African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services

Enhancing the Soil User “Capacity to Innovate”. The primary pathway to sustainable management of African soil

by Wole Fatunbi

It is now street knowledge that the availability of technology is not the central bane to improvement of Africa agriculture and management of the prime production asset, our soil. While technologies is modestly available, bringing the technologies from pilots to scale is still a key problem to overcome.

Notable experts in the theory and practice of scaling across Africa gathered in a workshop between 9th -11th of April 2024 at the Ibis Hotel in Nairobi. The workshop, scaling the pillar of the Soil Initiative for Africa (SIA) framework and the Africa fertilizer and Soil health Action Plan to write the scaling chapter of the companion document to the SIA. The companion document will aid the domestication of the framework and the development of the right action at the country and sub regional levels. 

The central question is; What exactly should we bring to scale to ensure an effective management of the Africa soil?  What easily comes to mind is to scale “technologies” and or Innovation. This is done using the processes of scaling out, possibly with all kinds of extension models and provision of enabling factors that pull the use of technologies. Even at this, the acceptance of technologies by the users takes time, sometimes five to ten years before the skepticism and phobia of the technology users is overcome. Apparently, the scaling up notion and its associated policy and institutional change will help to move things forward. 

As it relates to the ensuring the management of Africa soil; critical analysis of project experience in the last decade showed that most Soil health interventions are not scalable because they are context specific. As such, efforts should not solely concentrate on specific technologies, rather on farmers learning, know-how and the capacity to innovate. The notion of “Capacity to Innovate” suggests the inculcation of the knowledge package and experiences that will foster a mind-set change for the farmers to continually improving their capabilities and resources to address challenges from a position of knowledge.  

Most soil management interventions especially those that target soil health and organic matter increase  does  give immediate returns to investment, rather it yield after some years of continuous investment  and the continuous benefits also needs to be  managed carefully.  Thus, the scaling model is scaling deep and the item to scale is farmers appreciation of the nature of the soil and pathway to benefit. Indeed the “Capacity to Innovate” is the right target of our scaling intervention.  


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