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Policy brief proposes extensionists ISFM training

13 June 2012

policy brief

Economic benefits of ISFM


Rodney Lunduka and Valerie Kelly

The ASHC’s first policy brief sets out the economic benefits of integrated soil fertility management (ISFM). The brief was produced by Rodney Lunduka, in his role as post-doctoral fellow (policy), together with Professor Valerie Kelly of Michigan State University, and a member of the technical advisory group.

The brief proposes greater short-term investment in extension services including staff, field demonstrations and publicity materials to train farmers in ISFM techniques. In particular it cites combining organic manure with intercropping maize with pigeon peas as an approach that allows for less inorganic fertilizer use – without reducing total outputs or net revenues.

The brief also highlights the need for dissemination materials and demonstration plots to be developed.

In trials in Tanzania farmers experienced an increased net profit per hectare from intercropping pigeon peas and maize. When this was combined with the application of the recommended amount of fertilizer they achieved the highest profit of US$305/hectare. Maize cropping alone with recommended doses of fertilizer gave a return of US$230.9/hectare. Intercropping with half fertilizer gave a return of US$231.8/hectare. In similar trials in Kenya, a US$180/acres premium was achieved from maize when fertilizer was combined with manure over the use of fertilizer without manure.

Policy brief 2 will explore ‘Implementing smart use of fertilizer subsidy.’

Why produce policy briefs?

This policy brief is the first of a series that the ASHC will be producing over the lifetime of the project. The policy briefs are important because long-term sustainable change often requires institutional change to be implemented along side technical innovation.

George Oduor, ASHC project manager, said:

“The ASHC wants to offer evidence from ISFM research and present options and ideas to help policy makers craft policies that solve real problems. Our first brief is a good example – suggesting practical ways to make fertilizer subsidies work more effectively – or maintain agricultural yields despite reduced expenditure on fertilizer. We must not fall into the trap of lecturing policy makers, or farmers for that matter. We must be honest brokers of information and let the audiences for our material decide on the best way ahead.”

One of the commitments of the technical advisory group meeting in May in Nairobi was to ensure that the ASHC was able to draw on persuasive examples of economic data. Initially it had been anticipated that the policy recommendations would be based exclusively on evidence coming directly out of ASHC’s work. In discussion with the technical advisory group this approach is being refined.

Professor Kelly said:

“In my experience, an important way to get policy support is to have a clear economic argument that can show positive impacts on government budgets as well as on farmer’s incomes and food security.”

Professor Ken Giller, from the ASHC technical advisory committee, explains:

“We need to set out the evidence as honest brokers. It is essential that we don’t get carried away with our advocacy approach and become evangelical about the merits of ISFM general. When we identify institutional and policy issues we need to ensure we present options that are backed by evidence to ensure that we create changes in policy that stick.”

Film: ASHC introduction to ISFM

Note at the time of writing Rodney Lunduka was the post-doctoral fellow (policy).