The "Farmer-driven organic resource management to build soil fertility and improve food security" project (ORM4Soil), aims at improving soil fertility through an innovative participatory and interdisciplinary approach joining farmers and researchers with the goals of contributing to increase soil fertility and food security in Africa. The project’s experimental and research design, including its socio-economic and communication components, are expected to enhance the adoption of soil fertility management techniques and provide specific recommendations to agricultural extension services, policy makers and farmer organizations.
The overall goal of ORM4Soil is to contribute to improve soil fertility levels by increasing adoption and scale up of appropriate soil fertility management (SFM) techniques. To achieve this goal the specific objectives are to:
- Identify the challenges and opportunities associated with the poor adoption of SFM practices and understand the societal and institutional framework regarding soil fertility improvement,
- Assess the effects of new organic resource management techniques that will be designed by the concerted
efforts of farmers and researchers to build soil fertility,
- Design the optimal communication with and amongst farmers, and evaluate jointly the impact of new
techniques, communication, and different socio-economic settings for the adoption of SFM, and
- Provide recommendations to advisory services and farmer organizations, private sector actors, community
representatives and policy makers for a better adoption of SFM practices. The intended impact of the project is that the observed trend of soil degradation and decline in soil fertility in Mali, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia is reversed by implementing soil fertility management techniques that have been developed in a participatory and trans-disciplinary way by farmers, universities, agricultural research institutes, rural advisory services, NGOs, policy makers and media professionals. The investment in improving the limited soil resource is enhancing crop yield, farmer income, and food security and will help to adapt farming systems in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) to future challenges. Last but not least the project may contribute to improve the quality and lasting impact of agricultural development programs.
ORM4Soil will assess and test the following hypotheses:
- The exchange of experiences between farmers, researchers, and advisors on the reasons for insufficient up-
take of sustainable SFM leads to new ideas for and the identification of easily adoptable management options.
- Early participation of farmers in research on innovations in SFM techniques, duly considering gender issues,
experiences, and points of view, leads to increased adoption into farming practice.
- The institutional setting (social values, legal regulations) plays an important role in the adoption of SFM techniques. Social sciences theory is required to understand the behaviour of functional systems such as the
complexity of the food and agriculture system.
- A mix of media information with content and quality, tailored to farmers’ needs, and complementary inter-
personal communication from extension services leads to a better understanding and adoption of SFM techniques.
The loss of soil fertility is one of the key issues that farmers and governments will have to face and reverse in the coming decades in order to assure future food security.
ORM4Soil expects to improve research design, provide easily adoptable soil fertility management techniques, address institutional barriers and soil governance, change habits and attitudes of farmers and local society towards agricultural sustainability, and identify the best processes of communication according to farmers' needs. It is further expected that our inter- and trans-disciplinary approach applied in the four countries will be scalable to the whole Sub-Saharan Africa. This ambitious project has the potential to contribute significantly to the resilience of food systems, agricultural productivity, environmental stability, and food security.