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October 03, 2009

AGRA launches soil management programme in Mozambique

The Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has launched in Maputo the "Programme for Integrated Soil Management" aimed at improving production among 20,000 farmers in the Mozambique's fertile province of Nampula and Zambezia.

AGRA, set up in 2007 to help fight against hunger and malnutrition in Africa, is financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and by the Rockefeller Foundation.

The organisation is pledging to disburse about US$800,000 for a three year period for the project, covering the districts of Morrupula, Malema, Ribaue and Monapo in Nampula, and Alto Molocue, in Zambezia. The project is to be implemented by the Mozambican Agricultural Research Institute (IIAM).

"With this project we intend to create conditions for the farmers to have access to good quality seeds, fertilizers, and technical assistance for them to be able to use these inputs properly", said Ricardo Maria, of the IIAM soil fertility division.

He further added that this three year project has already started and the first results are expected in the 2009/2010 agricultural campaign.

For his part, IIAM director Calisto Bias explained that the project includes also equipping his institution's soil laboratory, the training of researchers and agricultural extensionists, and funding of activities directly related to soil management.

According to Bias, farmers will learn soil management, particularly to reduce dependence on inorganic fertilizers, and knowledge of crop rotation. Farmers will thus be encouraged to plant pulses, such as beans, groundnuts and cowpeas. After harvesting these crops, they will plant maize, that will benefit from the nutrients left by the pulses.

"We intend to double or triple the production among the farmers. Now, for instance, they harvest 0.7 tonnes of maize per hectare, but there is a potential to harvest four, or even five tonnes per hectare," said Maria.

AGRA soil health director Bashir Jama said that AGRA has,, since 2007, already been funding another project to develop different varieties of maize and sweet potatoes. Between them, the two projects are to cost about US$2 million.

AGRA has chosen four countries as focal points, namely Mozambique, Tanzania, Mali and Ghana, taking into account their good governance and agriculture policies, but other countries are not excluded.

"This Green Revolution will be done by the Africans themselves with the support of their partners. This does not mean excluding other supporters. Partnerships are always welcome," said Maria.

Bernama

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