The CABI-led Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) has reached more than 1.3 million smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, helping them to grow more and better crops. Improved information is critical to increase livelihoods and local, regional and national food security.
The project developed communications campaigns designed to help farmers understand and adopt Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) practices when growing bananas, beans, cassava, maize and soybeans. Core funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was used to leverage fund from IDRC, DFID, and IFAD/USAID in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.
ASHC aimed to reach 450,000 farmers but, since 2015, the consortium had far exceeded its goal by tripling the number of those benefiting from its advice. These smallholders are now more aware of ISFM practices for key crops such as maize, rice and soybean and evidence from outcome studies showed that at least 20 percent of them went on to adopt a range of new soil health practices.
Aside from radio and text messages, ASHC and its partners also used novel ways to reach farmers such as comics books, drama productions and music videos with down-to-earth messages about soil health and encouraging families to share information about soil fertility and good agronomic practises. This strategy proved especially useful for reaching younger people within farming families.
James Watiti, Coordinator – Development, Communication and Extension, who was the project manager said, “Poor soil fertility is one of the biggest hurdles preventing small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa from improving their farm’s productivity and, therefore, from increasing their incomes.
“A lack of access to reliable and timely information about ISFM means smallholders cannot easily learn about, or apply, tried and tested practices, even for the most commonly grown crops such as common beans and maize.
“CABI helped to bridge the gap in farmers’ knowledge by cultivating partnerships with over 70 different agencies to plan and implement more than 18 scale up campaigns which has seen a marked change in ISFM practices and, according, increases in yield.”
Since 2011 the consortium has created over 600 ISFM materials that are now available on the ASHC website for anyone to use or adapt.
The ASHC family of projects includes many initiatives such as Gender and the Legume Alliance (GALA), and Upscaling Technologies in Agriculture through Knowledge Extension (UPTAKE) and Scaling Up Improved Legume Technologies (SILT).
Find out more about the Africa Soil Health Consortium, including access to its range of free resources, from the dedicated website africasoilhealth.cabi.org