Integrated nutrient management to attain sustainable productivity increases in East African farming systems

The EU-funded multi-partner R&D project "Integrated nutrient management to attain sustainable productivity increases in East African farming systems" (INMASP) aimed to make a measurable contribution to the sustainable improvement of the livelihood of smallholder farm families. The project  focussed on three representative farming systems facing serious decline in soil fertility and crop productivity in KenyaUganda and Ethiopia

Quantitative and qualitative research approaches were combined within the framework of farmer field schools in East Africa. INMASP started in January 2002 and ended in December 2006.  


  • To develop an institutionally sustainable approach of identifying, testing, monitoring and evaluation of farm- or catchment-level technologies addressing soil nutrient management constraints, using principles and institutional aspects of the Farmer Field School approach;
  • To develop and test a quick and efficient tool to diagnose productivity and sustainability of farming systems in East Africa focusing on soil nutrient management and combining quantitative and participative qualitative approaches;
  • To generate appropriate and effective technologies to address problems of soil nutrient depletion aimed at a long-term increase of productivity and profitability of farming systems in East Africa, and
  • To develop a participative policy formulation process involving researchers, extensionsists and district policy makers aiming at formulating appropriate district policy recommendations and policy instruments to address soil nutrient depletion leading to a sustainable increase in productivity of farming systems in East Africa.

Methodology: Farmer Field School

The Farmers Field School (FFS) concept was the institutional framework in which the project activities were implemented. Based upon experiences of this concept in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Asia and Africa and some limited experiences in Integrated Nutrient Management (INM), this approach was developed for the specific circumstances in East Africa. Based on the experiences stakeholders were engaged in discussing institutionalisation the FFS approach in the existing research and development system. A start for wider implementation was made through training local trainers in FFS methodology to facilitate more the establishment of more FFS's in and outside the research sites.

Activities and outputs

Project activities were implemented in Kiambu and Mbeere Districts of Kenya; Wakiso District of Central Uganda; Pallisa, Tororo and Busia Districts of eastern Uganda; and Kindo Koisha District of Southern Ethiopia. About 300 households participated in the project in the 11 FFS spread across Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. In addition 4 FFS were also started in the irrigated lowland areas of Kindo Koisha, Southern Ethiopia. Under WP 1, a curriculum jointly formulated with farmers were implemented in the 15 FFS that participated in the project to enhance farmer understanding of INM, crop, livestock and socio-economic constraints identified during the diagnostic stages of the project. FFS process was documented, exit strategies implemented and graduation ceremonies held to mark the end of the FFS process. 

NUTMON data (WP 2) collected in Ethiopia were analysed to provide insight into farming system sustainability in Wache, Kindo Koisha District. 
In WP 3, experimental design workshops were organised with farmers resulting in the implementation of different INM trials in each FFS: organic-inorganic combinations, fodder/forage, improved livestock feeding and manure management and the effects of phosphorus application on performance of selected legumes (cowpeas, field beans etc.). 

Using Agro-Ecosystem Analysis (AESA) framework, the trials were monitored, data collected and analysed, and technologies evaluated using participatory tools. Consultative policy processes (WP 4) were initiated in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia with various stakeholders on soil fertility management and farmer field schools. The thrust of policy processes were to engage policy makers at various levels in a debate aimed at identifying and enhancing the formulation of facilitating policies for addressing soil fertility depletion and large scale implementation of the farmer field school approach.


At the end of the active project period, about 400 households had participated directly in project activities with many others being indirect project beneficiaries. Potential technologies for addressing soil fertility decline were tested with participating households as well as technologies on INM-crop-livestock interactions, giving farmers opportunity to select technologies suited for their circumstances. There was an increasing focus on addressing the sustainability of the FFS beyond the project period by initiating income generating activities and institutional structures that facilitate the operations of FFS groups beyond the active project funding period. Strong emphasis was also put in initiating policy processes for reversing soil fertility decline and large scale implementation of farmer field school approach.

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