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ACAI holds Training of Trainiers to kick off DST validation in Tanzania

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ACAI held a training of trainers for the Tanzanian development partners in August to kick off the validation of the ACAI decision support tools in the country.  The training was organized to create a better understanding of the ACAI use cases in Tanzania, the process of effectively evaluating the decision support tools (DSTs) and teaching reliable means of collecting feedback. This was the first step toward the planned capacity building for the project partners to carry out the validation exercises.

IITA’s senior Agronomist and ACAI coordinator for East Africa Dr. Veronica Uzokwe led the training; outlining the project approved standard protocols to be used for site selection, layout of the fields to be monitored during the validation and inputs to be used in the trial fields.

The two-day event was held in Mtwara, the southern Zone of Tanzania on the 14th and 15th of August 2018 with 37 people in attendance. Participants drawn from organizations partnering with ACAI in Tanzania including CAVA-II, FJS Starch Development Company, MEDA and MINJINGU Fertilizer received practical training on using the current version of the ACAI DSTs and the methodology of how to train extension agents and farmers to implement the validation exercises.

ACAI is targeting to reach more than 500 farmers in Tanzania for the validation of the DSTs using 40 extension agents pooled from the network of development partners. During the validation, farmers will run a side by side comparative cropping of their normal cassava farming practices against a plot within their fields where ACAI recommendations will be applied based on the tool that is applicable.

The project is running validation trials in the farmer’s fields for the Scheduled Planting Recommendation decision support tool (SPT), Site Specific Fertilizer Recommendation decision support tool (FR) and the Intercropping recommendation decision support tool.

Each of the partners is expected to carry out step down trainings in their respective extension networks and are tasked to monitor the extension agents they will have trained to ensure a successful implementation of the validation process for the DSTs.

Dr Desudedit Peter Mlay from the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute, TARI, led the discussions that drew a schedule of planned activities starting from the onset of the new planting season in September.

Each partner is responsible to coordinate their extension agent network, to communicate to them the expectations from the project and maintain a close relationship with the farmers under their scope. ACAI has also developed an incentivized trial monitoring and data collection system that encourages spirited involvement of EAs and lead farmers, reward their efforts and appreciate their contribution to the project.

ACAI is carrying out validation exercises to test the version one of the decision support tools that the project has been developing. The validation kicked off in Nigeria early 2018 with similar trainings followed by step-down trainings at state and partner level.

Results and feedback from the validation exercises will be incorporated into further development and improvement of the second version of the decision support tools to improve their prediction and recommendation

acaiACAI holds Training of Trainiers to kick off DST validation in Tanzania
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SG 2000 holds ACAI farmers’ field day in Anambra

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 Farmers participate in the sampling of maize harvested from an Inter-cropping Validation trial plot

ACAI development partner in Anambra state in Nigeria, Sasakawa Africa Association (SG2000) organized farmers’ field days to show case the results from ACAI research and validation trials within three local governments in Anambra state between July and August 2018.

SG 2000 working closely with the National Root Crops Research Institute NRCRI brought together more than 30 farmers from three out of the four Intercropping (IC) validation clusters in Anambra state to learn from one of the lead farmers carrying Intercropping trials for maize and cassava under the ACAI project.

Chris Okoli, SG2000 state coordinator for Anambra organized the event due to what he referred to popular demand from the farmers he has been in interaction with who are interested in the ACAI activities.
While farmers in the area commonly plant their crops on mounds without specific densities and fertilizer regime, ACAI has been carrying out trials to establish the most suitable planting densities, fertilizer regime and land preparation to maximize yield from both crops.
“When neighboring farmers pass by our trials, they are mesmerized, and always ask when we can bring them to our plots and teach them our procedures, that is what we have done now.” Said Chris Okoli, SG2000 Anambra.

Chris Okoli (far right) responding to farmers questions during the field day in Anambra State, Nigeria

In the South East Nigeria, cassava is predominantly intercropped with maize. In 2018, ACAI through its partners is running side by side comparison validation trials to show test the efficacy of the intercropping recommendation decision support tool.
The field days were held on three different days to demonstrate the proper intercropping practices for Maize and cassava, giving spacing dimensions, advice on land preparation, planting dates and the harvest dates and a show of the probable results to be expected from following the IC recommendations.
These were the first field days of the project since the beginning of the validation exercises in Nigeria earlier in the year. The first farmers field day was held in the farm belonging to Mrs Catherine Kenechukwu’s in Umunze, Orumba South local government of Anambra State, Nigeria in July 17th 2018. This was followed up two other field days on the 27th and 28th of August hosted at Offia – Oji Vilage in Dunukofia local government and Ubru in Orumba North local government respectively.

Farmers who participated were impressed with the fields the visited noting the increased plant population and the amount of the maize harvested from the plot in comparison to their practice. The farmer’s response to the trials and ACAI regime of agronomy practices is important especially as the project gets ready for the dissemination phase of the technologies that have been in development.
Festus Arinze, a farmer who works with ACAI in Orumba North local government hosted on of the field days. He implored his peers to emulate his practice and adopt ACAI intercropping recommendations to achieve similar or better results as witnessed in his farm.
ACAI will be hosting similar events to encourage adoption of the DSTs at an early stage and for farmers to participate in the evaluation of the tools that help improve their delivery and recommendations.

 

acaiSG 2000 holds ACAI farmers’ field day in Anambra
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ACAI Annual Progress Report 2017

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As we move forward with research towards developing decision support tools for cassava growers and cassava value chain actors, we are happy to see the impressive progress toward achieving our objectives. The countless hours of work by our committed team of experts from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), our partners in Nigeria and Tanzania and most importantly the invaluable support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made it possible that in 2017, we had the first version of the tools ready for use by our stakeholders for validation and to provide feedback on the improvements needed for the tools to meet their needs. This report details the process of achieving the successes witnessed in 2017 as well as the challenges that offered lessons on areas to improve on as the project moves forward. You are welcome to a preview of the journey ACAI has embarked on to pioneer transformation for cassava agronomy in Africa

Download the ACAI Annual Progress Report for 2017 here

acaiACAI Annual Progress Report 2017
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ACAI Introduces ID Cards for Extension Agents and Cassava growers

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African cassava Agronomy initiative has introduced Identity card for cassava growers and extension agents involved in the project activities. The project started issuing the card at the onset of the baseline survey being conducted by the Monitoring and Evaluation team in Tanzania and Nigeria in January 2018.  

The identity cards feature a unique barcode for every recipient that will be referenced to the bearer’s details and demographic information. The cards will serve as a means to formally recognize the contribution of the farmers and extension agent to the project activities.

The introduction of the cards is a move by the project implementation team to capitalize on the knowledge of the extension agents and cassava farmers and integrate the knowledge into the development of the decision support tools.

According Mark Tokula, from the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Benue State Nigeria, the exercise of registering farmers and extension agents during the baseline survey with a photo capturing feature was especially successful.

“The ID cards have also been highly acceptable to both EAs and farmers. It actually helped in stimulating farmers interest in participating in the survey. The respondents were very cooperative.” Says Tokula who is overseeing the ACAI baseline survey in the region.

Same sentiments shared by Deusdedit Peter Mlay of Agricultural Research institute, ARI in Tanzania commends the new use of cards, especially scanning to retrieve reference data saying it significantly reduces the amount of time used in running analyses.

More than 4000 farmers and extension agents have been registered for the new cards in Nigeria and Tanzania. The number is projected to increase as ACAI intensifies activities around validation of the current versions of the decision tools in both countries.

Each card is integrated to the project open data kit (ODK) database and it is expected to help accelerate data analysis and learning through the standardized and harmonized data collection especially when repeating observations over time.

Farmers and extension agents in Tanzania and Nigeria have facilitated setting up of cassava trial plots in their farms, rapid characterization survey and collection of important research data. The use cards in the ongoing baseline survey in both countries has improved data collection from the project sites and will play a significant role in tracking progress and results from farmers’ fields.

“ID cards have made it easier for us to record information with higher accuracy and observe the key indicators without difficulty as compared the previous methods.” Explains Theresa Ampadu-Boakye ACAI monitoring and evaluation leader.

The ID Cards are part of ACAI’s integration of innovative technology in the implementation of the project focused on data collection, analysis and presentation.

acaiACAI Introduces ID Cards for Extension Agents and Cassava growers
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ACAI to Start validation of the decision support tools

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The IITA led African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) project has set the 2018 calendar of activities around running validation trails for the six decision support tools that the project is developing. The first validation trails being set up in late March through April in Nigeria with similar plans organised in Tanzania from mid-year until when the planting season peaks in late 2018.

Details of the 2018 plans were discussed in a series of meetings held in Nairobi, Kenya by the joint management team and later on in Ibadan by the Nigerian project activities coordinators together with partners.

ACAI has developed the prototypes of the six decision support tools that will tested during the validation to ascertain and their functionalities and improve on their prediction and recommendation accuracy.

“We are keen on the feedback from the field to understand how users interact with the tool, about the features of the tools, interface and what else that is need. We shall then incorporate the feedback toward improving the tools.” States Pieter Pypers, the ACAI project leader.

The validation of the tools brings to the fore the project primary partners around whose needs the tools have been modelled to respond to within the cassava value chain in their respective countries. ACAI is developing Site specific fertilizer recommendation and fertilizer blending recommendation tool to optimize cassava root yield, Scheduled planting recommendation tool to ensure a sustainable year-round supply of cassava to the processing industry and the Hight Starch recommendation tool for optimum starch content in the cassava roots.

Other decision tools include the intercropping recommendation tool for cassava intercropped with Maize and Sweet potatoes and the best planting practices support tool.

Speaking after the Nairobi meeting, Geoffrey Mkamilo, from who coordinates ACAI activities in Tanzania among the national systems termed the move into validation brings closer the realization of the objectives set at the beginning of the project.

“The first results and development of version one of the recommendation tools is a big step, there is still a long way to go but what we have achieved is significant within such a short time.” Explains Mkamilo

The same sentiments are shared by Adeyemi Olojede, ACAI activities coordinator in South East Nigeria, who added that the ACAI primary partners will now play a more increased role in testing the tools first hand.

The validation exercises will be the first time that end users practically apply the decision support tools within their local areas of operation. In Nigeria ACAI is working with PSALTRY limited, CAVA-II, 2SCALE, NOTORE, NIJI Farms and SG200 spread across 8 states in the southern region of the country. In Tanzania, Minjingu, FJS, CAVA-II, MEDA and Farm Concern International.

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Second season of the ACAI field trials set up in Tanzania register remarkable success

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For the first half of 2017, African Cassava Agronomy Initiative, ACAI, recorded remarkable field trials set up in the Southern Zone and Zanzibar project sites in Tanzania. Between January and May 2017, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, IITA, staff coordinating the ACAI project in Tanzania alongside strategic and national partners successfully set up 100 Nutrients omission trials, 100 validation trials and 4 staggered trials in the Tanzania southern zone project site.

In the Zanzibar zone, 102 cassava and sweet potato intercrop trials were established within the same period in collaboration with the Zanzibar Agricultural Research Institute, ZARI. This was part of the work to set up second season trials alongside the ongoing maintenance and monitoring of season one trials in the two zones in Zanzibar.

Said Juma Masood, one at his trial plot for cassava-sweet potato intercrop (Photo: Ngome)

In the Southern zone, the trials were set up in accordance with the modeling of plant growth characteristics in respect to Fertilizer Recommendation use case and the Scheduled Planting use case for advising farmers to be able supply all year. Cassava crops in the trial fields within these zones have undergone weeding, fertilizer application, termite control and plant genotype assessment against cassava brown streak disease, CBSD, and cassava mosaic disease, CMD.

ACAI project trials were planted using improved and clean planting materials tolerant to both CBSD and CMD. The disease tolerant varieties planted are the Mkombozo variety planted in the lake zone, Kiroba in the southern and eastern zone and the Kizimbani variety in Zanzibar

In Zanzibar, a total of 71 farmers and groups were selected by FCI in Unguja and 31 more in Pemba for the trials. Commercial Village Trained Farmers CVTF, is working in close collaboration with ZARI, and IITA to run the trials.

Field staff and extension agents from both zones successfully finalized soil sampling and packing to send for analysis. The soil samples will be analyzed for wet chemistry at the analytical soil laboratory in Dar-es-Salaam. Dry Chemistry alongside other non-destructive above the ground measurements will be carried out by the African Soil Information System, AfSIS, an ACAI partner in Arusha.

According to the official report from the project teams in the two zones, the trials registered an impressive sprouting percentage and the trail maintenance activities were on schedule. The highlight of the field trial activities in Tanzania has been the active participation of partners on the ground including ARI, FCI and government extension agents.

In April, ACAI’s Agronomist Dr. Veronica NE Uzokwe and Jeremiah Kabissa led trainings on harvesting procedures and on site starch determination procedures in readiness for the harvest of the first season trials.

The project team has scheduled more trainings for CVTF and government extension agents in monitoring and maintenance of the trials as well data collection in all project sites in Tanzania.

acaiSecond season of the ACAI field trials set up in Tanzania register remarkable success
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ACAI first harvest of the Cassava Intercropped with Sweet potato trials

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Four months after planting 102 trials for the Cassava intercropped with Sweet Potato (CIS) in the Islands of Unguja and Pemba, Zanzibar in the United republic of Tanzania, ACAI and implementing partners in Zanzibar, ZARI, has begun the harvest of potatoes from the trial fields.

Under the auspices of IITA, ZARI in collaboration with Farm Concern International, (FCI) will carry out the potato harvests from the 22nd of August into the second week of September 2017. The successful harvest will be the first CIS trials harvest in Zanzibar since the project began. The initial 2016 trials harvest was not carried out after bad weather conditions resulted stunted crop growth and hampered root as well as tuber formation.

ZARI’s head of Roots and Tuber research Dr Haji Saleh says the 2017 season has shown robust growth developing under better weather conditions.

“We are expecting to harvest something this season, based on visual evidence as opposed to the previous season.” Says Dr Saleh

 

when grown alongside sweet potatoes under different plant densities for the two crops in order to establish the optimum density for the intercropping, as well as observe the effect of additional nutrients, and the effect of different planting times in introduction of the sweet potatoes.

The trials were planted in varying the densities of sweet at high to lower density (10,000, 20,000 and 33,000). Planting periods were also spaced between planting the two crops simultaneously and introducing sweet potatoes at two weeks after planting (2WAP) the Cassava. Other treatments include fertiliser application to some plots and none for other plots in the same trials.

ACAI in partnership with ZARI set up 102 CIS trials at ZARI stations in Kizimbani on Unguja Island and Matangatwani on Pemba Island as well as in selected farmers’ field trials in both Islands. Sweet potato is a key cash and food crop for smallholder farmers in Zanzibar.

Dr Veronica NE Uzokwe, ACAI’s agronomist in Tanzania expresses optimism on the trial performance of the 2017 season trials.

“We are noticing that in cases where sweet potatoes were introduced later the plants look more robust and healthy than in cases where they were planted together.” Dr. Uzokwe

In both Unguja and Pemba districts of Zanzibar, sweet potato is the most commonly intercropped with cassava according to the report from the ACAI rapid characterization. Farmers in Zanzibar face scarcity of arable land, unfavorable and unstable weather conditions and pests as factors that compound to result in poor yields.

ACAI is developing a cassava intercropping decision support tool to prescribe the best planting times, period of introducing sweet potatoes in the cassava planted plots, the optimal density of intercropping and the appropriate fertilizer application.

acaiACAI first harvest of the Cassava Intercropped with Sweet potato trials
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ACAI in a Week: 2016 Trials Harvest

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John Meela, a farmer from Mkuranga District, Eastern Zone Tanzania with his harvest. (Photo: Grace Mahende)

The IITA-ACAI project is in the harvest season for the 2016 cassava trials across several sites in both Nigeria and Tanzania.

Mr and Mrs Ogiri Acha, cassava farmers from Otukpo cluster show the part of the cassava roots harvested from trials on their farm. ACAI is running Intercropping trials in Otukpo, Benue State overseen by Dr. Mark Tokula of NRCRI (Photo: Mart Tokula – NRCRI)

In Zanzibar, Dr Khatib Haji from ZARI, Pemba led his team in harvesting on station trials at Matangatuani for potatoes from Cassava inter-cropped with Sweet potatoes as well as on farm trials in Junguni, Madamwa, Kanyikani and Mbuzini-Miyapi on Pemba Island. According to Dr Khatib, the yield variation from different trials promising for generating reliable data in the analysis.

Sweet potato harvested from a 0WAP trial in Matangatuani ZARI research in Pemba, Zanzibar (Photo:Khatib Haji – ZARI)

 

The CIS trials harvest in Zanzibar kicked off late August at Kizimbani on station trials in Unguja and Matangatwani on station trials in Pemba.

“We are expecting very good data from the analyses after what we have seen so far from the harvests here on the Island in terms of distinction in yield from different treatments.” Dr Khatib Haji

 

In the south East of Nigeria, NRCRI in collaboration with SG2000  carried out harvests in 6 clusters of Benue State; Otukpo, Okpokwu, Katsina Ala, Buruku, Kwande and Gwer East. In Benue state, ACAI had 45 Cassava inter-croppped with Maize and 15 trials for Fertilizer recommendation.

Some of the roots harvested from trials in Nigeria and Tanzania (Photo: Laurent Aswile)

 

Dr Adeyemi Olojede, from NRCRI and ACAI activities coordinator in the South East of Nigeria is optimistic with the pace of the project and the results from the harvest especially in the South East region.

“Farmers are impressed with the outcome from the trials and we are now seeing increased interest from new farmers who are offering heir land for trials after seeing what we have achieved with their neighbors.” Dr. Adeyemi Olojede.

 

Cassava roots harvested in Benue State and in the Eastern Zone, Tanzania were impressively large, leading to a preemptive assumption based on various indicators, that cassava could be responding well to fertilizer.

Farmer sorting harvested roots before they are assessed for quality in Yala, Cross River state, Nigeria. (Photo: Innocent Onyekere)

 

In the Mkuranga cluster of Tanzania, the harvest from Nutrient omissions trials bore testament to this assumption. Laurent Aswile from the zone says it was both root size and the number of the roots on the step that has greatly impressed in the yield from trials under the NPK/NK treatments.

Harvest of the 2016 trials and data collection is still on going in different project sites.

(Additional Updates by Dr Mark Tokula, Laurent Aswile, and Grace Mahende)

acaiACAI in a Week: 2016 Trials Harvest
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ACAI Donates Laptop Computers to PhD and Msc Students

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The African Cassava Agronomy Initiative donated laptop computers to four master’s students and one PhD candidate all of whom are beneficiaries of the ACAI scholarship program in partnership with The Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, FUNAAB. The five students; Thanni Bolaji, Blessing Afolake, Adebayo Emmanuel, Akinsumbo Yinka and Ologunde Hammed are pursuing their post graduate degrees at FUUNAB school of Plant Science and Crop Production. Rebecca Oiza Enesi from ACAI presented the computers to the students on behalf of ACAI, at the FUNAAB campus in Abeokuta on August 2, 2017 in the presence of Professor Felix Kolawole Salako, ACAI activities coordinator in the South West of Nigeria through FUNAAB.

Prof Salako lauded the gesture by ACAI terming it a critical logistical support that will augment student’s research work.

This is the kind of support that will inspire commitment from the students and enhance their capabilities in delivering on their results.” Prof Salako

The move is part of the ACAI partnerships with Nation Agricultural Research organizations in capacity building and promoting agronomy at scale.

acaiACAI Donates Laptop Computers to PhD and Msc Students
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