1,000+ scientists trained in fertilizer optimization
22 May 2017 OFRA: The training session for scientists in Nigeria last week, means the Optimizing Fertilizer Recommendations for Africa (OFRA) team has trained more than 1,000 scientists from 13 countries in Eastern and Western Africa, on fertilizer optimization approach.
9-11 May 2017 trainers and trainees at the Faculty of Agricultural, University of Abuja, Nigeria
OFRA has developed a series of optimization tools to support farmers to make informed fertilizer investment decisions.The tools help suggests where to get maximum benefits from investing in fertilizer by reviewing size of land, crop choices, nutrient requirements of the crops and the financial resources that the farmer has to invest in fertilizer.
The tool also ensures that the fertilizer use decisions are implemented within the context of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) thus further ensuring cost-effectiveness of the farmers’ decisions, as well as supporting sustainable soil fertility management.
In May 2017, about 50 scientists were trained from Faculty of Agriculture of University of Abuja. The trainees were drawn from animal science, agricultural economics, agricultural extension, agronomists and soil science departments, meaning over 150 scientists from 34 different institutions across Nigeria have been trained.
Whilst opening the training session, Professor Tarfa, the principal investigator for the OFRA project in Nigeria, explained the significance of the training session:
“This workshop is part of a series of capacity building and sensitization activities that OFRA has been undertaking for last two years in Nigeria. As a result of this training, the scientists are better equipped to further refine the optimization tool, or train farmers’ advisors to make more efficient use of fertilizer within the context of their land and financial resources”.
Participants working in groups on the fertilizer optimization process, assisted by Professor Tarfa (top left photo)
The training focused on the generation of fertilizer recommendations using the FOT and how to make adjustments based on previous farm management practices, such as the application of manure, growing legumes or application of green manure. In some cases, where integrated soil fertility management practices have been applied, farmers are advised to reduce the quantities of fertilizer recommended by the tool.
OFRA developed a fertilizer calibration tool which advices on how to uniformly apply the fertilizer recommended by the FOT in farmer-friendly ways, using locally available measures like soda bottle tops or matchboxes.
The participants were also taken through the process of developing a paper version of the FOT to ensure that extension workers without the computers can generate the recommendations in office and transfer them into paper version and move to the field to advise farmers. As Abuja and the surrounding states form the important rice belt in Nigeria, training on the third day was delivered by AfricaRice on how to use their RiceAdvice tool. This training was also led by Professor Tarfa.
Professor Ala Nanna, representing the university vice-chancellor, noted that, the world soil fertility was declining at an alarming rate and researchers needed to do more to catch up with the changing world. He noted that soil fertility changes the quantity and quality of food harvested further pushing the African populace to the problem of food insecurity. He challenged the scientists to hype their game and change the way they have been doing research to focus more into providing solutions to problems of soil infertility. He also advised the need for collaborative research across institutions as has been demonstrated by OFRA and also leverage funds to ensure that the new technology spread across key institutions in Nigeria.
Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, the director of Ahmadu Bello University of Zaria, noted that Africa is the worst continent in terms of using fertilizer for production. He asserted that this has contributed to the poor food production and food insecurity issues. The professor further noted that the problem in Africa is aggravated by the fact that fertilizer inputs are very expensive for the majority of smallholder farmers in Africa. In this regard, fertilizer as a resource needs to be invested wisely to reap maximum benefits, especially for smallholder farmers. He lauded the OFRA fertilizer optimization approach which has decision support tools that allows extension agents to take into account a number of the farmers’ circumstances and investment goals, to maximize the benefits of fertilizer use on their farms.
Professor Adeniji, the dean of the Faculty of Agricultural University of Abuja, noted the optimization approach is an innovation that will go a long way in addressing the real challenges that farmers have been facing on amount of fertilizer to apply, how to apply fertilizer and for what reasons should fertilizer be applied. The focus on profitability of using fertilizer from this research work in tandem with the farming as a business clarion call by majority of the proponents of agricultural development.
The Dean Faculty of Agriculture University of Abuja, Professor Adeniji receives copy of the ISFM handbook from Harrison Rware of CABI
The OFRA project is supported by the Alliance for and African Green Revolution (AGRA). The project is implemented by CABI in collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and 13 National Agricultural Research agencies in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, Niger, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.
For more information, contact Professor Bitrus Dawi Tarfa, principal investigator for OFRA Nigeria, IAR/ABU, University of Zaria