N2Africa: Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa
This magazine of Wageningen University and Research shares a collection of articles with lessons learned of the N2Africa project. The N2Africa project is a research project that aims to improve the quality and yields of grain legume crops and thereby strengthening the economic position of smallholder farmers. Legumes can fix nitrogen from the air in symbiosis with rhizobial bacteria, which improves development and yields of the crops. The concept of N2Africa is to find the right combination of a legume variety and rhizobium strain, with the right environment and farm management factors leading to successful legume yields and biological nitrogen fixation. The first phase of the project showed that legume yield increased and households benefited significantly across all regions with many farmers. The results from this phase also showed that the management factor accounted for up to 90 per cent of the legume yield gap. All N2Africa activities were therefore embedded in a (farming) systems approach. This approach recognizes and embraces the wide diversity of farms and farming systems. This diversity has implications for the different possibilities that farmers have for the cultivation of legumes on their farm. N2Africa made use of an innovative ‘Development to Research’ model where the large-scale Delivery and Dissemination (D&D) campaigns of the improved legume techniques were combined with strong feedback from Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), to provide the basis for ‘feedback learning loops’. The articles in the magazine are focussed around a number of themes: 1) Partnerships and alliances; 2) Advances in research on Rhizobiology and agronomy; 3) Dissemination of knowledge; 4) Access to inputs;5) Access to ouput markets; and 6) Empowering women to increase benefits from legume production.