Legume Diversification to Improve Soil Fertility

This solution addresses Soil Depletion in Malawi for Farmers and Food Insecure Populations

  • Pigeonpea

Problem Description

Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa with a population of more than 16 million people. The largely agricultural economy employs 90 percent of the people. Maize is grown by 97 percent of farming households and accounts for approximately 60 percent of total national caloric consumption. Abandonment of traditional bush fallows, combined with decades of intensive cultivation and variable annual rainfall, has led to widespread soil depletion, repeated nation-wide food shortages, and chronic malnutrition. Over 50 percent of Malawi’s farmers produce yields below subsistence levels, while only 20 percent are able to produce consistent marketable surpluses.

Building Blocks

Story

In 2000, the Ekwendeni Hospital launched the Soils, Food and Healthy Communities (SFHC) Project. Designed to address food insecurity and low soil fertility in the villages surrounding the town of Ekwendeni, the initiative brought together researchers from the University of Western Ontario and Michigan State University. Educational activities and participatory research were conducted with 80 separate agricultural communities. Farmers were provided with information about the impact of edible legumes and leguminous cover crops, which are uniquely suited to enhance soil quality and human nutrition. These cover crops replenish and enhance nitrogen and recycle important nutrients like phosphorous that are crucial to productivity, while providing protein and iron-rich seeds and foliage for human consumption. Communities also learned about management, marketing opportunities, and the ability of legume diversification to suppress pests.

Sustainable Development Goals

On September 25th 2015, countries adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. This solution covers the following goals:

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Social Progress Index

  • Nutrition and Basic Medical Care - Do people have enough food to eat and are they receiving basic medical care?
  • Ecosystem Sustainability - Is this society using its resources so they will be available to future generations?
  • Photos

    • Pigeonpea

    Resources

    • Study: LEGUME DIVERSIFICATION TO IMPROVE SOIL FERTILITY

      Unlike conventional “top down” technology transfer extension models, the success of this legume diversification project underscores the importance of participatory research and extension methodologies to address the complex social factors—community needs, gender dynamics, access—that influence new technology adoption in agriculture.

    Organisations Involved

    Solution Stage

    One of the 7 stages of an innovation. Learn more
    STAGE SPECIALIST SKILLS REQUIRED EXAMPLE ACTIVITIES RISK LEVEL AND HANDLING FINANCE REQUIRED KINDS OF EVIDENCE GENERATED GOAL
    Developing and testing3
    Mix of design and implementation skills
    • Rapid prototyping
    • Service, product and process design
    • Co-design
    • User-design
    • Light-touch evaluation
    • Cost-benefit modelling
    • Randomised control trials
    • High failure rate should be an explicit expectation
    • Visible senior leadership essential
    HIGH
    • Grants, convertible grants/loans
    MEDIUM
    A stronger case with cost and benefit projections developed through practical trials and experiments, involving potential users
    Demonstration that the idea works, or evidence to support a reworking of the idea

    Key Details

    Social Progress Index
    Nutrition and Basic Medical CareEcosystem Sustainability
    Sustainable Development Goals
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    Activity