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SILT demo plots help close the yield gap

David Kijazi of AFAP writes:

26 February 2017: Last growing season our focus was common bean – this season our emphasis has moved to soybean.

16 scale-up demonstration plots have been planted with soybean this season. Each plot is one acre. The inputs being demonstrated are seed varieties Uyole 1 and 2 with DAP fertilizer and the inoculant is Legumefix.

The main plot is planted with Uyole 2. The two adjacent, smaller, plot shave been planted with Uyole 1. One of the plots has inoculant and the final plot has neither inoculant nor fertilizer. This was done purposely to demonstrate the effect of fertilizer and inoculants to farmers.

The model for the development of the soybean demonstration plots will build on the work we did for the common bean plots:

  • 16 demonstration plots establish with consultation with the extension services
  • Training for extension officers and agro dealers on (SILT) technologies.
  • Training of 14 hub agro dealers in improved legume technologies
  • Training of 22 extension officers in improved legume technologies
  • 15 farmers’ field days conducted were attended by 1,133

Rombo-Kidondoni SILT AFAP demo site 2016 (3)SILT AFAP demo site 2016 Moshi Vijijini-Kiruweni

Farmers involved in the development of the demonstration plots and the farmer training days have learned about improved legume practices. The central messages are about improved seeds which has high productivity and is resistant to diseases in comparison to their local seeds. They will also see how fertilizer and inoculant support legume production – there is great suspicion about both products, with myths that they poison the ground common amongst farmers in Tanzania!

From observing the plots farmers are learning other good agricultural practices such as farm management, timely and proper weeding,correct spacing and pest and diseases control. They have also been provided with printed materials on soybean farming developed by CABI.

Yield level per acre in the demonstration plots has either doubled or tripled in most of the sites which were not affected by adverse weather – when compared to the local norms.

The yield gap is one of the major challenges for African agricultural – the demo plots showed that the improved legume technologies can move production.  During the introduction of the project, we asked farmers, village leaders and agricultural extension staff on the average yield levels. The farmers were experiencing yields of 40 and 200 kg per acre, respectively. The actual average yields obtained in the demo plots averaged between 200 kg to 815 kg.

Although even with the best will and good husbandry some demo plots for common bean failed as a result of weather conditions. Soybean is more demanding of suitable planting weather – with too much rain being as problematic as too little.

The SILT project is therefore reviewing how it spells out these risks to farmers with the campaign material and the technical briefs.

This year the rains came around 6 weeks later than usual –this meant that carefully developed plans had to be redrafted to ensure that the planting happened in the optimal conditions.

During our visits to monitor the common bean demo plots it became clear that some farmers  have already adopted good agronomic practices from SILT project i.e. use of fertilizers in legume crops at the right rate and time, flat cultivation with close spacing compared to ridge cultivation where a lot of space is unutilized.

The African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) has experienced challenges in accessing the inputs it required. Project partners, IITA were able to supply the inoculant but finding the required seed was a challenge even for us. This shows how challenging it must be for farmers to access the inputs in a location accessible to their village.

Steps have been taken to overcome the challenge of input availability and overcome the challenge of inadequate production of the common bean and soybean seed varieties preferred by farmers.

Agricultural Seed Agency (ASA), estimates it will produce 200 tonnes of certified common bean and soybean seeds during the 2017/2018 farming season with more emphasis being on preferred varieties including Uyole Njano(common bean) and Uyole 2 (soybean). This will see the cultivation of 8,000 acres of legumes.

We at AFAP have compiled effective seed demand from various villages linked hub agro-dealers to improved legume seeds suppliers for the next farming season. We collected this data through extension officers listing farmers’ names with their seeds/inoculants requirements. We send a template to the regional and district agricultural officers who who talked to farmers. Furthermore, both during monitoring and farmer field days, farmers promised to emulate the good agricultural practices they had seen.

The agricultural officers managed to identify a total demand of about 7.5 tonnes of common bean seeds and 247 packets of inoculants for common bean. The demand data was sent to ASA who contacted the respective agro-dealers for supplying the seeds requested.

The fact that farmers registered to buy the improved seeds they had seen during the demonstration plots suggests that there is attitude and behaviour change among them.

Advocacy and policy

To address the ongoing challenge of accessing inputs we are encouraging ASA and the seed companies to get more engaged in legume seed production, this will also encourage the expansion of production of Quality Declared Seeds.

Effective seed production and dissemination may well require adjustments to the policy landscape to ensure the right incentives are in place for investment in legume seeds.

One policy-makers engagement meeting held in season one and a policy brief is being developed.

A successful seed policy meeting, held in September 2016, attracted representatives of seed companies, hub agro-dealers, Ministry of Agriculture, Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute, Tanzania Seed Traders Association, Sokoine University of Agriculture, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Farm Radio International, CABI, Tanzania Fertilizer Regulatory Authority, Tanzania Horticultural Association and NGOs. 31 participants in all.

One issue we reviewed was the limitation of QDS seed being sold within the ward of its origination. This makes it hard to effectively balance supply and demand.

We are also interested in exploring irrigation as policy level advocacy for both farmer and in seed producers.

Two policy briefs will be developed and submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries in October 2017.