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Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) Project

Innovating Rural Smallholder Farming

Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) Project

Project Cause

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)-funded soil health project dubbed Integrated Soil Fertility (ISFM) was implemented from 2011 to 2014 for phase one, and 2015 to 2018 for phase two.

The project aimed to improve household food and nutrition and incomes through improvement of soils. It also emphasized sound crop husbandry practices, use of organic inputs, and judicious use of water and chemical inputs. In other words, sustainable farming methods were promoted to smallholder farmers in western Kenya, majority of whom were women, followed by youth. The target number of smallholder farmers to be reached was 30, 000, a number that was exceeded by 5,000 at the end of the 3 years of the project. The project integrated dietary diversity information in all activities. Dietary diversity determines what nutrients family members, including children, will be receiving. Soybean harvest were good and now ROA staff taught farmers on how to integrate soya into their diets, and how to make food products to take to the market. Youth and women took up agroprocessing of the soybeans.

Project Activities: Phase One

A core activity was to set up 155 good sized demonstration plots in six clusters in the two counties of Kakamega and Vihiga (Butere, Lurambi, Emuhaya, Vihiga, Sabatia and Hamisi sub counties) on land availed by farmers. The project organized field days at these sites so farmers could compare various combinations of crops and fertilizers. ROA staff also used these plots to train farmers in integrated soil fertility management technologies such as proper soil preparation, using the right seeds, using rhizobium inoculant, and fertilizer applications. Farmers were trained on quality seed selection, and the project helped them buy inputs in bulk and on time. Farmers were shown how their soils could be improved by planting soybeans. Apart from soybeans, the project also targeted various other crops: climbing beans (a new crop in this area), bush beans, water efficient maize, improved varieties of bananas, and indigenous vegetables, which ROA has promoted in the area for more than 20 years.


As a result, the soils have improved and the farmers have increased their yields of various crops. Farmers who have gone beyond demonstration and adopted the technologies have seen their legumes (soybeans, climbing beans and bush beans) yields rise from 0.65 to 1 t/ha, and their maize yields from under 2 to nearly 5 t/ha. They can now earn more, save more, and invest in quality inputs. The groups are more cohesive, and they purchase inputs collectively. The project benefited 40 youthful farmers who had been trained on ROA’s extension approaches and expanded to train 310 more farmers as trainers (ToTs). The project targeted to reach 30,000 farmers, but ROA exceeded this number by 5,000 farmers. Out of those reached, 11,760 (33.9%) fully adopted the recommended technologies and are practicing to date.

Project Activities: Phase Two

Phase two of the project aimed to strengthen the capacities of smallholder farmers to use ISFM technologies. Other objectives included: strengthening farmer organizations (FO) capacities in institutional, managerial and technical aspects; linking farmers to input/output markets and increasing value addition in food usage. ROA used the same approaches as in phase one (demonstrations and field days) as they proved to be effective. Phase two reached 20,000 more farmers than in phase one, and 7,908 (40%) fully adopted the promoted technologies. The project was set-up in three additional clusters to the six in phase one, (Mumias, Navakholo, and Luanda sub-counties), to make nine total clusters.

An impact assessment in the last year of the project revealed that 70% of the project beneficiaries were women, and 12% youth farmers. The most sought service by farmers was agricultural extension: 85% by women and 71% by men. Adoption levels of ISFM technologies had markedly increased, for example, organic manure use was 303 Kg/ha at baseline and after the project, 543 Kg/ha. Additionally, farmers were planting certified maize seed (Tego W1101 hybrid) and many women (81%) were planting soybean. Average yields had improved from baseline, 4.3 t/ha for maize and 1 t/ha for soybean. 18% of farmers had successfully accessed external markets for maize and a larger number sold locally. An impressive 55% of targeted farmers had adopted post-harvest management by using hermetic bags to store their grain chemical-free.

Other Achievements Include:

  • Capacity building of 18 ROA extensionists and 12 lead farmers in profiling respective farmers’ organization using the Capacity Performance Index (CPI) tool. This tool is used to identify the weaknesses and strengths of an organization and gives an indication of what developmental stage an organization is on. The information can then be used to customize a capacity building plan for groups.
  • Participation in the 2016 Alliance for a Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) held in Nairobi, where Edna Makunda, a ROA star farmer was featured prominently to share her ISFM success story during AGRA’s 10th-anniversary celebrations.
  • Training of agro-dealers & other input suppliers to increase the flow of market information and ensure that they are well stocked to supply inputs related to the promoted technologies.
  • Participation in the 1st All Africa Postharvest Congress & Exhibition in Nairobi where ROA show-cased the products from the ISFM project: value-added soy products like soy flour, soy beverage, and soy nuts; and plain soybean (grain). These items were also for sale. In addition, ROA displayed hermetic storage bags (Grain Pro Super Grain bag and PICS bags) that farmers are using to store their harvest chemical-free.
  • Value-addition training in the Mbale field office and Nairobi office. ROA staff were trained in making soy milk.
  • Hosting a ROA-organized Farmers Field Day and Agri-Exhibition Trade Fair in Mbale municipal grounds, in partnership with Vihiga County government. This capstone agri-exhibition was a showcase of over 50 various farmer groups’ cottage industries for value-added agricultural products derived from soybean, vegetables, pumpkin, bio-fortified sweet potato, bananas, avocado, pawpaw, dairy milk, honey, and fish. ROA registered over 600 people in attendance. The event was graced by the Honorable Governor of Vihiga County, Dr. Wilber Otichilo, ROP Founder, Prof. Ruth Oniang’o, and KALRO Alupe Deputy Director, Dr. David Mbakaya. The ROA booth exhibited all other related and promoted technologies like hermetic storage bags, value-addition and improved farm tools which elicited a lot of interest.

Research Partner:

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa

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