West Africa Fertiliser Programme to promote mobile soil test kits
The USAID West Africa Fertilizer Programme is to provide training on the use of mobile soil test kits as part of efforts to promote agricultural enhancing technologies to boost productivity and ensure better returns on farmer investments.
The two-day regional workshop on the theme: “Promoting Mobile Soil Test Kits for Rapid Decision-Making” would be attended by farmer-based organizations, soil fertility management specialists, extension agents, potential investors, input dealers and fertilizer stakeholders from seven West African countries including Ghana, Togo, Benin, Mali, Senegal and Nigeria.
The workshop is being hosted by United States Agency for International Development West Africa Fertilizer Program (USAID WAFP), in collaboration with the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Africa Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnerships (AFAP), Envaserv Research Consult (ERC) and Columbia University.
An official statement issued to the Ghana News Agency said the workshop is intended to raise awareness and promote the use of mobile soil test kits in assessing and improving soil fertility and productivity in West Africa.
It would also serve as a platform to review the principles and functionality of mobile soil test kits, and demonstrate the mode of operation of some commonly used test kits such as Soil Doctor, Palinest and Hach kit, and develop appropriate business models for their promotion and use in West Africa.
The workshop is also expected to come up with a road map on how test results from these kits can be used to guide fertilizer importers, to supply the right type of fertilizers and also create opportunities for investments in simple fertilizer blending units and supply centers close to the farmers.
The statement said the lack of fertilizer recommendations to improve soil quality and yields for farmers was a key limitation in the use of fertilizers in West Africa.
“In most countries of the region, current fertilizer recommendations are outdated, too general; failing to address location-specific climatic and soil conditions, as well as crop nutrients requirements; and not geared toward the use of most appropriate and cost-effective fertilizer blends such as high-analysis fertilizer”, the statement said.
“It is thus, apparent that soil and plant analysis is very key in helping to identify nutrient limitations and refining fertilizer recommendation for crops for increased yields,” it added.
The statement said traditional soil analytical laboratories, which are the means to achieve this end are cumbersome in service delivery and tend to be expensive and do not always provide accurate data to be used for fertilizer recommendation.
“A special interest is therefore being devoted to the use of mobile soil testing kits because of their simple nature which makes them user-friendly by farmers, extension workers and agro input dealers. This is relevant, especially if the soil testing kits would provide meaningful data about fertility and nutrient limitations of soils that would allow adequate fertilizer formulation,” it said.
The USAID West Africa Fertilizer Program (USAID WAFP) is a five-year USAID flagship project that seeks improved sustainable agricultural productivity through increased availability and use of fertilizer in West Africa.