Experts in soil science have warned of low food production due to soil fertility decline that has been aggravated by continuous cropping, inadequate nutrient replacement in relation to plant demand, and high rates of soil erosion.
The warning is contained in the Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) report, a project of the Rwanda Agricultural Board in partnership with partners from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
The board’s Director General, Dr. Jean Jacques Mbonigaba Muhinda, said the project seeks to promote ISFM and advocate for technologies that respond to agriculture markets.
“There is need to mobilise resources to increase soil fertility which will in the long run increase productivity in this country as our land is not increasing , we have to increase productivity,” he said.
Muhinda expressed optimism that scaling up ISFM through value chain development will increase access to markets, value addition, and credit for farmers’ inputs.
He emphasised that value addition options that are equally significant to the region which will result in increased productivity and marketability of the selected market-preferred commodity value chains.
“These interventions will contribute to increased and sustained productivity, food and income security of the East and Central Africa’s farmers and the population as a whole,” he continued.
Research has shown that strengthening public-private sector partnerships is also key to increasing the competitiveness of smallholders’ produce through improved market access and collective marketing.
Therefore, part of the project is to link smallholder farmers to such partnerships for better incomes from the produce.
Dr. John Steven Tenywa of Makerere University in Uganda said that there are numerous efforts by governments and civil society to promote farmers’ organisations, unfortunately most of these are still weak and lack internal financial control systems hence limiting confidence amongst members.
“These farmers’ organisations require determined technical support to grow into strong and powerful institutions that will effectively negotiate and advocate for the farmers’ cause at all levels of governance and with traders,” he said.