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OFRA paper published in Agricultural Sciences

The partners in OFRA have published a journal paper in Agricultural Sciences, 2014, 5, [1384-1391 Published

Online December 2014] Assessing the potential to change stakeholder’s knowledge and practices on fertilizer recommendations in Africa 

Harrison Rware, the monitoring and evaluation specialist at OFRA, said: “This paper sets out some of the early lessons emerging from OFRA, especially relating to our findings about fertilizer recommendations and use of decision support tools such as fertilizer optimisation tools.

It is important that, in addition to developing an understanding of the technical requirements for developing fertilizer recommendations, we also start to understand the current use of decision support tools such as the fertilizer optimisation tool to deliver the fertilizer recommendations.

This research points to the need to develop highly collaborative approaches that can build consortia able to develop fertilizer recommendations. If we are able to achieve this, these recommendations will be widely owned. The fertilizer application decision making tools will therefore guide smallholder farmers to rationalize their decision-making on fertilizer application and increase their return on investment on fertilizer following ISFM practices.

OFRA is holding a workshop on the development of agro-ecological fertilizer decisions support tools for East Africa in February 2015.

The abstract for the paper states:

Africa’s fertilizer use averages only 8 kg per hectare per year. Available fertilizer recommendations in Africa are high, and vary between countries. The recommendations are generally out dated, and/or

“blanket” recommendations that are not site, or crop specific. Recommendation

developed for one crop is often used for another and possibly unrelated crop.

CABI and AGRA designed a project whose goal is “to help improve the capacity of National Research Institutions in developing fertilizer recommendations for efficient and profitable fertilizer use in 13 sub-Saharan African countries within the framework of ISFM practices under smallholder farming by the end of March 2016”.

Baseline survey conducted in May 2014 targeted scientists, policy makers, extension workers, agro-dealers, fertilizer companies and farmers/farmer organization. Snowballing and convenience sampling techniques were used to get the sample and emails were used to reach the respondents. A total of 416 respondents were targeted but only 219 responded from 12 countries. Out of the 219, 148 were extension workers and researchers.

About half (51%) of the scientists areaware of fertilizer optimization tool, and a lesser proportion have used the tool across all countries (31%). Fewer extension workers (31%) were aware of the fertilizer optimization tool and none reported to have used [any tool]. Onaverage about 5% of the study participants reported that other stakeholders were involved in the development of fertilizer recommendations including farmers, farmer organizations, policy makers, researchers, extension workers, agro dealers, fertilizer companies and donor organizations. Stakeholder involvement was highest in Nigeria at 15%, followed by Ethiopia (13%) and Malawi (10%) but most of the countries reported <5%.

There is a general understanding that development of fertilizer recommendations is a multi-stakeholder initiative and therefore need for involving many stakeholders in the development of fertilizer recommendations across Africa that will fosters greater ownership and sustainability.