Tier 1 countries: First litmus test for the potential of N2Africa

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Under most circumstances, ‘Tier 1’ refers to the most important or the highest priority. In the N2Africa project, Tier 1 countries are those countries in which we started the project in 2009. During the second phase of the project these countries are no longer priority countries, as the project focuses on five ‘Core Countries’. Nevertheless, the ‘Tier 1’ countries are still very important and critical to the project, since they provide the first litmus test for the potential of N2Africa technologies and approaches to continue living and delivering their livelihood impacts without direct donor support.

N2Africa was designed to ensure that the benefits of grain legumes are impacting positively on rural livelihoods and their production environment. After all, grain legumes have multiple potential benefits – so why not investing in delivering on their potential? The initial set of countries (Ghana, Nigeria, DR Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, and Zimbabwe) covered a critical range of agro-ecologies with varying farming systems and priority legumes, providing an excellent framework for evaluating the diversity of legumes and their benefits. Research activities in relation to legume agronomy, cropping system design and rhizobiology were developed. This generated interest for the first generation of dissemination partners. Partnerships were not only talked about, but also facilitated – a new and diverse set of experiences for the project team – resulting in the target number of households reached as per the approved results framework. For the second phase, funding levels for Tier 1 countries were substantially reduced, while outcome goals remained ambitious. This required a change of strategy in terms of engaging development partners and reframing N2Africa as a primary contact for information and knowledge on legume intensification.

Even with the reduced funding, the project targets for the Tier 1 countries were reached, providing the necessary evidence that legume research and scaling processes generated and fostered by N2Africa can have a life ‘on their own’. While the upcoming impact studies will provide the necessary proof, the Tier 1 countries have lived up to their expectations and will hopefully lead the way for the Core countries.

Bernard Vanlauwe, R4D Direector, IITA