NgSHC-South: Improving farmers’ prosperity through integrated approach

As researchers propose new approaches to soil fertility, management

Following soil management challenges faced by Nigerian farmers, the Nigerian Soil Health Consortium South (NgSHC-South) has proposed a solution in Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM).

The ISFM, the consortium says is a strategy that helps low resource endowed farmers mitigate many problems and the characteristics of poverty and food insecurity by improving the quantity and quality of food, income and resilience of soil productive capacity.

In a policy and research meeting supported by the IITA, WASHC and AGRA and held at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training last week, Project Coordinator, NgSHC-South, Dr Olufunmilayo Ande, said several solutions developed for soil management have not yielded desired results, thus the development of a new strategy that would increase farmer’s yields and consequently, their prosperity.

Delivering her paper, Need to Boost Agricultural productivity and Food Security Using Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM), Ande said trends in soil fertility management showed over the years that poor inherent soil fertility common in the Nigerian soils results in very low yields of arable crops especially with the small scale farmers and consequently pushed the production frontier into the more marginal lands.

The attendant result, according to her, has put smallholder and marginalised farmers at risk of crop failure and hunger.

She lamented that mineral fertiliser introduced to boost production could not alleviate poverty within the farming community due to its scarcity and lack of affordability by farmers. Moreso, she said average fertiliser used ranged between 15 and 17kg/ha “which is far below Abuja declaration of 50kg /ha of fertiliser.”

Moreover, she added, “the level of soil degradation makes use of mineral fertilizers alone is insufficient which necessitate use of organic fertilisers.”

Commenting on the ineffectiveness of organic fertilisers, she said although organic fertilisers have capability to improve soil physical, chemical and biological qualities, but because it those fertilisers have low nutrient reserve and this necessitates use of high quantity to meet crop requirements.

“These limitations including poor quality have prompted research into combined use of organic and inorganic which has resulted to significant increase in crop yield and reduced rates of both fertilisers,” she said.

These challenges, she said, necessitated a development of an integrated approach in soil fertility and management.

“The increasing agricultural productivity thus needs holistic approach coupled with issues of climatic variability and various local adaptations such as soil variability, moisture stress, slope etc.  Hence, the need for Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) to improve soil fertility and increase per unit crop production within the smallholder farmers cropping systems in the region,” she added.

The ISFM, she said, could increase the availability of organic resources within farms, mainly from crop residues and/or farmyard manure, will reduce the dependence of farmers on inorganic fertiliser and pave way for availability of exportable organic crops to countries that have well embraced organic produce; and consequently increase the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

For the adoption of this new strategy, Ande said there is a need for training and capacity building of stakeholders including researchers, policy makers, agro-input dealers, farmers and extension agents; development of relevant knowledge products for ISFM dissemination, integration of ISFM practices and advocacy for inclusion of ISFM into all agricultural development projects/ programmes, among others.