Navigation Links
400,000 farmers in southern Africa using 'fertilizer trees' to improve food security

NAIROBI, KENYA (14 October 2011) On a continent battered by weather extremes, famine and record food prices, new research released today from the World Agroforestry Centre documents an exciting new trend in which hundreds of thousands of poor farmers in Southern Africa are now significantly boosting yields and incomes simply by using fast growing trees and shrubs to naturally fertilize their fields.

The analysis of two decades of work to bring the soil-enriching benefits of so-called "fertilizer trees" to the nutrient-depleted farms of Africa was published in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability.

"In only five African countries, there are now some 400,000 smallholder farmers using fertilizer trees to provide critically needed soil nutrientsand many report major increases in maize yieldswhich shows that it is possible to rapidly introduce innovations in Africa that can have an immediate impact on food security," said Oluyede Ajayi, Senior Scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre and the paper's lead author.

The study focuses on the rapid adoption of fertilizer trees by farmers targeted in research, training and extension programs in Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In eastern Zambia alone, the study reports the use of fertilizer trees grew from a pilot project in the early 1990s that involved only 12 farmers to adoption by 66,000 farmers as of 2006. In Malawi, there are now 145,000 farmers using fertilizer trees.

In addition, across the region, researchers have documented a doubling of maize yields on farms employing fertilizer trees compared to those that did not, which has dramatically increased both incomes and food security. In Zambia, for example, incomes for farmers using the fertilizer trees averaged from $233 to $327 per hectare, compared to only $130 for unfertilized fields. And the increased yields provided between 57 to 114 extra days of food.

"We also found that when farmers plant these trees, water efficiency improves," Ajayi said. "Farmers are getting higher yields from the same amount of rainwater. And the trees are helping reduce the run-off and soil erosion that is a key factor behind food production shortfalls in Africa."

Fertilizer trees enhance soil health by drawing nitrogen from the air and transferring it to the soil through their roots and leaf litter, replenishing exhausted soils with rich sources of organic nutrients. Scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre have been working since the 1980s to identify indigenous tree species, such as a fast growing variety of acacia that can be planted alongside crops to improve soil fertility. Among the many burdens facing African farmers are soils that are among the most depleted in the world. Yet for two-thirds of farmers on the continent, mineral supplements are either too expensive or simply unavailable.

In recent years, the Centre's work has focused on partnerships, particularly with national agriculture extension programs that can help more smallholder farmers integrate fertilizer trees into their crop production systems. Ajayi said the rapid adoption of the fertilizer tree approach is partly due to the fact that researchers have turned over much of the project design and testing to farmers.

"Initially, these fertilizer tree projects were controlled mostly by researchers," Ajayi said. "But in the final phases of development, all of the testing in the field was completely designed and fully managed by the farmers themselves."

Ajayi also credited initiatives that focused on integrating the fertilizer tree approach with national agriculture policies and priorities.

Researchers believe wider use of fertilizer trees in Africa will require a two-track strategy that involves simultaneously engaging policy makers and farmers.

Ajayi cautioned that, while they are a natural way of supplementing the soil, fertilizer trees should not become entangled in the divisive "organic versus inorganic" debate over how to boost to increase crop yields in Africa. It is important to increase the use of both types of nutrient sources in complementary ways. For example, research has shown that coupling fertilizer trees with small doses of mineral fertilizer often results in generating the highest productivity and financial returns.

"We need to provide farmers in Africa with a wide range of soil fertility options and not focus on one type or another as being somehow superior," he said.

Researchers also say future work should focus on the potential for fertilizer trees to improve yields of high value crops, such as coffee and cocoa


Contact: Paul Stapleton
World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

Related biology news :

1. $400,000 NRC grant to develop nuclear engineering faculty at Clemson
2. Barrow scientist awarded $400,000 grant to study cell associated with intuition and autism
3. MSU researchers receive $400,000 in first wave of stimulus funding
4. If insurance companies pay out too often, farmers will be threatened with ruin in the long term
5. Farmers more likely to be green if they talk to their neighbors, according to MSU research
6. U of M project will help corn and soybean farmers prepare for climate change
7. US farmers dodge the impacts of global warming -- at least for now
8. Transgenic corn suppresses European corn borer, saves farmers billions
9. New study shows benefits of Bt corn to farmers
10. Chocolate farmers could benefit from newly sequenced cacao genome
11. Sequencing of cacao genome will help US chocolate industry, subsistence farmers
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/10/2015)... 10, 2015  In this report, the ... of product, type, application, disease indication, and ... report are consumables, services, software. The type ... biomarkers, efficacy biomarkers, and validation biomarkers. The ... diagnostics development, drug discovery and development, personalized ...
(Date:11/2/2015)... 2, 2015  SRI International has been awarded a ... development services to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) PREVENT ... scientific expertise, modern testing and support facilities, and analytical ... and toxicology studies to evaluate potential cancer prevention drugs. ... PREVENT Cancer Drug Development Program is an NCI-supported pipeline ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Oct. 29, 2015  Connected health pioneer, Joseph ... explosion of technology-enabled health and wellness, and the business ... The Internet of Healthy Things . ... smartphones even existed, Dr. Kvedar, vice president, Connected Health, ... care delivery, moving care from the hospital or doctor,s ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... , November 26, 2015 ... Biobanking Market 2016 - 2020 report analyzes that ... integrity and quality in long-term samples, minimizing manual ... cost-effectiveness. Automation minimizes manual errors such as mislabeling ... efficiency. Further, it plays a vital role in ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... Studies reveal the differences in species of bacteria ... for more effective treatment for one of the most commonly ... --> --> Gum disease is one ... relatively little was understood about the bacteria associated with it ... researchers from the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition together with ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... CITY , Nov. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna ... affirms that its business and prospects remain fundamentally ... , Zoptrex™ (zoptarelin doxorubicin) recently received DSMB recommendation ... to completion following review of the final interim ... Phase 2 Primary Endpoint in men with heavily ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 The Global ... a professional and in-depth study on the current ... (Logo: ) , The ... including definitions, classifications, applications and industry chain structure. ... international markets including development trends, competitive landscape analysis, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: