A three day workshop was organised at sunset hotel with the West African Soil Health Consortium Co-ordinator Dr Jeroen Dr. Jeroen E. Huising of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Nigeria and hosted by the Soil Research Institute (CSIR), Kwadaso, Ghana in collaboration with the Ghana Soil Health Consortium. This workshop was meant to start the development of information sharing and extension products by the Country Soil Health Consortia united in the West African Soil Health Consortium Project. It was the first in a series of work/write shops that would lead to a number of finished extension and information sharing materials. Follow-up workshops will be held in-country organized by the individual CSHC and regionally. The workshop drew participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Speaking on the topic; ISFM CONCEPT and PRINCIPLES, Dr. Jeroen E. Huising started his presentation by briefing participants on the history of soil fertility management and why ISFM was needed for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. He stressed that in recent history of soil fertility management there have been periods when emphasis was only mineral fertilizer or only on organic inputs. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. In sub-Saharan Africa, both approaches have not really proved to work on their own.
Integrated soil fertility management combines the use of both mineral and organic nutrient inputs. In his view, the only way Africa could reach a green revolution is through the use of organic inputs with inorganic fertilizer. For optimum agronomic efficiency, Dr. Jeroen E. Huising explained the need to plant at the right planting density, apply fertilizer at the right time, at the right place and in several split applications. He also emphasized on some best Agronomic principles; appropriate varieties, appropriate land preparation, spacing, planting dates and practices, weeding, pest and disease management practices and ppropriate intercropping arrangements. Other key areas addressed in his presentation were; Components of ISFM and their interactions with each other and variability between farms and the need for local adaptation of nutrient input recommendations. Other focused presentation were made on A FRAMEWORK FOR SOIL MANAGEMENT RECOMMENDATIONS. Dr. Jeroen E. Huising continued the session by giving an overview of different organic inputs as sources of nutrients. He noted that for efficient use of organic inputs, there is need to synchronise decomposition with plant requirements. The presentation also focussed on fertilizers, including N, P and K fertilizers, single and multinutrient fertilizers. Fertilizer use efficiency was explored and equations on efficiencies were presented.
In line with ISFM, the presenter demonstrated the importance of using improved germplasm, and availabity and quality of good planting material. This was followed by a brief overview on Biological Nitrogen Fixation (BNF) which is another element of ISFM. He indicated that successful N2-fixation by legumes in the field depends on the Genotype (of the legume, and of the rhizobia) x environment x management framework. Some legumes can form nodules and fix nitrogen with a wide variety of different rhizobia but other legumes can only form nodules and fix nitrogen with a selected range of rhizobia. Sometimes BNF can be improved by using inoculants. He concluded the presentation by highlighting briefly on Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) – beneficial organisms that can be prepared as commercial products and are used widely in agriculture.
The second day began with presentations from CABI representatives; Dr James Watiti and Dr Francis Dabire. Dr James Watiti who are members of the African Soil Health Consortium Concept of Material Development. Dr James Watiti explained comprehensively the steps for a write shop approach to material development as follows;
Brief identificaton of the technology – what do you want to scale up
Identification of the main actors – these are the generators ,the intermidiaries etc
Define the key messages – what do you want the farmers to know?
What do we propose to prepare – what language,text audio,visual
Who are those going to do the distribution to the people
How is feed back going to be recieved, or utilized, i.e. the poster,brochure,or the product
Find people that fit the end user and present the product out to them – this would help bring the product to the general public
In the area of extention support materials for extensionist, Dr James Watiti elaborated on the use of flipcharts,video, radio and special interest materials. He went on to present a chart dispalying the usefulness of the information when it is collected and a breakdown of information finally gets to the farmer.
He highlighted that although the extention worker goes the way forward in delivering products to the farmer, the agro dealer also does a similar job with the assistance he offers the farmer. Therefore he advised that there could be some training given to agro dealers to help them give better advise to the farmers.
Dr James Watiti also touched on the following key principles;
Clarity of language
Accuracy of science
Relevance in local context
Dr James Watiti gave the next presentation for the day he focused on how to produce friendly printed information by outlining clearly some examples on how to develop printed materials/products;
- Technology-the type of technology to be used
- Economical data/rational economy- decision
- Design- the type of design used must be attractive and presentable to the targeted group
- Text- the text should have some pictorail elements to balance the text and also it should be straight for to the point through you illustrations.
- Image- the images should be appoximate and concise
- Language- choose the right type of language,which ever language chosen should spell out your message well.
- Measurement- this part looks at the quantity of the product to used for the crops.
- Gender- women should be given much consideration in this scection.
- Quality Assurance- there should be some validation from a good source eg a researcher or an appropriate person in the field.
- Brand-the brand should be in place
The site-(the specific material)- this looks at where the material is appropriate,since a material appropriate in the southern part of of a country like Ghana, may not be appropraite in the northern part of the same country.
Video- in this field more attention needs to be given a few key items must be noted he said like
• It must have some meaningful concept
• It must have a good script
• A good time must be decided on
• Language /translation (If necessary)
• Create visual intrest
• Complement print materials
• Field test( before using on a large scale before dispensary)
He advised the participants to adhere to short and intresting videos, In his opinion, making a video was a great challenge since the medium to show it was not that common nor easy to come by and also the dissemination was not an easy task.
Radio – was also a product he discussed at length saying that it was a medium which was used widely in this era. According to him, it was the most used technology. However, the information needed to be consumer friendly. The message should be based on the listener and also its impact on the lives of the people who fall in the range of that information.
Dr James Watiti focused on policy brief and how effective it can be produced. He defined policy brief as any tool that can be used to target any body of authority that has power to change the rules. He mentioned that the primary use of a policy brief was to identify the targeted group in order to enhance your message. He stressed that the message communicated in a policy brief must be strong, detailed and well documented. Furthermore, the style and format that is to be used, language and tone were also an to be considered critically. Identifying your channel/advocate based on the primary use was also a criteria he mentioned.
The day started with a presentation from Dr. Jereon Huising. He told the participants that he was looking forward to more progress on the project since he had the madate of reporting to AGRA every three months. He then displayed the progress report of the projects in all the countries to the participants. The tool used to track the project is the key indicators for performance. He displayed the various stages on the template and discussed what needed to be done at each stage. The objectives of his presentation were;
• Faciltate the indicator
• Proportion of target
• Building and strategy( adversity to build capacity)
• Facilitate collaboration
He brought to the attention of all participants that though the project was at its early stages, there was the need for each country to set a target. In the discussion of the report template and what it entailed, it was said that since the project was handling many and diverse farmers, there was the need to categorize the farmers for be easy identification and dissemination of products. Dr. Jereon Huising however suggested that since most of the projects were at its early childhood days and Monitoring and Evaluation had not yet been fully developed, generalizing the farmers was the best way of disseminating the products. Jeroen then took the participants through all the indicators on the report template.
The next presentation for the day was led by Dr James Watiti on the topic planning for dissemination;
Who has the mandate to disseminate information to;
– Policy Makers
In his presentation, he posed this question to all participants present?; who are the current largest providers of information to farmers?
In Niger Dr. Sabiou Mahaman stated, there is an agricultural district with a person elected by the state whose duty was to file the information through the right channels.
Dr Joseph Apkoko answered that in Nigeria and Niger where the madate was slightly similar, information to farmers came from the Ministry of Agriculture and then down through channels that are linked to the ministry.
In Mali Dr. Diakalia Sogodogo said that the main role of the Ministry of Agriculture was to give feedback to the government who then gives its own mandates.
In Ghana Dr Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw said that the ministry of Agriculture was the body in charge. He explained that this body of authority has many divisions, and the main division was the Agricultural Extension, which has its own sub-divisions, the researchers provide the information needed. He concluded that the research link committee was in charge of the release of variety.