Integrated soil fertility management: from concept to practice in Eastern DR Congo
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Many paradigms on sustainable agricultural intensification promote a combination of different agricultural technologies. Whether such a paradigm survives in practice depends on how farmers combine these technologies on their fields. We focus on integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) and investigate how the concept is put into practice in South-Kivu, Eastern DR Congo. ISFM includes the use of improved germplasm, organic inputs and mineral fertilizer, and emphasizes the complementarities and synergies that arise when technologies are jointly applied. We investigate whether different ISFM components are applied jointly, sequentially or independently, and whether that matters for the long-term use of the technology. We use original survey data from 420 farms, and combine a descriptive statistical analysis and a factor analysis. We find that few farmers in the area have reached full ISFM', and technology application occurs sequentially rather than simultaneously. Two technology subsets can be distinguished: more resource-intensive and less resource-intensive technologies. These subsets behave as supplements rather than as complements, and adoption within and among each subset is more sequential than simultaneous. Our results imply that there is a disconnect between the theoretical arguments in the agronomic ISFM literature, and the actual patterns of ISFM application on farmers' fields.
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