Putting Nitrogen Fixation to Work for Smallholder Farmers in Africa(N2Africa) is a project that is working to expand the farm area planted to grain legumes (common bean, cowpea, groundnut, chickpea, faba bean, and soybean) and enhance their yields to improve smallholder farmers’ incomes and food and nutrition security. At the end of Phase 1 (2010 to 2013) the project had benefited some 225,000 small-scale farmers in its target countries of Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, DR Congo, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Because of its success, N2Africa was approved for a 4-year Phase 2, from 2014 to 2018. In this second phase, the project will focus in scaling proven technologies from Phase 1 to reach an additional 555,000 farmers –about 800,000 beneficiaries over the course of Phases 1 and 2. Three new countries have also been added: Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia, which, together with Ghana and Nigeria, comprise the project’s core countries. The six other countries are ‘Tier-1” countries that will consolidate earlier achievements and have lower target numbers than the core countries. In Phase 2, the project intends to reach an additional 105,000 farmers in both Ghana and Nigeria, 65,000 in each of the following: Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia, and 25,000 in each of the six Tier-1 countries.
In Phase 2, the project will specifically address the issues of (a) moving to scale the operation to reach 550,000 farmers; and (b) ensuring sustainable input and output supply chains for farmers to buy and use the N2Africa products developed and tested under Phase 1 (i.e., certified seeds of improved varieties, inoculants, legume fertilizers, and labor-saving tools and services).
Scaling operations required an innovative approach. To this end, N2Africa sought synergies and complementarities with compatible projects and implemented its activities through formalized, comprehensive, and well-defined Private-Public Partnerships (PPPs). Over the past two years the PPP concept has been adopted by N2Africa. The project continuously receives requests for collaboration across its operational countries, making it a “go to” initiative based on the successful partnerships it has formed.
To date, N2Africa has formalized 86 partnerships (Fig.1) with public and private organizations in its 11 operational countries benefiting some 260,000 farmers. Forty-four of these formalized PPPs are with dissemination and delivery entities linked to high-value supply chain projects with objectives similar to those of N2Africa, thus leveraging resources and creating synergies that benefit thousands of smallholder farmers.
Partnerships initiated by N2Africa are built on four pillars: (1) capacity building; (2) dissemination; (3) input supply including seed systems; and (4) markets. Other partnerships are research-oriented comprising diagnostics and rhizobiology.
Working within the concept of PPPs, N2Africa has ascertained that when efforts of various partners with common goals and interests join forces and resources and learn from one another’s experiences, the attainment of the goals of all parties involved become exponentially higher. Therefore, in signing partnership agreements, N2Africa puts a high priority on coordination, particularly on structures and modes of operations.
N2Africa puts heavy emphasis on sustainable input and output supply chains in establishing PPPs for its scaling out efforts. N2Africa also saw cross fertilization among partnerships. A good example of this is the Legume Alliance, coordinated by the CABI-African Soil Health Consortium (ASHC-II). The Alliance is now implementing the campaign on Maharage Bingwa (Champion Beans) in which they develop and share information on common bean technologies with different partners. One of its strengths is that different partners use different media to disseminate information, ranging from radio to comics, thereby reaching different audiences.