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Canadian International Food Security Research Fund
Better fertilizer use in the Sahel

CA$1.8 million                                             Duration: March 2011 to August 2014

Project Number: 106516

The challenge

Crop production in the Sahel — a semi-arid region that covers several African countries including Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and northern Benin — is limited by drought and poor soil fertility. Serious food shortages are often the end result.

Fortunately, several innovative technologies, such as rainwater harvesting and fertilizer micro-dosing, can reduce famine by increasing crop yield. Micro-dosing involves adding small doses of fertilizers to crops at sowing or shortly after seed germination and establishment.

Although the technology can more than double crop yield, few farmers have adopted it, due to their limited capital and inadequate policy supports.

The research

This project, supported by IDRC and DFATD through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), aims to increase the production of cowpea, sorghum, and millets by testing the combination of improved water harvesting and fertilizer technology. The project will improve the availability of soil nutrients and moisture for crops in the four countries involved.

As cowpea is traditionally grown by women, expanding its production will enhance household income while promoting gender equity. In the process, researchers will also examine the long-term effects of fertilizer micro-dosing on potential soil nutrient depletion.

Researchers will also look at whether micro-credit borrowing systems will improve adoption rates of these farming techniques. Under the planned system, required credit is made available to farm households using grain crops as collateral.

Expected outcomes
  • Improved combination of rainwater harvesting and fertilizer techniques for cowpea, sorghum, and millet crops
  • Increased access to crop-improving technology for smallholders through the implementation of a micro-credit system 
  • Enhanced productivity for women farmers
  • Improved nutrition due to greater cereal and legume production and consumption

Lead Researchers

Dr. Mohamed Nasser Baco, Université de Parakou, Benin
Dr. François Lompo, Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherche Agricoles, Burkina Faso
Dr. Boutout Ly, Institut d’Economie Rurale, Mali
Dr. Abdoulaye Mohamadou, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Niger
Dr. Anthony Kimaro, University of Saskatchewan, Canada

For more information on this project, contact Innocent Butaré, Senior Program Specialist, Nairobi, Kenya ( or Kevin Tiessen, Senior Program Officer, Ottawa, Canada (
The Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF) is a program of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD).

International Development Research Centre
PO Box 8500 Ottawa ON Canada K1G 3H9
Phone +1 613 236 6163 | Fax +1 613 236 7293 | |

Learn more about this project:

Better fertilizer use in the Sahel
Knowledge, innovation, and solutions to improve the lives of people in the developing world
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