use the (GL ×GR)×E×M framework to close the yield gaps of legumes and to reduce the legume yield variability. Within these boundaries, we try to identify the niches for legumes in the farming systems, tailor and adapt legume technologies to specific sites and specific farmers, and translate ‘best fit technologies’ at the field-scale into a set of ‘best-fit approaches’ at the country or regional scale.
A key asset of the N2Africa project is the data which are collected from the trials and demonstration plots, from the farm households, from processors and traders, from input suppliers and from partners. To collect these data and to create feedback loops between the Delivery & Dissemination (D&D) and research, N2Africa uses a Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) framework. Through the M&E framework we answer specific questions related to the tailoring and adaptation of technologies (see objective 4), the effectiveness of different dissemination approaches, and sales of inoculants and fertilizers by the private sector. We look for the most efficient methods of collecting, entering and analyzing data. Therefore, we explore and test the use of Information and Communication technologies (ICT) in data collection and add new innovative tools to our existing framework from phase I. Together with partners, we work to develop and implement a clear data-sharing policy, and assess the opportunities for combining data to answer and generate new research questions.
At the end of the project period, N2Africa will conduct detailed impact studies to assess progress towards achieving project targets. At the end of Phase I we conducted ‘early impact’ studies, as the project had not been running long enough to be sure that farmers were adopting rather than experimenting with new technologies. As we will have been working for nearly eight years in Ghana and Nigeria and in the Tier 1 Countries at the end of Phase II, this will allow an assessment of 'real' adoption and impact by the end of Phase II.