N2Africa, a Research & Development project with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is seeking to double crop yields and household incomes for African farmers by improving access to nitrogen fixing technology and advising farmers on crop-rotation. In the first phase of the project some 252000 farmers in 8 African countries were given access to a variety of different legumes which host nitrogen fixing soil bacteria called rhizobia.
Nitrogen is vital in plant growth; however, in phase 2 the project faces challenges with giving farmers greater access to high-phosphate fertilizers and the inoculant (peat and rhizobia bacteria). Results of phase 1 showed promise, with significant gains in crop yield and subsequent increase in income, falling somewhat short of the goals.
Phase 2 also hopes to put more emphasis on role of African NGOs, “to ensure a legacy of expertise that can develop locally appropriate nitrogen-fixing legume technologies in the future,” said N2Africa’s project leader Ken Giller.