Smallholder farmers in eight African countries are being supported through a project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates, to increase yield of the major grain legumes and selected forages.

The four-year project dubbed: “N2Africa”, has initial capital of US19.2 million dollars and aimed at reducing poverty among African farmers.

Dr. Steven Kwasi Nutsuga, Acting Director of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Savanna Agricultural Institute, who announced these, mentioned Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as beneficiary countries.

He was speaking at the in-country-launch of the project on the theme: “Putting Nitrogen Fixation to Work for Smallholder Farmers in Africa”, in Tamale on Monday.

The event brought together agricultural scientists from the beneficiary countries to brainstorm and offer interventions towards the success of the project.

Dr. Nutsuga said that the plan would be implemented through the development, disseminating and promotion of appropriate technologies.

He said it would support farmers to increase average grain legume yield by 870kg per hectare, increase household grain legume consumption to 200kg per household per year.

Dr. Nutsuga said that 28,125 in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions of Ghana would benefit from the scheme in Ghana and productivity was expected to increase by 1.3 tons per hectare.

He said that the project was geared towards empowering farmers to achieve sustainable production and attain sustainable land use for agricultural production.

Dr. Nutsuga said that the project was in line with objectives and strategies of the Food and Agriculture Sector Development policy in which sustainable management of land and environment was a key component.

Mr. Joseph Dasanah, Northern Regional Co-coordinating Director, who launched the project, said that the main problem facing farmers in the area was soil infertility.

He said the application of chemical fertilizer, intensity of 50kg nutrients per hectare, recommended for use by African countries would best improve soil quality and increase yield.

Mr. Dasanah said that rhizobia, nitrogen-fixing micro-organisms, are usually associated with target grain legumes to fix atmospheric nitrogen and convert it to usable form to the legume plant.

He said this would enrich the soil for subsequent cereal crops and reduce the huge foreign exchange spent by African governments in importing chemical fertilizer.

Source: GNA