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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

Soil health

Soil health

Soil is not a lifeless growing medium but a living, dynamic and subtly changing environment.

The health of the soil is massively important to smallholder farmers in developing countries. It means healthy plants and a better yield, which affects food security, income and livelihoods.

Healthy soils are also more biologically active, contributing to a healthy environment, good water and air quality and supporting lives.

We promote efficient and effective use of mineral fertiliser and organic inputs, combined with good agricultural practices. The practice, known as ‘Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM)’, combines the use of mineral fertilisers and locally available soil amendments and organic matter to replenish lost nutrients. These practices improve soil quality and the efficiency of fertilisers and other agro-inputs. 

Our experts produce communication materials, extension tools and run events and training for farmers, extension workers and policy makers. But any decisions need to consider a farmers’ financial and environmental situation along with the cropping system in question in order to maximise profitability; especially smallholder farmers who are financially constrained. The best combination of crop-nutrient-rate are vital. 

Felix working in his farm

Felix's story

In our recent Annual Review, we ran a story on Felix, from Kiambu High School in Kenya, who won our competition run through our ASHC programme. He designed a poster which shows how integrated soil fertility (ISFM) can be combined with other practices to make farming more productive and profitable. 

Cracked dry earth

The Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) case study

Soils in most sub-Saharan countries have inherent low fertility and do not receive adequate nutrient replenishment. The Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) seeks to address this. This case study shows how we are helping to build capacity and develop exemplar development communication materials on integrated soil fertility management (ISFM).

Working in partnership to communicate down-to-earth messages on integrated soil fertility management (PDF)

Optimizing Fertilizer Recommendations in Africa (OFRA)

Soil fertility across much of sub-Saharan Africa is poor, which is a major constraint to improving farm productivity and farmer livelihoods. To combat this there is now wide recognition of the need to integrate increased fertilizer use with other aspects of soil fertility management. This project aims to contribute to improved efficiency and... >>

Africa soil health

Poor soil fertility is a key constraint to improving farm productivity and farmer livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa. Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) is recognised as an effective solution to poor crop yields. However, lack of access to information means that smallholder farmers do not adopt better techniques. To combat this, we are... >>

Seeing is Believing - empowering farmers with smartphone imaging

Many farmers in the northern Indian states of Haryana and Punjab still rely on inefficient agricultural practices that are ill adapted to climate change. Data can help them. Customised advice, based on localised weather and soil data, pests and diseases, as well as input availability, can improve management practices, productivity and... >>

Scaling-up improved legume technologies in Tanzania (SILT)

Food and nutrition security is vital in sub-Saharan Africa. This project aims to develop and use innovative approaches including complimentary communication methods to scale-up improved legume technologies and establish sustainable input systems. >>

Scaling up interactive ICT to increase agricultural innovation in Tanzania

Despite Tanzania’s immense agricultural potential, farm productivity is hindered by inadequate knowledge and customary practices on farm management. The project Upscaling Technologies in Agriculture through Knowledge Extension (UPTAKE) targets small-scale farmers through geographical mobile and radio campaigns on improved agricultural technologies... >>