From africa-rising-wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Africa RISING West Africa Virtual Exchange Seminar (WAVES)
4 August 2021
Virtual via Ms TEAMS
[edit | edit source]


  1. A. Berdjour – IITA
  2. A. R Nurudeen – IITA
  3. B. Boyubie – IITA
  4. B. Kotu – IITA
  5. E. Thuijsman – WUR
  6. F. Kizito – IITA
  7. G. Fischer – IITA
  8. J. B. Tignegre – WorldVeg
  9. K. Jimah – IITA
  10. K. Sanogo – ICRISAT
  11. K. Traore – IER
  12. M. Bekunda – IITA
  13. O. Cofie – IWMI, Ghana
  14. S. Adebayo – IITA
  15. W. Brooijmans – IITA
  16. W. O. Duah – IITA
  17. Z. Birhanu – ICRISAT



  • G. Fischer – I would like to share an observation concerning the West Africa Handbook. I am included in several chapters as a co-author but I have not been contacted by anybody. There is little communication. The chapter where I am the lead author, I have communicated to the other authors what my draft plan is for the chapters. I received response from only Fred and Emelia; no one else responded. I feel there is very little communication about what our plans are and what kind of demands there are for contributions.
  • F. Kizito – Gundula, your points are very well noted. The point you raised about being present on many chapters, and how no one is communicating to you about these chapters have been an ongoing issue. In your work plans, I noticed that there was no sign or indications as to who they will support. I will take it up and see how we will refine it. There is a lot of redundancy. Sometimes people want to put their names there to show that they care about the gender aspect without necessarily putting them at heart. It’s hard to see how best we can handle the aspect around communication. I have had a couple of knocks on the door from my side. We decided to bring Willemien on board. Her point as well is that she receives no communication. There are times I send out emails to you in relation to some of the handbook chapters and your contributions as lead authors to form teams, but there was no communication or response. We therefore decided to bring Willemien on board, to improve the communication, hoping that it would improve. Nonetheless, the point raised is well noted. I need to enable colleagues further. Prof is here; he’s gone through these routes previously. He’s been in these trenches and we will like to hear any advice with regards to how best to improve upon the Handbook. I am also part of the ESA Handbook, but I have not been managing it from the top. I have been a contributor.
  • M. Bekunda – At one time I said I was available at a cost, but Fred said no. This is a challenge in itself. I think ESA had the advantage of starting the exercise long time ago. It has taken us three years, and we hope the book will come out this year. WA has a limited time, and I hope colleagues can note down the urgency of putting materials together. It requires a lot of work. It’s not only about putting down materials together. It goes through all of processes. From ESA’s experience, compiling a book is much different than writing the paper for publication. Therefore, the commitment is very important.
  • G. Fischer – For me, this puts me into a very difficult situation. If I am on many chapters and there’s no communication, it means a lot of work might come at the very end, and which are not included earlier. Or, something may need to happen in many chapters at a certain point. This will make it very difficult for me to do work planning and to be part of the process. I therefore request that if people will not contact me, and include me from the very beginning, then, I think it will be better to have my name removed, so that I can also make my own work plan and to see what my workload will be. It becomes very difficult to foresee what is going to happen if my name is all over the place.
  • F. Kizito – That’s a very fair remark. For now let’s focus on having your chapter fleshed out. We then encourage other colleagues who have put you on, to remove you. To the extent that they are not involving you, I’m in support that they remove you. If need be, then we need to bring in a couple of agenda linkages and nuances. At a point when you are really pre-occupied, and you are not planned for, then we need to outsource that. But let’s first concentrate on having your chapter fleshed out. I understand your point and I empathize with you. That’s well noted.
  • K. Traore – If sending global messages is not working, why not focus on the individual researchers who are implicated and send them messages directly, stating their tasks, and copy Imgard and or the chief scientist? That can help push people to work. The colleagues are quite busy, but this calls for involvement so we have to face it. We did our best, but I don’t know if we are still concerned or not.
  • Z. Birhanu – I agree with Kalifa’s suggestion to send individual messages to see how they respond. From that we can move on to the next level. If a co-author is not responding, then there’s no need to continue with the name. It is a collective effort to contribute, so if they are not willing to contribute, I think there’s no need to include them in the list of names in that book chapter.
  • F. Kizito – I’m always counting on Birhanu and Bouba to help us with the colleagues in Mali. The point you raised is where we started from.
  • W. Brooijmans – We have been sending individual messages to the lead authors, but some of the lead authors didn’t get back to us. So, it was not even about the co-authors, but the lead authors were supposed to contact the co-authors and report back to us.
  • F. Kizito – We started from this approach, but later we decided to bring in more hands-on board. This has not necessarily worked. Nonetheless, we will still revert to it. We will introduce the collation of the willing. If you are not contributing to a book chapter; if you are not responsive; if you are not part of the process, or you have dropped from that chapter, we will come out with a Handbook that is the collation of the 'willing'. Prof Mateete has mentioned a very important point. For ESA, I remember we started in Zanzibar in September 2017. Next month will be will the fourth year. I’m a bit apprehensive because the program is ending next year. I think we need to get things done.

I will follow up and bring feedback. Birhanu, Bouba and Willemien should draw a road map to see how we can get out of the woods.


Cowpea living mulch effect on soil quality and grain yield in smallholder maize-based cropping system of Northern Ghana The team members were: Abdul Rahman Nurudeen, Asamoah Larbi, Albert Berdjour, Fred Kizito and Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon. The outline of the presentation is:



  • Background
  • Problem statement
  • Justification and objective


  • Study area
  • Experimental design and treatment
  • Soil quality indexing


  • Cowpea living mulch effect on soil properties and soil quality
  • Cowpea living mulch effect on maize grain
  • Relationship between maize gain yield and soil quality
  • Implications of the results on cowpea living mulch technology



Maize is a major staple crop for the people of Northern Ghana. The past one and half to two decades, maize replaced sorghum and millet which used to be their major staple some years back. This is due to the high maize yield and the taste of preference for maize by the people of Northern Ghana. Maize production for Northern Ghana is on small holder farm bases with about 77 – 94 % of the total land area under cultivation of maize being < 2 ha of farmland. It is also produced under rainfed condition with an average yield of < 2t/ha compared with a potential of 6 t/ha.
Erratic rainfall, low and diminishing soil fertility and weed infestation are among the key factors responsible for the yield gap between achievable yields of farmers’ field and the potential. To address these challenges, there is the need to develop an agronomic technology that improves soil moisture storage, improves fertility suppresses weed growth in maize production in order to close this yield gap. To think of such technology, one of it is Living Mulch.

Living Mulch is a cover crop that is planted before, on the same day or after the main crop and maintained as a groundcover throughout the season or longer. Having the challenges of trying to improve soil moisture storage, soil fertility and weed suppression in maize, using a legume as the living mulch will address this objective better than using a grass crop as the Living Mulch. In this study, we used a legume as living mulch. Some of the benefits associated with using a legume as living mulch are in the presentation attached. The benefits of using legume as living mulch are:

  • High groundcover which improves soil moisture storage, suppresses weed growth, improves the soil chemical, physical and biological properties.
  • At the same time, it increases the yield of the main crop.

When we wanted to select a particular legume as the living mulch, we considered three conditions:

  1. The socio-cultural characteristics of the farmers in the study area. Using a legume crop that does not produce food in addition to the qualities of living mulch, farmers will not buy that technology. They will not be willing to buy seeds of such crops, let alone using labour to plant them. Therefore, we had to think of a legume that could produce food in addition to the living mulch qualities.
  2. To consider the growth cycle of the maize. We wanted living mulch that would fit into the growth cycle of the maize. This is because Maize production in the area mostly coincides with the end of the cropping season. When the season ends, animals are allowed to have free grazing on the field; and when the mulch is present, they might destroy it.
  3. There is rampant bushfire in the area. If the mulch goes beyond the cropping season of the maize, bushfire may set in to destroy it. We therefore needed a legume crop that would fit into the growth cycle of maize. The maize maturity times used in the area varies from extra early (80 days) to medium (105 – 120 days). We needed to pick a legume that would fit within the growth cycle (80 – 120 days)
  4. The growth cycle of the legume crop which we would want to use as living mulch. We wanted a legume crop that would either mature before the maize or coincides with the maturity of the maize in order to facilitate harvest.

Based on these three conditions, we settled on the cowpea as our legume crop to use on the living mulch. We therefore gave the technology a technical name ‘Cowpea Living Mulch.’

Knowledge gap

There are conflicting reports on the effects of Living Mulch on grain yield of main crops in literature. Some studies have reported reduction in grain yield of main crops whereas other studies have reported increase in grain yield of main crops. Reference for reduction in grain yield - (Jędrszczyk et al., 2005; Radicetti et al., 2018). Reference for increase in grain yield - (Jamshidi et al., 2013; Trail et al., 2016; Bhaskar et al., 2018). The centre of controversy has to do with the time of planting the cowpea, the Living Mulch, vis-à-vis the main crop. Those who reported reduction of yield of the main crop, planted their Mulch before the main crop, while those who reported an increase in yield planted their Mulch either on the same day with the main crop or after the main crop. In addition, there is scanty information in literature on the effect of Living Mulch on grain yield and soil quality in smallholder maize-based cropping system, especially in West Africa. There is therefore the need to carry out a study in order to fill in the knowledge gab. The research question for the study was ‘How would the time of planting cowpea as living mulch in smallholder maize-based cropping system affect grain yield and soil quality?’ The objective of the study was ‘To determine the effect of cowpea living mulch on the grain yield and soil quality in smallholder maize based copping system’.


The study was conducted in Upper East and Northern Regions of Northern Ghana, precisely, four communities in each of the regions. The Upper East region has a mean annual rainfall of about 700mm – 900mm, while the Northern region has about 1100mm mean annual rainfall. The mean average minimum temperature ranges from 25 degrees to mean average maximum temperature of 38 degrees in both locations.

Field Layouts

There was a factorial treatment combination of maize maturity type and cowpea Living Mulch laid in a strip polor design. We used three (3) maize maturity types namely: (i) Extra Early – 80 days; (ii) Early – 90 days; and (iii) Medium – 105 days maturity periods.
We used the following Mulching Systems:
  • Control – No Living Mulch
  • Maize plus Cowpea Living Mulch planted on the same day
  • Maize planted with Cowpea Living Mulch planted one week after the maize
  • Maize with Cowpea Living Mulch planted two weeks after the maize

The plot size was 5m x 4.5m which gives 6 holes per plot.

We used Soil quality index in assessing the effects of Cowpea Living Mulch on soil quality. The indexing approach used involved three main steps.
  1. Step one was to select the minimum data set from the total data set, which is the measurement of all soil indicators from the study using principal component analysis (PCA) and correlation matrix analysis.

After selecting the minimum data set from all the soil indicators measured, we moved to step two.

  1. Step two was to transform the indicators of the minimum data set into scores, in order to standardize them. In transforming them into scores, we used a linear scoring function and a scale of 0 to 1, with 0 as the least; and 1 as the highest.
  2. Step three was to integrate the scores into an index, using the area of a triangle.
Giving details of how we calculated the soil quality index, we considered the three main soil properties to be at the vertices of a triangle: the Physical, Biological and Chemical components of the soil. We indicated the centre of the triangle, and traced the centre to the vertices of the triangle, giving us a known distance. The sum of angles surrounding the points is always 3600. Connecting the centre to the vertices gives three angles. If you divide the sum, 360 degrees by 3, the result will be 1200. This indicates that the sum between the two sides of a distance is 1200.

If you have a triangle of a known distance of two parts, and the angle between them, you can easily calculate the area of that triangle. This is by using ½ x distance of the two sides and the sin of the angle between them. We calculated the area of the three triangles we have, and summed them to give us the soil quality index.

Measured soil parameters – the soil indicators that were measured during the study

In total we measured 16 indicators. The linear scoring function used was ‘less is better’ or ‘more is better’ in order to determine the numerator or denominator when converting the indicator into a score. For example, if you take soil temperature, we say ‘less is better’. This is because considering the area that the study was conducted, the temperature is very hot, thus having a lesser temperature is better than having more temperature. We used this assumption for the rest of the indicators to determine which one is ‘less is better’ or ‘more is better’ in order to determine the numerator or denominator when converting these indicators into scores.


Since the soil indicators measured are many, we took three indicators of each of the soil properties.

The effect of Cowpea Living Mulch on soil temperature (soil physical property)

If the soil temperature is compared from the Living Mulch system, to that of the control, it is seen that in all locations and cropping season, the Living Mulch reduced soil temperature to that of the control where there was no Living Mulch.

If comparing planting the Cowpea Living Mulch on the same day with the maize, with planting Living Mulch weeks after the maize, you realize that planting on the same day has lower temperature in most cases as compared to planting weeks after the maize.

Effect of Cowpea Living Mulch on the effect of soil moisture storage (soil physical property)

If you compare the soil moisture storage from the Living Mulch system, to that of the control, you realize that the Living Mulch system is higher than that of the control.

The key point is that if you look at the tasseling stage of the maize, the soil moisture storage in both locations and cropping seasons were higher than that of the control. And, this is where the maize requires more moisture in partitioning into grain yield. This is one of the key features of the technology.

Effect of Cowpea Living Mulch on soil chemical properties

The Living Mulch is having higher soil total carbon and total nitrogen compared with that of the control in both locations and cropping seasons.

Effect of Cowpea Living on soil biological properties