N2AFRICA is a large scale, science-based “research-in-development” project focused on putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers growing legume crops in Africa.

Legumes bring atmospheric nitrogen into the crops and the soil through a symbiosis with Rhizobium bacteria, and they are an important source of protein in a healthy diet. Enhanced productivity of legumes thereby contributes to improvements in soil fertility, household nutrition and income. N2Africa enables African smallholder farmers to reap these benefits through the implementation of effective production technologies including inoculants and fertilizers.

N2Africa links scientific research with capacity building (from farmers to traders, development workers in extension and NGOs), educating MSc and PhD candidates, women’s empowerment, and access to input-output markets through Public-Private Partnerships. A strong network ensures continuous and independent improvement of technologies and market access.

With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, N2Africa has been active since 2013 in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, and since 2009 in DRCongo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. Focal legume crops are common bean, chickpea, cowpea, faba bean, groundnut and soyabean.

From best-bets to best-fits

The performance of a grain legume and the associated amount of nitrogen fixed depend on the interaction between the genotype of the legume, the genotype of the rhizobia, the environment and the management of the crop and field: (GL× GR) × E × M in short.

N2Africa selects and tests good-potential legume genotypes, does research to identify the best matching rhizobia strains and tries to optimize the management of legume fields. Testing of legume technologies by large numbers of farmers allows for tailoring and adapting legume technologies to specific sites and specific farmers. This results in a set of best-fit principles and options for each project area.


Direct beneficiaries of N2Africa are the farming households with increased benefits from biological nitrogen fixation – such as greater food and nutrition security or increased incomes – and the households benefitting from the network that was built to improve access to information, agricultural inputs and markets. By 2017, N2Africa had already reached more than 600,000 smallholder farmers with improved technologies for grain legume production.

Other beneficiaries are producers of legume seeds, legume-specific fertilizer mixes and inoculants through an increased demand for their product, as well as agro-dealers trading these products. Development project staff and scientists are exposed to new ways of doing science through the ‘development-to-research’ framework, and hands-on capacity building activities.

By working through national systems, training key stakeholders from farmers to traders, development workers in extension and NGOs, and by educating MSc and PhD candidates in each country, we build the capacity that can in the future sustain an independent and continuous improvement of legume production technologies.



N2Africa Map Overview : Core countries (dark green), Tier 1 countries (light green).


The Story of N2Africa  - an online magazine that provides a flavour of the richness of learning over the past ten years of the project N2Africa: Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa 

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Title Summary #
Africa has lost a committed farmers’ champion – Rest in Peace!
Jean-Marie continued his work in DR Congo throughout Phase II (2014-2017) as Country Coordinator of the N2Africa Project after his excellent performance during Phase I (2009-2013). We built a lot on the solid foundation that had been laid during the first phase of the project; this helped us to avoid mistakes. Under his coordination, Jean-Marie ensured that the DR Congo team regularly made contributions in the N2Africa Podcaster on the various activities taking place in the country. He developed and strengthened many partnerships and ensured that they reached many farmers and enabled them to use N2Africa technologies. Some of these partners actually funded activities through the N2Africa project due to their trust in his able leadership. pic6

Jean-Marie really pushed students who had been supported during Phase I of N2Africa to finish their studies – he had a sense that the future of agricultural research was in the hands of young people. This helped students from the Université Catholique de Bukavu to use IITA facilities and give them opportunities to strengthen their science. Those who took this casually or for granted must have found themselves on the wrong side!! No task was impossible for Jean-Marie – he had the will and inner drive to deliver. No wonder he was always been involved in starting new projects/activities. Jean-Marie as a really pleasant team player who fitted in very well with the broader international N2Africa team. As a family man he was very committed to the education of his daughters who studies in Nairobi at the Catholic University) – he invited me for the graduation.

Fred Kanampiu, N2Africa Coordinator for Phase II