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Working in partnership to improve fertilizer use within an integrated soil fertility management framework

Optimising Fertilizer Recommendations in Africa (OFRA) was a project led by CABI which ran from July 2013 to July 2017

The project was a partnership between CABI, the University of Nebraska Lincoln and National  and agricultural research and extension systems in 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. OFRA wass supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

The aim of the project is to contribute to improved efficiency and profitability of fertilizer use within the context of integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) practices.

The project was managed by George Oduor, from CABI. Professor Charles Wortmann of the University of Nebraska Lincoln (the OFRA science coordinator) led on the research effort and ensures the efficacy of the science. More information on OFRA team and the roles they carried out can be found on the ASHC/OFRA team page.

OFRA book

In March 2017 the project published a 228 page book Fertilizer Use Optimization in Sub-Saharan Africa to share the findings of the OFRA project. The publication is free to download from the ISFM materials library developed by the Africa Soil Health Consortium.

OFRA Reports

We worked through partnerships to share data 

OFRA worked in Burkina Faso (l’institut de l’environnement et de recherches agricole), Ethiopia (Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research), Ghana (Soil Research Institute), Kenya (Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Institute), Malawi (Department of Agricultural Research Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security), Mali (Institut d’Economie Rurale),  Mozambique (National Agricultural Research Institute), Niger (Institut National de Recherche Agronomique du Niger), Nigeria (Institute for Agricultural Research) , Rwanda (Rwanda Agriculture Board), Tanzania (Mlingano Agricultural Research Institute), Uganda (National Agricultural Research Laboratories)  and Zambia (Zambia Agricultural Research Institute). National agricultural research and extension systems conducted field research on the main food crops which included maize, sorghum, pearl and finger millet, teff, rice, cassava, beans, groundnuts, soybean, pigeonpea, and cowpea across a range of agro-ecological zones.

Data from relevant past research was collated together with findings from on-going research trials in a common database. This data was used to develop fertilizer guidelines, that maximise profitability of fertilizer use, within an ISFM framework. This database is managed by Martin Macharia at CABI.

Click here to access the OFRA database



We developed practical tools

The data collected was used to develop practical decision support tools including fertiliser optimisation tools. The fertilizer optimisation tools provide advice on how much fertiliser a farmer should use to maximise their profits, tailored to their individual situation.

74 computer-based fertilizer optimisation tools, or FOT, (running on Excel) and paper-based tools have been developed by the national research teams supported by University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The paper-based tools do not have the interactive of the Excel tool, instead they rely on three levels of financial investment. These tools cover 66 discrete agro-ecological zones.

The team at CABI, supported by an Oxford-based company called White October are working on the development of an app for android devises such as smart phones or tablets to make the FOT more readily available in Africa. 

Country by country resource summary:

  • Mozambique FOTs: 3 Excel FOT versions (paper-based FOTs under development +calibration tool) + (Mozambique leaflet under development)


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We share knowledge

OFRA worked closely with the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC), another CABI-lead project that is disseminating information on integrated soil fertility management in sub-Saharan Africa.

ASHC worked with partners in the OFRA project to package information and knowledge emerging from project experience for diverse audiences including, small holder farmers, and extension and policy makers.

A new 228 page book Fertilizer Use Optimization in Sub-Saharan Africa has been published by CABI to share the findings of the OFRA project. The publication is free to download.

Extension training materials in English and French were also developed

Communication materials for training and extension were developed in participatory way to build capacity of partners and local stakeholders in the process. Harrison Rware leads on monitoring and evaluation in the project.

What the funder said:

Rebbie Harawa, Interim Head, Farmers’ Solution Program, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, in the introduction to Fertilizer Use Optimization in Sub-Saharan Africa stated:

“AGRA is delighted with the success of the OFRA partnership of 13 countries in:

  • developing a strong database of crop nutrient responses while recognizing that more research is needed to address secondary and micro nutrients, intercropping and rotations, and otherwise fine tuning existing information,
  • providing computer and paper Fertilizer Optimisation Tools for 66 recommendation domains
  • effectively applying GIS in sharing research results across recommendation domains and countries
  • capturing in the 17 chapters of this book a great deal of information applicable to fertilizer use optimization within integrated soil fertility management framework, and training many extension staff and other stakeholders, realizing that much more of this is needed to achieve fertilizer use optimization throughout sub-Saharan Africa.”

OFRA News link  

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Optimizing Fertilizer Recommendations for Africa (OFRA) seeks to increase crop productivity, profitability, and food security in smallholder farming systems in Africa.