FIPS Village-based Agricultural Advisors

Lead Organization:

Farm Input Promotions Africa Ltd

Community of Practice:

Cross-Cutting, East & Southern Africa, Farmer research network (FRN)

Countries:

Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique

Duration:

2/2017—2/2020

Overview:

Many farmers face the challenges of low productivity, infertile soils, and unreliable rain. Their agronomic skills may not give them the versatility needed to cope with changing environmental and market conditions. Farmers can improve their farms’ performance by enhancing the use of improved varieties and natural resources; maximizing returns from externally applied inputs; and increasing resilience to unreliable rainfall. Considering these objectives through an agroecological intensification (AEI) lens offers a range of options that farmers can use to increase productivity of a diverse range of crops.

Farm Input Promotions Africa (FIPS-Africa) promotes a portfolio of technologies and methods (“options”) through village-based agricultural advisors (VBAs) who help their neighbors increase productivity on their own farms. VBAs work with options the likes of improving varieties of cereals, legumes, and vegetatively propagated crops; crop nutrition; tillage methods; and crop/grain protection. Their promoted legumes include beans (five varieties plus others developed by CCRP, cowpeas (five varieties, including a farmer-identified variety), greengram (two varieties), and pigeonpeas (two researcher-identified varieties and several farmer-identified varieties). Options for improving crop nutrition include applying manure in the planting line (instead of broadcast), using the phosphorus-based seed treatment GroPlus, using fertilizers, and testing precision placement of lime. Because manure is a limited resource and fertilizer is expensive, it is important to find low-cost alternatives for legumes for the parts of their land that do not receive manure and fertilizer. Where rainfall is limited, options for deeper tillage include using spring jambes, spring ploughs, or sub-soilers. While FIPS has observed dramatic increases in productivity, the ability of farmers to adopt these tools for deeper tillage depends on context, with some farmers benefiting more than others. For example, spring jambe is only adopted in areas where hand tilling is common, and ploughing is only carried out where farmers have access to bulls and ploughs.

Grant Aims:

The FIPS team intends to:

  • Gain greater insight into options-by-context targeting for varieties, crop nutrition, tillage methods, and other AEI options.
  • Develop and implement a data platform that can support routine, cost-effective collection and analysis of data describing AEI experiments and farmer preferences.
  • Develop and implement a system for sharing data with farmers, project managers, and external partners.