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Soil consortia get ISFM communications support

The Rwanda Soil Heath Consortium was formally launched on 28 June 2013 at the Lemigo Hotel, Kigali.

Others country level consortia are planned for Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

George Oduor, project manager at ASHC said:
The Africa Soil Health Consortium really welcomes the development of the country-level consortia. I was delighted to be asked to make a presentation at the Rwanda launch.

I have already been asked to join the steering committee for the Kenya Soil Health Consortium, and other similar invitations are starting to arrive from the other countries.

So, this is a good time for ASHC to clarify our offer to the country level consortia. ASHC has learned a great deal since our inception and we want to ensure that this knowledge is pressed into use as widely as possible.’

Services ASHC wishes to develop to specifically enhance its support of the country-level consortia include:

  • Facilitating collaborative approaches to the development of ISFM communications materials
  • Capacity building (on-the-job) the communication skills for producing farmer-friendly ISFM
  • Training of trainers in how to facilitate the production of farmer-friendly communications material and produce a technology guide to ISFM approaches which can be universally understood
  • Support documenting and sharing emerging practice and success stories in all media – film, radio and print
  • Hosting all ISFM information materials, in all media, developed by the country-level consortia to build a more comprehensive compendium
  • Facilitating communications research: helping to improve the body of knowledge of how to create persuasive communications and messages that stick and innovative communication channels
  • Support campaign planning and development building on the innovative communications that ASHC has commissioned and developed
  • Backstopping all consortia members in the development and production of ISFM information materials
  • Sharing the successes of the country-level consortia through a range of ASHC publications and social media

ASHC former chairman and still technical advisory group member Shamie Zingore is the Africa regional director of International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), said:

“IPNI is pleased to play a leadership role in the country-level soil health consortia project. We are working with AGRA and country-level consortia in eight countries to support various projects that are helping smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to increase crop productivity through out-scaling ISFM innovations.

We recognize that the impact of efforts to out-scale ISFM technologies will remain limited unless the problems of lack of relevant knowledge products and poor linkage between various initiatives promoting ISFM technologies at the country and regional levels are effectively addressed.

The recently started country-level soil health consortia project is making great strides to harmonize, synthesize and disseminate ISFM knowledge, and the launch of the Kenya Soil Health Consortium paves way to accelerate the progress in delivery of project outputs in Kenya.”

Shamie continues:

“ASHC will be a key partner. ASHC is focusing on regional development of generic materials to raise awareness of ISFM amongst stakeholders and providing information needed to improve decision-making by policy makers, scientists, extension workers and input suppliers.

The knowledge products developed by ASHC will be adapted at the country-level by the various country consortia.

The project will also benefit from the expertise and experience of ASHC in knowledge synthesis and production of high quality extension material. ASHC will be involved in training to build capacity of consortium members.”

Background note
AGRA felt that Country Level Soil Health Consortia could address the challenges of poor integration of ISFM information and the lack of harmony in research and development programmes in individual countries.

ASHC technical advisory group member Shamie Zingore is also the regional director for Africa for IPNI, which is providing technical backstopping to get the new consortia properly constituted and working and to improve their effectiveness in synthesis, management and communication of ISFM information, contributing to the large-scale adoption of ISFM technologies.

In launching the country level consortia, AGRA stated that “to complement the consortium’s activities, particularly in the area of knowledge exchange and research AGRA is partnering with Africa Soil Health Consortium. This initiative will support grantees to design high quality materials while provision for reproduction of materials is expected to come from grantee budgets. The partnership aims to create a connection between the research community developing new knowledge and the development community involved more directly in knowledge exchange.”

AGRA soil health program define the purpose of the Country-level Soil Health Consortia, as:

  • To build partnerships for scaling up the impacts of investments beyond our projects geographical locations
  • To minimize duplication of efforts and to improve the use of limited resources
  • To enhance collaboration with and increase prospects of developing joint communication to stakeholders/clients who are often the same for all the projects
  • To improve communication of R&D outcomes which will be used to develop joint protocols for demonstrations and trials that the parties will conduct in different location
  • To enhance transparency, trust and a clear understanding of AGRA’s objectives thus building confidence in AGRA’s work and creating opportunities for co-funding or donors funding
  • To mobilize resources for collaborative efforts to synthesize and disseminate ISFM knowledge to various agricultural stakeholders
  • To assist in collecting and collating data that is needed to develop fertilizer recommendations
  • To develop/strengthen the technical and delivery capacity of the members of the consortium

AGRA noted that the process has revealed tremendous overlaps in some regions and major gaps in extension demos, adaptive research, data management and analysis in some areas.