Agricultural success from Africa: case of fertilizer tree systems in southern Africa (Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe) uri icon


  • In response to the declining soil fertility in southern Africa and the negative effects that this leads to, such as food insecurity besides other developmental challenges, fertilizer tree systems (FTS) were developed as technological innovation to help smallholder farmers to build soil organic matter and fertility in a sustainable manner. In this paper, we trace the historical background and highlight the developmental phases and outcomes of the technology. The synthesis shows that FTS are inexpensive technologies that significantly raise crop yields, reduce food insecurity and enhance environmental services and resilience of agro-ecologies. Many of the achievements recorded with FTS can be traced to some key factors: the availability of a suite of technological options that are appropriate in a range of different household and ecological circumstances, partnership between multiple institutions and disciplines in the development of the technology, active encouragement of farmer innovations in the adaptation process and proactive engagement of several consortia of partner institutions to scale up the technology in farming communities. It is recommended that smallholder farmers would benefit if rural development planners emphasize the merits of different fertility replenishment approaches and taking advantage of the synergy between FTS and mineral fertilizers rather than focusing on'organic vs. inorganic' debates

publication date

  • 2011