Dr Bamba said he was pleased to represent IITA and felt greatly honored to be at the meeting that morning and also to participate in the launch of the Ghana Soil Health Consortium, which was a group of stakeholders along the soil health value chain and which would coordinate and harmonize the efforts to develop and promote content – specific packaging of integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) technologies currently promoted by various research and outreach projects supported by government and development partners for sustainability and impact.
Dr Bamba said the launch aimed at harnessing synergy from its members. The operations of the Consortium was envisaged to increase productivity; upscale best-fit practices for problem soils or special socio-economic domains; directly influence policy decisions in composition, marketing and distribution of ISFM products at national level; directly integrate regional and national research into ISFM packaging by ISFM implementing agents; integrate gender and socio-economic backgrounds into best-fit ISFM innovation and indirectly increase smallholder farmers’ yields and livelihoods.
Knowing the importance of soils for food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation, scientists have estimated that the world now loses about 75 billion tons of topsoil a year as it tries to feed itself.
Such losses were not sustainable and must cease if we are to mitigate serious risk to food security. We need to share the keys to successful soils management at a much faster rate, in order to contribute to food security into the future.
AGRA has offered a golden opportunity to show a regional lead on this issue. In IITA, we also thought that there was exceptional potential to improve yields of crops from existing farm land through novel technologies which would help improve soil fertility and soil health.
ISFM research by following livelihood perspective was a key component of IITA Strategy 2012-2020. Key priorities within this intervention include:
Enhancing the knowledge on soil biological processes towards exploiting these processes in identifying organism/microorganisms that improve access to and use – efficiency of nutrients and the role of improved germplasm in regulating input use efficiency.
Developing best-fit ISFM practices for the target cropping systems and impact zones as a starting point for further adaptation by farmers
The launch of the consortia at regional level was held in December 2013 at the IITA Conference Centre, Ibadan. The launch brought together participants from the five countries with areas of expertise in agronomy, soil science, entomology, input and output dealers, policy analysis, research and extension. It was discussed that the consortium would be implemented as a sub-grantee to IITA, which would coordinate the regional activities. IITA would also support training activities and facilitate linkages with similar initiatives in Africa.
The inception workshop for IITA was a great success. Participants shared ideas about how the project should develop. So far, four countries have developed their annual work plans and received funding for its implementation. A Programme Manager has been recruited and he would join us next week. Like Ghana, Mali was launching its consortium the next day.
He said the consortium was not a research organization; rather, it was being implemented to facilitate achievement of a common goal. Some of the deliverables were improving wider access to ISFM technologies and improving capacity to design context-specific ISFM and publish ISFM technologies.
He also emphasised that implementing the project at country level, required the partnership and the connection between the research community developing new knowledge and the development community involved more directly in knowledge exchange.
The country-level consortiums would be well placed to ensure that local adaptations and farmer-led innovations are combined with new research on agronomic practices to creative farmer friendly materials.
The activities planned would strengthen information sharing and bridge the gap between research and smallholder farmers’ information needs. He further commended the organizers of the inauguration of the consortium.