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Fertilizer micro-dosing: a profitable innovation for Sahelian women micro-dose outcome story

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As highlighted during the most recent World Food Summit the Sahel region of West Africa is one of a small number of areas globally where food production per capita is decreasing. This particularly affects poor rural households not only because of decreased income but also through a chronic shortage of cereals. For example 2.5 million people in Niger needed food aid in 2005 due to severe drought (WFP 2010). This situation recurred in 2010 when crop failure in the 2009 season led to the most severe famine in the country’s history. Frequent droughts and poor soil fertility are key factors behind food shortages. But innovative low-input technologies that simultaneously replenish soil nutrients and organic matter as well as improving soil water availability can lead to significant increases in crop production and reduce acute food shortages. Under conventional crop management chemical fertilizers are applied at recommended rates to rapidly replenish soil fertility and thus improve crop yield. In West Africa however recommended fertilizer application rates are costly and as a result are often only used for male-controlled cash crops such as cotton and maize. Fertilizer use on food crops grown by women (e.g. cowpea) is much more limited and often restricted to those who are able to access ‘spare’ fertilizer from their husband’s cotton production.

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