By Crusoe Osagie
Farmers in six African countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania are to benefit from the second phase of the Commercial Products (COMPRO-II) project.
This disclosure was made by the Director for Natural Resource Management and Central Africa with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr. Bernard Vanlauwe.
The COMPRO-II project is a $7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that aims to institutionalise quality assurance mechanisms and facilitate the rapid dissemination of top quality agricultural commercial products to increase yields and improve the food security of smallholder farmers in the region.
IITA is to lead the project, and will work with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa – Soil Health Programme (AGRA), Farm Input Promotions (FIPS), the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Research Area of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (TSBF-CIAT).
Others include the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI), universities, national research organisations, extension organisations, and quality control entities in the different target countries.
“The plan is to raise awareness among over two million smallholder farmers on effective and profitable commercial products by 2016 through public-private partnership,” according to Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, IITA Director General on April 20.
Of these households, 420,000 will have tested at least one effective commercial product and at least 50 per cent of these will have adopted the technology and achieve a 15-30 per cent yield increase with substantial impacts on food security and income.
“The key expected outcome of the project is the institutionalisation of screening and approval of commercial products,” said the Senior Programme Officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Prem Warrior.
In the last decade, sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed economic growth amid population increases and rising demand for food. Consequently, investments in soil fertility have become indispensable to increase agricultural productivity, and access to agricultural inputs is required to achieve this goal.
But more than having access to inputs, quality assurance of agricultural inputs is of utmost importance to protect farmers, retailers, wholesalers, and importers, and to minimise health and environmental hazards.
For instance, new biofertilisers, biopesticides, and chemical agro-inputs have been commercialised, but these products are often insufficiently evaluated for quality and efficacy due to weak national and regional regulatory systems, said Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA’s Director for Natural Resource Management and Central Africa.
In the past three years, scientists working under the first phase of the Commercial Products project, also known as COMPRO I, have identified three effective commercial products out of the over 100 products evaluated that enhance yields by 15-30 per cent.
These products include Rhizobium inoculants for legumes, mycorrhizal inoculants for bananas, and seed coating of for maize. “COMPRO-II will leverage on the gains earlier made in phase one, which covered Kenya, Ethiopia, and Nigeria,” said Vanlauwe.
The phase II of the project proposes to transit these technologies into Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda; institutionalise regulatory and quality control processes; disseminate effective products through public-private partnerships; develop communication tools, and strengthen human capacity.
At the end of the project, more farmers are expected to confidently use these products because their safety, efficacy, and quality will be ensured through institutionalised regulatory and quality assurance mechanisms.
The COMPRO-II project will be officially launched on May 16 and 17, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.