Spotlight on Fritz Oben

Date: 16 January 2018

Related Project: Capacity Building for E-Learning Network on Food and Nutrition Security with Partner Universities in Eastern Africa and Europe

Fritz Oben is 46 years old, living in Dschang where he is an Associate Professor of Agronomy at the University of Dschang for 12 years.

The Project and its relevance
The project aims to improve capacity of higher education institutions in West Africa and promote the use of integrated soil fertility management (ISFM). The main actions involved training of trainers and multiplication of such trainings to a wider audience, testing best practices of ISFM and their dissemination through newsletters, demonstration plots and baby plots in farmers' fields. The improvement and equipping of laboratories was another component. The project has facilitated a network of exchange of country experiences on ISFM among the 5 partner universities: Alicante in Spain, University of Dschang in Cameroon, FUTA in Nigeria, University of Ghana in Ghana, and University of Njalla in Sierra Leone.

Cameroon's economy is dependent on agriculture, with more than 70% of the population engaged in agriculture. Crop yields have been reported to be decreasing with a decline in soil fertility. Low cost efficient alternatives to mineral fertilisers are sought in order to reverse this declining trend in yield. The University of Dschang is recognised for its expertise in the training agronomists in the central African sub-region, thus the importance of the project to the University. Results obtained will guide decision making and inform policies for the country.

The project has been able to create awareness on the importance of soil fertility management. As a result of the training they have received, farmers are able to appreciate ISFM techniques and are applying them on their farms. The centre of excellence on ISFM demonstration plot developed at the university has created a platform for the exchange of information between farmers and the University of Dschang. This has enabled awareness amongst the targeted farmers and has also been of great benefit to the students in realising the importance of ISFM and providing for them a place of practical interaction between them and the farmers.  It is hoped that the Centre of excellence will provide an opportunity to reach out to even more farmers in the future.

How did you become involved?
A colleague who participated in a previous project on curriculum development with Alicante recommended me to Alicante.

The Project and your role?
I am the project coordinator in Cameroon. I have been involved in all aspects of the project: planning meetings, trainings, teaching, reviewing and outreach.)

What are your expectations from the results?
My expectations are positive. I may use experiences gathered from the field and those obtained by other partners as practical examples during my lectures. Adoption of ISFM will increase and sustain crop yields, whilst the University of Dschang will continue to develop soil fertility management as one of its priorities in its research agenda. I believe that I will supervise many more students at the masters and Ph.D levels on soil fertility management.)

Have you identified any impact to date?
Farmers are applying ISFM techniques and are willing to come for further training if the opportunity arises. The continued requests made by farmers via the centre of excellence attest to a positive impact the project has had on them.

Any Impact at national and or regional level?
Soil fertility management is a major concern in the research agenda, whilst the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is championing soil fertility improvement in its policy and programming priorities.

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