LTRA-8: Improving soil quality and crop productivity through CAPS in West Africa

Principal investigator

P.V. Vara Prasad, associate professor, Department of Agronomy, Kansas State University (KSU)

Research team

  • Scott A. Staggenborg, professor, Department of Agronomy, KSU
  • Timothy J. Dalton, associate professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, KSU
  • Kevin Dhuyvetter, professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, KSU
  • Charles W. Rice, professor, Department of Agronomy, KSU
  • DeAnn Presley, assistant professor, Department of Agronomy, KSU
  • Karen Garrett, associate professor, Department of Plant Pathology, KSU
  • Ari Jumponnen, associate professor, Department of Biology, KSU
  • Nina Lilja, director, International Agricultural Programs, KSU
  • J.B. Naab, head of the farming systems research program, Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), Ghana
  • I.Yahaya, agricultural and social economist, SARI
  • S.S. Seini, entomologist, SARI
  • P.H. Momori, agricultural engineer, Wa Polytechnic, Ghana
  • M. Doumbia, soil scientist, Institut d'Economie Rurale du Mali (IER), Bamako, Mali
  • K. Traore, soil, water, and plant laboratory scientist, IER
  • P. Sissoko, agricultural and social economist, IER, Sotuba, Mali
  • A. Berthe, director of research, IER, Sotuba
  • O. Samake, head of farming systems research, IER, Mopti, Mali


For West African countries such as Ghana and Mali, investment in agriculture is critical to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth. The challenge is to strike a balance between increasing farm productivity and income, and protecting the environment. Improved soil quality and water retention can be achieved through reduced tillage, perennial ground cover such as legumes and crop residue, and integrated nutrient, water, and pest management practices such as crop rotations.

This project will focus on increasing food security by raising the incomes of small-scale farm households dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Research will focus on sustainable conservation agriculture practices that improve soil quality, water capture, water-use efficiency, crop productivity, ecosystem services, and efficient use of farm inputs and labor. The project will answer some of the critical questions associated with CAPS for resource-poor small-scale farmers: Which CAPS can positively contribute to productivity, address needs of farmers and under what specific conditions? What are positive and negative aspects (tradeoffs) of CAPS in both the short and long term? Can CAPS be economically beneficial in short run, can they be adopted by small-scale farmers, and do preconditions for adoptions exist? Which types of processes are most efficient in assessing CAPS with farmers and extending them to a larger scale?

Outreach, networking, and capacity building will be integral to the project, which will conduct research on farms in Wa Municipal District, Wa West, Lawra, and Sissala districts in Ghana; and Bankass, Cinzana, Koutiala, Kita, and Bougouni in Mali. Among crops to be examined for system integration are millet, maize, sorghum, cowpeas, groundnuts, cotton, and cassava.