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Best buys for Africa: Soil fertility and livestock management from cell phone

This brief documents the potential impact of a digital mobile based app on integrated soil and livestock fertility management practices as an intervention to increase the productivity and yield of smallholder farmers in Africa. Estimates show that the intervention results in a benefit cost ratio (BCR) of 3.23 in two years when applied to maize farming in Ghana. The benefits consist of the increase in yield amounting to USD 413,045 from the impact of soil fertility management practices. The mobile application is estimated to cost USD 170,000, in design, an additional USD13,600 in integration of Integrated Soil and Livestock Fertility Management (ISFM) documentation and a USD 8,500 sensitization cost. It has an annual maintenance cost of USD 34,000 after deployment. The potential for this intervention is high given the BCR and there is room for rapid scale-up from the low intervention cost. The potential for scaling across Africa is also possible albeit with some variation in terms of BCR-Kenya (BCR of 10.49) and Malawi (BCR of 2.00). Overall the benefits are substantially higher and the intervention costs are spread thin when one estimates with a 5-year horizon. A major challenge though is the rather wide variation in the estimated impact on yield of ISFM practices. Nonetheless there is still a potential higher benefit if more smallholder farmers’ benefit.