Using best-bet ISFM options to improve local community livelihoods | Natural Resource Management (Soil and Water Conservation)

Although Eastern and Central African (ECA) countries depend largely on agriculture as a main source of livelihood for 80% of the population and 38% of the GDP (ASARECA, 2009), land degradation and soil fertility depletion grossly limit agricultural productivity (Sanchez, 2002) in the region. There is limited adoption of proven Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) technologies partly attributed to inadequate capacity and kno Read more..

Description of the technology or innovation

Although Eastern and Central African (ECA) countries depend largely on agriculture as a main source of livelihood for 80% of the population and 38% of the GDP (ASARECA, 2009), land degradation and soil fertility  depletion  grossly  limit  agricultural  productivity  (Sanchez,  2002)  in  the  region.  There  is  limited adoption  of  proven  Integrated  Soil  Fertility  Management  (ISFM)  technologies  partly  attributed  to inadequate capacity and knowledge, and low investment in soil management technologies, amidst uncertain markets and marketing environment. Value addition (VA) is postulated to increase profitability of farming and thus promote farmer re-investment in ISFM. The ISFM approach involves use of combined application of organic and mineral resources, resilient germplasm and  nutrient cycling and conservation (Vanlauwe et al, 2010). 

Building on the successes of previous projects, this project focused on priority commodities to upscale best bet ISFM and VA technologies, increase market options, build capacity of stakeholders, in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, reaching out to more people than previously. The ISFM technologies included: soil erosion control; use of improved varieties of groundnuts, beans, maize, grain amaranth; use of organic and inorganic fertilizers, kitchen gardening, rhizobia inoculant and fertilizer trees/shrubs, plus use of improved beehives (Table 1).The project also promoted 29 VA technologies across the region, specific to different enterprises and project site. They  include:  improved post-harvest handling and storage, bulking, grading, packaging and commercial seed production; processing of produce into different products. Market access was  enhanced  through  characterization  value  chains  for  priority  enterprises,  business  planning,  record eeping, use of  standardized  measurements, collective  mareting, value addition,  maintenance of  market information  boards,  quality  control,  Table  banking  and  partnerships  with  private  companies.  Targeted capacity building events increased stakeholder knowledge in ISFM, value addition and marketing.

The  project  approach  consisted  of  three  major  stages:  i)identification  of  priority  agricultural  enterprises, their  value  chain  constraints  and  the  target  farmers  groups;  ii)  participatory  engagement  with  various stakeholders, with farmers being a central focus, to prioritize technologies and capacity needs based on the local  environment  to  attain  demand-driven  ISFM  and  VA  techno logies.  The  project  undertook  capacity building  to  address  the  identified  stakeholder  needs.  iii)  Empowerment  of  stakeholders  to  form associations,  organization  and  Innovation  platforms  to  attain  organized  efficient  and  profitable  markets. Profitable  and  efficient  markets  in  turn  provided  incentives  to  further  invest  on  ISFM  and  VA,  and  improved livelihoods. Feedback and benefits of the up scaling process were documented to further refine
methodologies, and disseminate lessons learnt to other stakeholders.

Table 11. Summary of ISFM technologies promoted in the project sites

Country District/region Enterprises Technologies promoted
Kenya Siaya, Maara Africanindigenous vegetables
(crotalaria, solanumNigrum, Grain  amaranth, crotalaria)
4  ISFM  options:  Indigenous  vegetables  (Crotalaria,  solanumNigrum)  with FYM;  Arrow  roots  with  FYM  and  water  management;  Kitchen  gardening (onions, kale, spinach) with FYM & sprinkler irrigation.  
Grain  amaranth  (var.  LONG)  with  inorganic  (DAP,  liming)  and  organic
[(FYM compost, cover crops (lablab, mucuna and desmodium)] &soil erosion
control (use of cut-off drains, terraces, water harvesting) and fertilizer trees
    Maize 8 ISFM options including: use of 5Striga tolerant maize varieties (KSTP 94,
IR maize, WS502, WS505, H513) with inorganic (DAP, CAN, NPK) alone or
in  combination  with  lime,  organic  (FYM)  or  biomass  transfer  (Calliandra,
grevillea and tithonia). SeeAnnex 3b.
    Banana 1  ISFM  option:  High  value  banana  varieties  coupled  with  erosion  control,
water conservation and FYM
Uganda Mbale, Tororo,
Groundnuts, climbing  beans,
7  ISFM  Technologies,  Innovations  &  Management  Practices  (TIMPs)
demonstrated to about 702 farmers over an area of 40 ha. They include: use of
4  groundnut  varieties  [1  local (Etesot)  and 3  improved  (serenut  2,  serenut  3, red beauty)] with organic (FYM) and inorganic (Minjingu rock phosphate) at
different rates; use of improved variety of climbing beans (variety NABE 12C)
with organic (FYM) and inorganic (Minjingu rock phosphate) at different rates
together with or without inoculant. Climbing beans were  supported with poles,
papyrus, sisal strings and banana fibre.
Tanzania Lushoto Indigenous  veg. African eggplant 3 ISFM options: Tengeru white African eggplant with i) FYM + DAP; ii)
FYM + phosphate fertilizer (Minjingu); 3. FYM  +NPK
Honey bees 1 ISFM options: i) Modern beehives (SUA ITATOBE and LANGSTROTH)
Trees nursery 2  options:  i)  Fruit  (Avocado  and  apple)  trees  Nurseries  +  FYM  +  DAP;  ii) Indigenous trees nursery + FYM +DAP
Sunflower 2  ISFM  options:  i)  Record  sunflower  variety  +  FYM  +  phosphate  fertilizer (Minjingu); Record sunflower variety + FYM + (DAP)
Rwanda Kamonyi,
Climbing  bean
variety (MAC 44)
1 ISFM option: Use of improved bio-fortified bean variety (MAC 44), NPK,
FYM and rhizobium (CIAT 899)
Bush  bean  variety
(RWR 2245)
1  ISFM  option:  Use  of  improved  bio-fortified  bean  varieties  (RWR2245)  as pure  stand,  use  of  mineral  fertilisers  (NPK,  FYM  and  rhizobium  inoculant (CIAT 899)
Maize-bush  bean
1  ISFM  option:  maize  (ZM  607)  and  bush  bean  (RWK10)  intercropped  as follows: pure bush beans; 1 row beans & 1 row of maize; 2 rows bush beans & 2 rows of maize; 1 row bush beans & 2 rows of maize; 2 rows bush beans & 1
row  of maize; pure maize. Beans enrobed  with rhizobium and fertilized with
NPK ; maize fertilized with NPKMg + micronutrients
Grain Amaranthus 1 ISFM options: Use of DAP fertilizer  and  grain amarathus varieties 

Cumulatively across the region, 40 ISFM technologies were demonstrated over 162 ha. In Kenya, farmers increased household income from US $ 1,709 to 3,646 per hectare  following use of ISFM practices (DAP and 7.5 t FYM ha-1 ) on grain amaranth. With its low moisture requirement and higher returns compared to maize, grain amaranth is now looked as a possible adaptation strategy for farmers to cope with the effects of climate change/ variability affecting the ECA region. Grain amaranth also transformed the lives of an estimated 300 HIV-AIDS positive widow farmers  in  Wagai Division, since  it contains 8 essential amino acids, hence a health booster “Today members of Aluor widows group are not sickly because amaranth is an  immune  booster  and  income  earner.We  sell  grain, flour, mandazi, ugali  and  uji”-  Ms.  Jemima  Odo, Aluor  Widows  group  (Fig.  1).  Processing  of  grain  amaranth  resulted  into  higher  marketability  and profitability.  Similarly,  use  of  ISFM  technologies  increased  the  yield  of  African  indigenous  vegetables (Crotolariaochroleuca and Solanumnigrum) and consequently farmer’s annual income from US $ 1,100 to 12,000 ha-1 .Use of ISFM on striga tolerant maize varieties (KSTP 94, IR maize, WS502, WS505, H513) increased yields and income by 4 to 5 above that obtained under farmers’ practice. Improved maize storage using  metal silos reduced post harvest losses  from 25% to less than 1% and attracted farmers to take on collective marketing for better market access. The project worked with over 1000 farmers from Wagai and Maseno divisions, hence even greater impact. 


Figure. 1. Ms. Jemima Odo of Aluor Widows group     Figure. 2. Gross Margins for use of P and farmyard manure (FYM)
proudly stands in her grain amaranth garden              on different groundnut varieties at Average Prices.

In Uganda, the project demonstrated the need to target ISFM intervention to the right enterprise so as to benefit  from  the  investment.  Red  beauty  and  serenut  3  emerged  as  the  most  profitable  out  of  four groundnut varieties (Fig. 2). For red beauty, gross margin increased from US $ 283 to 2,107 per hectare, with 8.73 kg P ha-1 . For serenut 3 gross margin increased from US $ 497 to 2,246  per hectare, with use of 4.37 kg P ha-1  + 2 t FYM ha-1 . The project worked with over 500 groundnut and beans farmers  from four districts, hence an even greater impact. 

In  Tanzania,  improved  beekeeping  using  modern  beehives  (SUA  ITATOBE  and  LANGSTROTH)  and formation of  beekeeping  farmers’  network in partnership wi th PEAEF expanded  farmers’ opportunity to export honey to foreign  markets  increased the  volume of processed  honey (Fig. 3)  from 34 to 438  litres within a 6-month period, generating US $ 3,500. Within a period of 1 year the total number of improved beehives  increased  by  over  100%.  Business-oriented,  ecologically  friendly  honey  production  and  tree planting  conserved  a  degraded  water  source  and  increased  water  supply  for  a  population  of  over  9,000 compared to 3,000 before the intervention.


Figure 3. Logo and packed and branded honey produced and processed by Mwamboa Beekeeping group

In  Rwanda,  the  new  improved  bio-fortified  bush  bean  variety  (MAC  44)  combined  with  ISFM  yielded higher  than  the  existing  varieties  under  farmers’  practice  (2,400  vs  1,500  g  ha-1 ),  resulting  in  a  higher annual revenue (US $ 2,354 vs 1,248) per hectare, for the new and old varieties, respectively. Yields were higher using ISFM practices (NPK+rhizobia  inoculant) compared to farmers’ practice (farmyard  manure alone), resulting in higher revenue (US $ 2,100 vs 1,100) for fertilized plus rhizobia inoculant and control, respectively. Over 200 farmers benefited.

The project trained Information Board Managers (IBMs) and procured 10 information boards (IBs) which were established in critical and strategic areas in the project areas (Fig 4A, 4B). The IBs now serve as key reference points for market information to farmers on  the project commodity value chains as well as other agricultural related information. The project beneficiaries and other community members are excited about this new development as lack of accurate produce marketing information has always been used by middle
men  to  cheat  farmers.  The  fifteen  (15)  groups  are  registered  with  AgriNet  and  FIT  companies  which provide  the  IBMs  with  market  information  on  monthly  basis.  Three  (3)  companies  were  contacted  and contracts signed with these companies to facilitate  in  buying and selling of the products. The companies are:  Geomoz  Uganda  Ltd,  Garden  stores  Ltd  and  Aponye  Uganda  Ltd.  An  agro-processing  company, Tonnet  Agro  engineering  company  Ltd  was  contacted  and  MoU  signed  to  supply  farmer  groups  with processing machinery and equipment.


4A.Manager updating commodity prices      Figure 4B. Members reading  materials on Information board on the IB
Board (Okum Parish)                                  (Kanyipa Parish

Experiences, results and lessons learnt were packaged in  different formats for different stakeholders, and disseminated through different fora. In total, 13 scientific papers were prepared and presented in regional  conferences.  Some  of  these  have  since  been  published  in  the  relevant  journals.  Other communication products included: posters, training manuals, leaflets, brochures and success stories. In total  the  project  reached  out to  17,221participants  (9,441  males,  7,810  females)  through  the  various
activities implemented during the 1-year period.

Gender considerations

The project beneficiaries included different gender categories (men, women, and youths). Specifically, the project improved the health, income and livelihoods lives of over 300 widows in Wagai division of Kenya  through  improved  grain  amaranth  growing,  processing  and  marketing.  Further,  through improved production and sale of indigeneous vegetables (Crotolariaochroleuca and Solanumnigrum) in Kenya, groundnuts in Uganda and beans and grain amaranth in  Rwanda, plus honey in Tanzania, the project was able to touch the lives of many people in the region, especially women. 

Key Lessons

  • The  study  demonstrated the  yield  and  financial  benefits  associated  with  use  of  ISFM  technologies [soil amendments with improved varieties (fortified bean varieties, grain amaranth, groundnuts)].
  • Farmers appreciated the ISFM technologies implemented including the improved crop varieties and many have adopted them, with some saving the improved seed for the next season.
  • Up-scaling requires a combination of approaches and is more effective where farmers are organised in groups, as they are more accountable to other group members; support of local leaders is essential.
  • Farmers have certain technology preferences and these must be born in mind as we introduce a new technology. Researchers in Rwanda had to include the farmer-preferred fortified bush beans, although they were promoting climbing beans.  
  • Information  is key to technology adoption;there  is  need  to build  capacity of  farmers and  extension personnel in different ISFM technologies.
  • Active  involvement  of  farmers  in  trial  establishment,  maintenance,  harvesting  and  data  collection increases their interest and may consequently enhance technology acceptability and adoption.  
  • Collaborative partnerships involving farmers, advisory service providers, researchers and the private sector, all involved at different levels of planning, implementation and review, can foster technology scaling up

1.  Inadequate institutional capacity, e.g. shortage ofvehicles affected timely implementation of project activities.
2.  Theft  of  produce  from  the  beneficiary  farmers  by  the  non-beneficiaries.  This  could  discourage uptake of some technologies e.g. the groundnut curing rack where the pods are left outside for slow drying.
3.  The short duration of the project (1 year)
4.  Some ISFM technologies take long to show results, e.g. soil erosion control practices, compared to use of say, fertilisers. This may discourage quick adoption of the former than the latter.
5.  The high cost associated with some technologies, e.g. inorganic fertilisers, may be a disincentive to their adoption especially for enterprises whose market price is unfavourable.

1.  There is need to nurture the newly formed producers and mareting associations to sustain supply of improved seed and foster technology adaptation.
2.  Farmers through groups should be encouraged to pool financial resources so as to invest in the improved technologies (e.g. purchase of labour saving equipment, fertilisers) and take advantage of economies of scale.
3.  There is need to support communities in group savings, Table banking and collective marketing to facilitate market access and re-investment in ISFM.
4.  ISFM technology up-scaling requires a much longer period of  engagement with communities to concretise the successes realised and address emerging challenges.
5.  The  potential  for  up-scaling  business-oriented  ecologically  friendly  honey  production  and marketing  including  other  bee  products  (e.g.  venom,  wax)  should  be  further  explored.  Related research should address diseases and pests in bees, clone development, and interaction of fruit and crop quality with bees.

Contact details

Dr Hezron Mogaka
Program Manager
Natural Resource Management and Biodiversity  
Tel: +254 722325500

Dr. Onesmus Semalulu,
National Agricultural Research Organisation
13 km Bombo Road  
P.O Box 7065, Kampala, Uganda
+(256) 772 615009/ 0705 545818

Dr. George Ayaga
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute  
P.O. Box 57811-00200, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel. +(254)-020-4183301-20/ +(254)-020-4183720
+(254)-722 804125

Dr. Didas Kimaro
Sokoine University of Agriculture
Dept. of Agricultural Engineering & Land Planning,
Kenya Agricultural Research P.O. Box 3003, Morogoro, Tanzania.
Tel. +(255)-787 291226;

Dr. Leon Nabahungu
Rwanda Agriculture Board.
Office of the Director General.
P.O. Box 5016, Remera,Kigali, Rwanda
+(250) 788 422519

Dr. Jackie Bonabana-Wabbi
Makerere University, Dept. of Agribusiness & Natural Resource Economics, College of Agriculture &
Natural Resources.
P.O. Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda.
+(256) 774-899799;

Dr. Jayne Mugwe
Kenyatta University,
Office of the Director, Grant Writing and Management.
P.O. Box 43844-00100, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel. +254(020) 8710901-19 ext. 57521

Dr. Alex Ariho
Plot 67, Buremba Road, Kakoba Div., P.O. Box 664, Mbarara, Uganda
Office: +256-485-660210, Mob: +256-779-653649, +256-702-451574

Ms. Sarah T. Kayanga
Plot 27 Nakasero Road, Kampala.  
Plot 176 Kampala Road –Opposite TOTAL Petrol Station, Entebbe
P.O. Box 666 Entebbe, Uganda
Tel: 256-0772895404/0772391311

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