Monday, May 07, 2012

Farmers in six African countries to benefit from US$7m commercial products project

 By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] Farmers in six African countries will benefit from Phase II of the Commercial Products (COMPRO-II) project, said Dr. Bernard Vanlauwe, Director for Natural Resource Management and Central Africa with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture today.
The six, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania will benefit from the COMPRO-II project, a US$7m grant from the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at institutionalizing quality assurance mechanisms and facilitation of the rapid dissemination of top quality agricultural commercial products for increased yields and food security of smallholder farmers in the region.
IITA that will lead the project will work with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa – Soil Health Program (AGRA), Farm Input Promotions (FIPS), the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Research Area of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (TSBF-CIAT), the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI), and universities, national research organizations, extension organizations, 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 percent of these will have adopted the technology and achieve a 15-30 percent yield increase with substantial impacts on food security and income.
“The key expected outcome of the project is the institutionalization of screening and approval of commercial products,” said Prem Warrior, Senior Program Officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Sub-Saharan Africa in the last decade, 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.
Whereas it’s important to have an access to inputs, quality assurance of agricultural inputs was of utmost significance to protect farmers, retailers, wholesalers, and importers, and to minimise health and environmental hazards.
For instance, new biofertilizers, biopesticides, and chemical agro-inputs have been commercialized, but these products are often insufficiently evaluated for quality and efficacy due to weak national and regional regulatory systems, says Vanlauwe.
Scientists have been working under the first phase of the Commercial Products project, also known as COMPRO I, in the past three years and have identified three effective commercial products out of the over 100 products evaluated that enhance yields by 15-30 percent.
The 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.
Phase II of the project proposes to:
  • transit these technologies into Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda,
  • institutionalize 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 institutionalized regulatory and quality assurance mechanisms.
The COMPRO-II project will be officially launched on 16 and 17 May 2007 in Dar-es Salaam, Tanzania.

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