Low soil fertility is one of the most important limiting factors to crop production among the smallholder farmers leading to food insecurity in most Zambian households. Several organisations are implementing research and development programs to overcome the challenges associated with declining crop productivity in Zambia. These include: the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI), the Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust, the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU), the University of Zambia (UNZA), a number of NGOs and the private sector (seed companies and fertiliser companies).
These organisations are, however, working to develop and disseminate ISFM technologies independent of each other and with little or no consultation and collaboration. The underlying problem is that there is no forum at national level to bring together stakeholders to share and harmonise ISFM information and standardize ISFM recommendations. As a result, institutions un controllably disseminate varying and confusing information to farmers and policy makers leading to poor technology uptake and continuity of food insecurity and poverty. There is therefore an urgent need to bring all the players involved in the generation ISFM technologies/innovations together into a national level Soil Health Consortium to enhance collaboration for joint development of appropriate technology recommendations and dissemination strategies.
In this regard the Zambia Soil Health Consortium (ZSHC) was established in 2013 through funding from AGRA and regional coordination from the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI). The ZSHC has mobilized the expertise and resources of several national, regional and international institutions with common interests to undertake tasks that individual institutions in the consortium would not be able to accomplish solely. Ultimately ZSHC is expected to:
- Minimize wasteful duplication of efforts and consequently improve the efficient use of limited resources among the zones and different partners in Zambia.
- Enhance collaboration with and increase prospects for developing joint communication among the stakeholders who are often the same for all the projects.
- Develop joint protocols for demonstrations and trials that the stakeholders will conduct in different locations.
- Bring and build transparency, trust and a clear understanding of programs and projects on soil and land management related issues in the country that are funded by various donors, and thus build synergies and leverage each other’s resources.
- Help collect and collate ISFM information that is needed to develop appropriate recommendations.
- Develop and/strengthen the technical and delivery capacity of the members.