Market-led crop diversification

In much of sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is based on corn, wheat, and barley monocultures. After just two seasons, cereal mono-cropping can deplete the soil. Pest and disease pressure also increases. Yields then start to fall. Introducing non-cereal crops into such monocultures can help to break pest and disease cycles. Soils benefit, too: Additional crops can rebalance the uptake of nutrients, recycle phosphorus and increase organic matter. Legumes also fix soil nitrogen for the following cereal crop. However, smallholders typically have no financial reserves to fall back on. So they only plant rotation crops if they can profitably sell them. This requires local availability of suitable varieties, access to cultivation know-how, and links to output markets.

To address these challenges, we are partnering with Agventure Ltd., a consortium of Kenyan cereal farmers. Agventure runs a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for rotation crops. We will collaborate on testing, evaluating, and documenting a ‘market-building model’ to promote rotation crops in cereal systems. Through the CoE, the joint program will test holistic approaches to engaging smallholders in the market-oriented production of rotation crops. The emphasis will be on smallholder targeting, and on testing novel models for extension, input supply, market access, financing, and risk management. Major areas of activity are:

  • CoE support for the uptake of rotation crops and sustainable production protocols by local farming communities
  • Market-led identification of suitable rotation crops
  • Testing and validation of rotation candidates
  • Introduction of new crops
  • Extension and training
  • Measuring the environmental and economic sustainability of our interventions