Front cover of the SAI Handbook for Practitioners in East and Southern Africa.
Front cover of the handbook for agriculture sector practitioners in East and Southern Africa.

The Africa RISING East and Southern Africa (ESA) project has launched the ‘Sustainable agricultural intensification: A handbook for practitioners in east and southern Africa’ for extension service providers, practitioners, development partners and policymakers working to deliver improved technologies to smallholder farmers in Africa.

The 162-paged handbook is a compilation of technologies that were iteratively developed and validated in a participatory research process by the Africa RISING ESA project with smallholder farmers in Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia.

Despite significant increases in investment and some notable successes in research validation and release of improved agricultural technologies; smallholder farmers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, continue only to realize sub-optimal crop yields on their farms.

Climate change, declining soil fertility, and various other biotic and abiotic stresses have posed significant challenges and questions to the farming enterprise. Although new research, more technology validation and dissemination is being done to counter the present barriers to agricultural production, there is still a vast ‘know-do gap’ that needs closing by applying to practice (and in some cases, policy) what is already known or has been generated.

The goal of the book is clear – to provide development partners, especially those initiating activities in the ESA region, with a catalog of improved agricultural technologies and how to implement them, plus their documented sustainable intensification benefits, ensuring that they are promoting tried and tested technologies to smallholders.

‘Africa RISING has applied a research-in-development approach to collaboratively validate nearly all the technologies presented in this handbook over the past 11 years,’ notes Prof. Mateete Bekunda, the chief scientist for the Africa RISING ESA project and lead editor of the handbook.

‘More than a decade of work in the region has enabled us to identify and validate the best-bet and best-fit technologies that match farmers’ needs and contexts in the three countries. This handbook is our legacy document of goodwill to the development actors who will be working with farmers in these communities so that they don’t need to start from zero! Rather, they can build on the improved technologies we outline as an entry point,’ adds Bekunda.

Speaking during the handbook’s official launch in Dodoma, Tanzania’s capital, on 26 August 2022; the Dodoma Regional Commissioner, Rosemary Senyamule, lauded the handbook as a timely publication of obvious value to the cause of enhancing adoption of improved agricultural technologies by smallholder farmers. She said its publication just before the end of Africa RISING operations in Tanzania showed that the project team was keen to ensure that farmers continue to benefit from all the technologies validated collaboratively in local communities. The commissioner also offered to explore how her office could support further promotion of these technologies to as many farmers as possible in Dodoma and beyond.

Dodoma Regional Commissioner, Rosemary Senyamule officially launching the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Handbook on 26 August 2022 in Dodoma, Tanzania. Photo credit: Jonathan Odhong/IITA.
Dodoma Regional Commissioner, Rosemary Senyamule, launched the ‘Sustainable agricultural intensification handbook’ on 26 August 2022 in Dodoma, Tanzania (photo credit: Jonathan Odhong/IITA).

She called upon agriculture sector stakeholders to use the handbook to produce technologies guides for use by extension officers.

The handbook avoids the pitfalls of scientific jargon with a presentation style that is easy to understand and read. Evidence presented is gleaned from the Africa RISING project’s scientific publications and reports and backed up by data from existing literature. Chapters of the handbook are thematic, with several instances of cross-referencing between chapters reflecting the interventions’ interdependence and interactions with other disciplines in a farming system.  

Its first chapter focuses on the importance of integrating a gender perspective in technology introduction at the household level to achieve the desired outcomes. Chapters 2 through to 9 describe and discuss the different technologies validated by the Africa RISING project including: New high-yielding, stress-resilient, and nutritious crop varieties; cereal–legume cropping systems for enhanced productivity, food security, and resilience; management of soil fertility through the application of fertilizers; soil and water conservation for climate-resilient agriculture; land management through conservation agriculture and associated practices; improved technologies for reducing post-harvest losses; improved feeding for dairy cattle and poultry in smallholder crop-livestock systems; and improved household nutrition through homegrown produce and consumption of nutritious and healthy products. Chapter 10 discusses how smallholder farmers integrate the different technologies addressed in chapters 2–9 as they move up the intensification ladder. And finally, Chapter 11 uses the experiences from the Africa RISING ESA project to share lessons and strategies for scaling technologies successfully. 

‘The handbook follows this approach of presentation bearing in mind that farmers hardly take on a suite of alternative or improved practices simultaneously; instead, they will adopt components that address their immediate challenges and integrate more as they move up the intensification ladder,’ notes Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon, a co-editor of the book. 

The handbook is published by CAB International and 100 copies of the handbook have been printed and distributed to strategic scaling and development actors in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.

‘To ensure it reaches as many players as possible, the handbook is available for download online as a pdf or e-book from various open access repositories, including CGSpace and the CABI digital library,’ notes Jonathan Odhong, a co-editor of the book. 

Download a pdf/e-book copy of the handbook here: https://cabidigitallibrary.org/doi/10.1079/9781800621602.0000  

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