The increasing negative impact of climate change on agricultural production has led to food insecurity in many rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Unpredictable rainfall patterns coupled with wide spread pest and disease infestation and high input prices are some limitations smallholder farmers face in producing food. As a result, they are unable to produce at optimal levels and do not earn enough profits for their efforts. Despite advances in crop breeding which has brought about drought tolerant varieties, these new varieties still require good management that encompass of the application of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) practices and fertilizer use.

 Sustainable production entails putting back soil nutrients that are taken away through food production. Applying ISFM practices and appropriate fertilizer use are potential solutions to reducing soil nutrient loss. However, smallholder farmers have limited amount of money to invest and therefore have to plan their expenses wisely. The development of an innovative Fertilizer Optimisation Tool (FOT)   is a cost effective means of supporting resource poor farmers to profitably increase crop yields within their financial capacity.

The FOT helps farmers select the right crops and apply the optimum amount of fertilizers in order to maximize their profits. The tool looks at alternative and substitute fertilizers, helping farmers use what they have available and can afford.

In Uganda, over 500 extension staff have been exposed to the tool and another 120 trained on FOT application. Among this group of trained extension staff, 19 have further enhanced their skills to enable them effectively advice farmers. With the support of the CABI-led Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC), CABI and its partners hope to support extension staff in improving their service delivery using the FOT by providing regular support through social media, emails and regular monitoring.  Experiences gained by both extension staff and farmers’  while using the FOT and ISFM practices will be jointly documented for dissemination to enable wider scale up of the innovation. Extension staff and farmers are encouraged to try out the tool and support each other to improve crop yields.

by Christine Alokit

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