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ACAI Tools For Cassava Agronomy Advice Are Ready For Nigerian Farmers

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ACAI Research Assistant Ademola Adebiyi leads a training session with Sasakawa Global 2000 team (SG2000) on how to use the Akilimo smartphone application

The first field test version of the ACAI developed Akilimo decision support tool was introduced to the partners working with ACAI in Nigeria during a pre-launch event held at the IITA campus, Ibadan in June. More than 30 representatives from processors, fertilizer makers, producers, researchers and industrial manufacturers were present at the unveiling of the Akilimo tool that will provide tailored recommendation to cassava farmers to improve the productivity of the crop and income for the farmers.

The Akilimo name is a blend of the Swahili words Akili and Kilimo meaning intelligent or smart agriculture. The tool combines the ingenuity of modern technology with machine learning to give advice to farmers using the simplest of means.

Cassava farmers in Nigeria and Tanzania will now have access to agronomic advice delivered to them via a mobile application, printed paper recommendations, SMS and through interactive voice responses. All recommendation given by the Akilimo tools is specific to the location and cropping practice of the farmer seeking advice.

Akilimo was received with excitement from partners who have been a part of the development process for the tool from the beginning of the project. Mr Samson Oguntonye, Regional Manager, Notore Chemicals Industries PLC said the company will move with speed to put a fertilizer blend market for cassava farmers based on the ACAI recommendation.

“Akilimo will help us to target our products based on the needs of specific geographical terrains and we are quite excited about it at Notore.” Said Mr Oguntoye

Sasakawa Global 2000 Crop Productivity coordinator Idriss Saidu Garko termed the release of the final version a major milestone in the work that the project has been doing over the last four years.

“We are already set to expand the dissemination of this tool to four more states in Nigeria because we have seen the improvements in productivity of cassava using the recommendation during the research phase.” Mr Garko pointed out.

The Akilimo tool is designed to respond to the most pressing needs in the production of high-quality cassava roots as identified by the partners. ACAI worked closely with the partners during the research and development process of the tools.

ACAI project country coordinator for Nigeria Dr Christine Kreye said the stakeholders at the meeting have been at the centre of developing the tool from the beginning of the project.

“Akilimo is ultimately a tool that is addressing the needs of the partners present here today, as well as our partners in Tanzania. We have worked together to develop and today we are reviewing the results of our work.” Said Dr Kreye

Onasanya Omolara, ACAI PhD candidate reviewed the paper-based Akilimo tools with officials from the Oyo State Cassava Growers Association.

ACAI partnered with international research organizations including CIAT, ICRAF, IPNI for the implementation of strategic research activities, soil and plant analysis and crop modelling across Nigeria and Tanzania. However, in Nigeria, ACAI worked with the national research institutions FUNAAB and NRCRI for the implementation of field research and strategic contributions to decision support tool development.

The primary and development partners in Nigeria around whose objectives the tools are modelled include 2SCALE, CAVA-II, NOTORE, OYSCGA, Psaltry, SG2000.

The NRCRI director of research Dr Adeyemi Olojede termed Akilimo a cutting-edge solution to the yield and productivity gap that has long plagued cassava value chain in Nigeria. Dr Olojede said Akilimo will revolutionalize cassava agronomy in the country.

Following the pre-launch, the partners will intensify scaling and dissemination activities within their domains and provide feedback that will help finetune the tools recommendations and user-friendliness.

acaiACAI Tools For Cassava Agronomy Advice Are Ready For Nigerian Farmers
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Akilimo Decision Support System For Cassava Farmers in Nigeria and Tanzania

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ACAI has released its first field test version of the Akilimo decision support system in paper and application format. These will be used by extension agents to help cassava farmers in Nigeria and Tanzania optimize their productivity and income from cassava growing.

Diagram showing the process of generating recommendations in the Akilimo Cassava agronomy advice tool back end.

The name Akilimo is coined from a combination of two Swahili words Akili meaning Smart/Intelligent and Kilimo meaning Agriculture which loosely translates to smart agriculture. The Akilimo is an ingenious system developed over the course of a three to four-year research and development process to provide site-specific recommendations depending on the farmers’ needs and cropping objectives.

Akilimo decision support system encompasses the infrastructure supporting the data curating, data analysis and information output.

The Akilimo correlates a series of information input by a farmer or extension agent with data calculations in the prediction engine in the background of the tool to output tailored advice that is specific to that particular farmer. The tool has been fashioned to provide advice on fertilizer application depending on location and cropping system, the best planting practices and weed control, intercropping, improving the quality of cassava root starch and how to maintain a constant supply of cassava root to processing industries throughout the year.

ACAI project leader introducing the Akilimo Tool to project partners in Tanzania

Reflecting on the progress made in the development of the tool, ACAI project leader Dr Pieter Pypers lauded the ACAI team of researchers who have worked tirelessly to create such a versatile tool that is accessible in various forms. He also commended the development partners for their invaluable input through field trials, data and feedback during the development process of the Akilimo decision support system.

Akilimo is a very versatile tool, says Dr Pypers, “We have a data-intensive prediction engine in the background co-relating a number of variables that influence the crop performance which then gives recommendation with high accuracy on sophisticated apps as well as simple printed paper.”

Recommendations from Akilimo will be delivered to farmers through a smartphone application, printed maps and recommendation tables (paper-based tools), Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) format. The initial field test version released only features the mobile application and the paper-based tool while the prediction engine is being calibrated for other formats

At the heart of the Akilimo prediction engine is the culmination of the precision research examining several factors that determine the cassava crop nutrient uptake, growth, root yield and the quality of the starch in the roots. To set up the prediction engine, ACAI integrates results from field trials with various crop models to evaluate cassava response under varying environmental conditions as well as nutrient supply.

Besides the tailored fertilizer recommendation, the tool will also be used to advise farmers land preparation methods, weed management, planting densities and fertilizer application for intercropped cassava fields as well as planting and harvest dates for high cassava root starch quality and sustainable raw material supply.

Akilimo is a highly interactive tool requiring the user to provide a set on the information in the form of responses to improve the accuracy of the recommendations. The user, in this case, a farmer, will be required to give their accurate GPS location, cropping system, current yield and investment capacity. Akilimo will predict the yield of cassava root and compare with the net income for the farmer from the sale of the roots to provide recommendations that help the farmer optimize his/her income.

The development of the Akilimo tool was a collaborative process between IITA scientist and partners from various sectors of the Cassava value chain in Nigeria and Tanzania. At the research level, IITA collaborated with CIAT, CABI, ICRAF, Wageningen University, University of Florida, the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, Nigeria, Tanzania Institute of Agricultural Research, National Root Crops Research Institute Nigeria and Katholik University of Leuven.

The objectives of the ACAI project were pegged around addressing the needs expressed by key players in the cassava value chain in Nigeria and Tanzania. In Nigeria, ACAI is partnering with SASAKAWA Global 2000, Notore Chemicals limited, Psaltry International, Oyo State Cassava Growers Association, OYSCGA, CAVA II project and 2Scale project. In Tanzania ACAI is partnering with Minjingu Fertilizer, FJS Africa Starch, Best Cassava Project by MEDA, Farm Concern International and Yara.

acaiAkilimo Decision Support System For Cassava Farmers in Nigeria and Tanzania
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ACAI Scaling Partners Trained on Measuring Farmer Level Results

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Participants at the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning and Dissemination in Benin City, Nigeria

ACAI held a two-day training with scaling partners in Nigeria on the systems developed by the project to monitor and measure farmers’ level results (farmers reached with the DSTs, farmers who understand the DSTs, farmers who use the DSTs, farmers who changed their practices to the DSTs recommendation, farmers who benefit from use of the DSTs recommendation) within the project

The training was facilitated by ACAI Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Specialist Saburi Adekunbi to create a common understanding of the ACAI results framework and data requirements to document the progress of the project within the partnership.

Chris Okoli, SG2000 Stete coordinator for Anambra State in Nigeria makes appoint at the MEL training in Benin City, Nigeria

Mr. Saburi said the training will be instrumental for the partners during the scaling and dissemination activities to collect and curate data. The training included sessions on data collection processes and introduction to a set of data collection tools.

ACAI Scaling Specialist Thompson Ogunsami led discussions on the integration of the ACAI monitoring and evaluation system with partner strategies on scaling, dissemination and measuring impact and how to integrate DSTs into grassroots events

ACAI has set up several tools for monitoring field activities and events using the open data kit (ODK) suite of tools and an in house developed Akilimo EA monitoring tool for data collection. The training was part of the process to enhance understanding of the tools for effective use to track the project critical path.

In attendance were representatives from NOTORE chemicals limited, Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG2000), National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Nigeria and the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta Nigeria.

Among the IITA entourage was ACAI coordinator for Nigeria Christine Kreye and the project communication specialist David Ngome from Nairobi.

The training is the first of the series of at least 2 other sessions to be held in South West Nigeria and in Tanzania in July.

acaiACAI Scaling Partners Trained on Measuring Farmer Level Results
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Cassava Value Chain Stakeholders in Tanzania Commit To The Take Akilimo Tools To The Farmers

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ACAI project in Tanzania hosted project partners in Dar es Salaam for the 2019 – 2020 season planning meeting in preparation for dissemination and scaling of the project decision support tools. Participants representing development organizations, industrial processors and farm input producers reaffirmed their commitment to fulfilling their roles in the project and achieve the ACAI collective objectives. 

Top on the Agenda of the meeting was the onset of the grassroots events and promotion activities for the ACAI tools as the project transitions from research and development into facilitating the use and adoption of the DSTs. 

ACAI Project Leader Dr Pieter Pypers made a presentation about the overall progress of the project

Partners presented their strategies for dissemination of the DSTs within their respective domains outlining objectives, targeted audience and corresponding numbers of farmers to be reached. The dissemination strategies we jointly discussed specific aspects harmonized for support and coordination between IITA and the partners.  

Speaking after the meetingACAI East African project coordinator Dr Veronica Uzokwe was enthusiastic of the commitment from partners terming it significant for sustainability of the project.  

“We are looking at how the tools will be sustained locally through these partners and the national research systems. The partners have confirmed to us that we are on the right track for the sustainability of this project.” Said Dr Uzokwe 

In the 2019/20 season of the project calendar, ACAI will shift its focus to activities that create awareness and influence farmers as well secondary partners to adopt the technology developed for the last four years of research and development. Partners at the meeting have been an integral part of the development process of the DST.  

Stephen Magige, Project Manager for the Best Cassava Project by MEDA, said the partnership with ACAI has grown over the course the collaboration between the two projects as a result of the shared objectives as well as the ingenuity of the solutions that ACAI is working on.  

“Every time we meet like this, there is always something new, the project is making big steps at an incredible pace. We are happy and grateful for this partnership.” Said Mr Magige. 

Stephen Magige, project manager for the Best Cassava project by MEDA follows proceedings at the planning meeting in Dar.

ACAI project leader Dr Pieter Pypers led discussions on the continued data for DST evaluation as an important part of the partner responsibility to help improve the accuracy of the recommendation as well as monitoring the progress of the project in general.  

The three-day meeting included a review of the progress made in the 2018/19 season activities with highlights on the lessons learnt during the period. In the 2018/19 season, ACAI in collaboration with the partners, ran validation trials to test and improve recommendations given by the DST.   

IITA director for East Africa Dr Victor Manyong joined the ACAI team during the opening session of the meeting. Dr Manyong applauded ACAI project and partners for the achievements made over the course of the four years that the project has been running. 

ACAI in Tanzania is working with International Research organizations including CIAT, ICRAF, IPNI and CABI to implement strategic research activities, soil and plant analysis and crop modelling. Tanzania and Zanzibar Agricultural Research Institute (TARI/ZARI) is implementing field research and strategic contributions toward decision support tool development. Development and Scaling partner identified the most pressing needs within the cassava value chain that ACAI is working to address through the Akilimo DST. These partners include Minjingu Fertilizer, FJS Africa Starch, Tanzania Food and Nutrition Center (TFNC), Farm Concern International (FCI). Yara fertilizer company and Uwamima farmers association have joined ACAI as secondary partners.  

acaiCassava Value Chain Stakeholders in Tanzania Commit To The Take Akilimo Tools To The Farmers
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ACAI team reflects on progress made in first quarter

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ACAI senior management from left Prof Friday Ekeleme, Dr. Chrisitine Kreye, Dr. Pieter Pypers, and Mr. Godwin Atser

Members of the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) met in Nigeria to discuss and evaluate on the progress made in the first quarter of the year, 2019, across the different components of the project otherwise known as Work Streams.

The meetings, which were convened by the Project Coordinator of ACAI, Dr. Pieter Pypers, 2-6 April; were aimed at creating internal synergy within the ACAI team while at the same time providing insights on the progress made by the Nigerian team.

Specifically, members of the ACAI team took a retrospective assessment of the best planting tool, monitoring and evaluation tools, and intercropping tools. There were also meetings with staff to assess the digital extension plan of the project and the scaling strategy being adopted.

Dr. Pypers also took time to discuss and appreciate the contributions of the project administration team, just as he held discussions with the Ph.D. trainees of the project.

At the end of the meetings, Dr. Pypers said he was satisfied with the progress made in Nigeria especially towards the finalization of the Decision Support Tools and the outreach plan.

ACAI staff who participated in the meetings included, Dr. Christine Kreye, Dr. Stefan Hauser, Prof Friday Ekeleme, Mr. Godwin Atser, Ms. Ezinne Ibe, and several other staff.

Commenced in 2015, ACAI is Africa’s flagship cassava agronomy project aimed at delivering cassava agronomy at scale. In 2018, ACAI and the Cassava Weed Management Project merged into one under the framework of ACAI, a move that enlarged the portfolio of ACAI.

ACAI Weed Scientist, Prof Friday Ekeleme commended the convener of the meeting, Dr. Pypers; and pledged the commitment of the team to redouble efforts to reach the milestones set in the project.

Beginning this year, ACAI intends to provide farmers with better agronomy advice and provide tools that allow farmers to access that information either directly (radio, SMS, USSD, IVR) or indirectly through services by EAs who are equipped with the decision support tools (DSTs). This will, in turn, boost the yield of cassava and put the nation on the path of growth, and raise the standard of living of cassava farmers, while providing more food available to feed African people.

acaiACAI team reflects on progress made in first quarter
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TAAT and ACAI trains stakeholders on Good Agronomy Technology Practice

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The Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) project in collaboration with the African Cassava Agronomy Initiatives (ACAI) conducted a training on the Good Agricultural Technologies’ Practices (GATP) and Mechanization for cassava stakeholders in Mkuranga, Eastern Zone Tanzania. The training is part of TAAT’s core objective to empower project stakeholders for efficient and effective deployment of appropriate technologies.

The training was organized at the Central District Office, Mkuranga, Eastern zone, Tanzania on March 4th and 5th 2019. It was facilitated by ACAI East Africa coordinator and IITA’s Systems Agronomist Dr. Veronica NE Uzokwe, ACAI,  IITA’s Weed Scientist Prof. Friday Ekeleme and Eng. George Marechera, Business Development Manager for African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).

Participants in the training included representatives from Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), development partners -FJS starch company, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), government representatives, extension agents, and cassava growers.  The GATP and mechanization of cassava production systems training aim to empower stakeholders, particularly EAs, who work very closely with cassava growers.

In her opening remarks, the guest of honor Madam Julitha Bulali, who is the District Agricultural, Irrigation and Cooperative Officer (DAICO) in Mkuranga District, hailed the training going on in the region led by IITA as a progressive step towards empowering smallholder farmers.

Dr. Uzokwe gave an overview of the objectives and the content of the training as it was organized to cover topics including good agricultural practices, data capturing, proper use of herbicides and alternative weed management options in the cassava production. The facilitators also gave training sessions on mechanization in cassava production and record keeping, logistics management & cost-effective tracking.

In her presentation, Dr. Uzokwe emphasized the importance of applying tailored GATP to increase productivity and profitability. Participants were set in work groups to develop work plans to implement in the first project year of the TAAT project. A reward system for work delivery and payment modality was also designed for the EAs. Participants discussed and agreed to establish a number of demo fields per district, site selections process, plans for field activities and sourcing of planting materials.

Prof Friday Ekeleme’s led a practical session on how to calibrate herbicide volumes to be used in the knapsack sprayer. In his presentation, Prof. Ekeleme emphasized the importance of taking into account the efficacy and safety of herbicides to be applied to manage weeds in cassava fields to optimize yield and generate income from the cassava.

According to TAAT cassava-compact leader, Dr. Abass Adebayo, the project has purposed to train a minimum of 4,000 smallholder cassava farmers in Tanzania. Dr. Abass who led the committee on the content of the training said the farmers will be sensitized on the use of user-­friendly mechanized tools from production to the harvesting of cassava. Participants also exchanged experiences that will enable the training to align well with the expected output.

Representatives from the cassava growers’ group, TARI, government, and Development partners expressed their gratitude for the training and noted that the skills learned will empower them to carry out their duties effectively.

acaiTAAT and ACAI trains stakeholders on Good Agronomy Technology Practice
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YARA Tanzania to partner with ACAI on dissemination of agronomy advice tools

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YARA Tanzania, a subsidiary of the global fertilizer conglomerate Yara International AS has agreed to partner with ACAI in the dissemination the cassava agronomy decision support tools. ACAI has been doing research to develop a suite agronomy advice tools to help improve cassava intensification, productivity and production targeting smallholder farmers through cassava value chain actors.

ACAI project activities coordinator for East Africa, Dr. Veronica NE Uzokwe together the ACAI colleagues met with Yara Tanzania Head of Agronomy Mr. Peter Assey on May 21 to review potential areas that YARA can intervene specifically for validation and dissemination activities of the ACAI project.

The ACAI team provided YARA with background information on potential areas that YARA can engage with ACAI project. They highlighted the importance of encouraging cassava growers to use fertilizers for cassava production to increase productivity and household income.

The discussions were a follow up on the initial meeting between the two teams in April in which the partnership was agreed. ACAI project Leader, Dr. Pieter Pypers who led the previous meeting said the partnership with YARA is a great opportunity to diversify and tailor the ACAI decision tools to meet the needs of the farmers at the grassroots level. ACAI monitoring and evaluation specialist Theresa Ampadu-Boakye was part of the discussions.

In a letter expressing interest to be part of the project dissemination activities, YARA’s head of agronomy in Tanzania Mr. Peter Assey said the company will incorporate ACAI recommendations in their short code messaging services.

“We are confident that the project will contribute to strengthening cassava production in Tanzania,” Wrote Mr. Assey.

The partnership will enhance to the reach and impact of the ACAI agronomy advice tools in the areas that YARA already has operation networks beyond the project areas of intervention. ACAI, on the other hand, will provide tailored recommendation for fertilizer blends for specific locations to improve the effectiveness of the fertilizer sold by YARA in Tanzania for cassava growers.

Dr. Uzokwe on her part termed the partnership between ACAI and YARA a masterstroke at combining precision research with wide dissemination platforms for the benefit of smallholder farmers.

“We shall achieve the expectations of the cassava growers for site-specific recommendation and promote the relevant and appropriate use in cassava farming through this partnership.” Said Dr. Uzokwe

ACAI will share with YARA the planned activities for the validation of the decision support tools and dissemination of the tools at grassroots level later in the year. YARA will incorporate ACAI DSTs, especially the Fertilizer Recommendation (FR) and Fertilizer Blending (FB) tools.

acaiYARA Tanzania to partner with ACAI on dissemination of agronomy advice tools
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Point of View: Dr Meklit Chernet reflection on the ICT4D 2019 conference

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The 11th Information Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) was held between April 30, and May 3, 2019, in Kampala Uganda. The conference brought together key stakeholder in information technology and research across the globe to share and reflect on the innovation and experiences of applying digital technology to development.

IITA’s Associate Data Scientist Dr. Meklit Tariku Chernet represented ACAI. Meklit made a presentation on how ACAI is combining innovative data management tools with prediction models and machine learning to deliver site-specific recommendations to smallholder farmers.

Meklit shared her experience at the conference:

What was the most outstanding aspect of the conference from the presentations and innovations at the conference?

The conference was mainly about ICT as an efficient tool to collect data and make information available to users, mainly in humanitarian help, agriculture, education, and health sectors. In doing so, a large emphasis was given to the difference between digitization and digitalization which I found to be an interesting concept. While digitization is making information digital involving all the hardcore back-end and front-end programming, digitalization is about empowering people to make use of digital technologies. Which is to say digitization is only the first step of digitalization. I like this concept because it highlights the enormous effort of making information available digitally which is evident based on the number of apps on agriculture, health, education, etc. flooding the Technosphere. If this effort is not matched with the capacity building to make the target population able to use them, I am afraid we will miss the digital revolution as we did the green revolution in Africa. There were other interesting discussions about creating a system to register and to get users feedback to develop ‘ranking’ of digital tools based on the friendliness and usefulness of information to guide users on finding the right digital tool for their use. If ICT for development is to be successful, an overarching body between developers and users is necessary to protect users by providing them with feedback from peers as well as to give higher visibility for digital solutions with quality information.

The other thing I really liked about the conference was there were people from different sectors and positions and that gives me an opportunity to network and to learn how technology is being evaluated by these different profiles.

Based on what ACAI was presenting at the conference, how do you now perceive the project in terms of innovation and integrating ICT to agricultural research in comparison to other presentations?

Well, I think ACAI is different in many aspects. It is unique in the groundwork that goes into generating site-specific recommendations. I saw several digital tools developed to bring information to users but mostly the packaged information was general knowledge and blanket recommendations which by the way is correct only on average. Most participants found the Agronomy at scale for a tailored recommendation well thought and a very sound platform that can be scaled to other agricultural research areas. Since the need for the tailored recommendation was already being discussed by private ICT sectors, ACAI was a good demonstration of what IITA/CGIAR are working on and it was an eye-opener for some to know where to search the information they need.

What is your take-home lesson from the conference?

I was very amazed at how many digital tools are out there and the diverse the packaging formats used to reach the end user. There are brilliant people doing all sort of things and in areas, Africa needs most. It was beautiful to see it is becoming easier for our society to access information that will help them to make smarter decisions and use their resources wisely. One thing that worried me was how uncoordinated the effort is. In this way, we are duplicating efforts and making it difficult for users by offering them with too many choices without any quality matrix to evaluate digital tools.

acaiPoint of View: Dr Meklit Chernet reflection on the ICT4D 2019 conference
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ACAI Capacity Building for partners: Nigeria and Tanzania NARs training on data management

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ACAI has started a series of data management training for staff members from the national research systems, NARS, in the project target countries. NARS staff from Nigeria and Tanzania are being trained on data collection using ODK suite tool, data analysis in R, and geospatial information system GIS methods and approaches using the ArcGIS and QGIS software.

Participants in the training program are drawn from the National Root Crops Research Institute, NRCRI, the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, FUNAAB both from Nigeria and Tanzania and Zanzibar Agricultural Research Institutes, TARI, and ZARI.

The first training session was held in early March by ACAI project coordinator and senior Agronomist Dr. Pieter Pypers. Dr. Pypers conducted training for the NARs partners on digital data collection covering effective agronomy research and database management.

IITA Data Scientist Dr. Meklit Chernet led the second session of the training for the partners on data analysis using R software. In April 2019, IITA GIS specialist Mr. Alabi Tunrayo gave the third session of the training on geospatial analysis using QGIS.

The training is part of the ACAI objective to build the capacity of the national research systems for them to engage in transformative cassava agronomy research. The project has lined 9 virtual sessions to equip the NARs participants with necessary skills to handle, analyze and interpret complex data using digital tools. In September, classroom training will be held in both countries to further advance the skills of the participants.

Dr. Busari Mutiu, a senior lecturer in Soil Science and Land Management at FUNAAB commended the ACAI leadership for the initiative which will diversify the NARs partners’ skillset beyond the project needs.

“These trainings are very well organized and will have a great deal of impact on the plans for the sustainability of the project. We find (the training) useful and satisfactory.” Said Dr. Busari. The senior lecturer is also leading ACAI research activities in the South West of Nigeria.

The project together with the NARs partners will evaluate the progress of the training in the 3rd Quarter of 2019. The evaluation will guide the team in developing further plans for in-depth detailed training for the participants in 2020.

acaiACAI Capacity Building for partners: Nigeria and Tanzania NARs training on data management
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Cassava farmers in Tanzania to benefit from new industry partnership with ACAI project

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At a recent meeting in Tanzania, IITA, through the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) and the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI-Naliendele) agreed to explore areas of collaboration with the Cassava Starch Tanzania Corporation (CSTC).

Demand for cassava is increasing as more companies are seeking to process the roots into high-value, starch-rich flour. New processing capacity is starting to come online for many companies, such as CSTC. However, one of the main concerns of these ventures is getting a stable supply of cassava.

This new agreement could see CSTC helping to deploy ACAI’s latest tools to secure the cassava supply of smallholder farmers across Tanzania.

ACAI Project coordinator in Tanzania and East Africa, Veronica N.E. Uzokwe explains: “The ACAI project has essentially distilled years of agronomic research on cassava farming into simple-to-use and practical decision support tools that can help farmers achieve significant crop yield and quality improvements.”

Working with thousands of farmers across Tanzania, the ACAI project has been applying advanced agronomic analyses to answer farmers’ questions such as, “When is the best time to plant? When should I harvest? What fertilizer do I use; how much and when?”

Among the various decision support tools created by ACAI, their fertilizer recommendation tool is designed to maximize productivity based on a given fertilizer input. Their scheduled planting guidance offers support to farmers to ensure that harvested roots supplied to starch companies have a high starch content. The economic calculations driving the tools are also of great use to fledgling companies in the cassava food processing industry, looking to maximize profitability.

Cassava farmers in Tanzania to benefit from new industry partnership with ACAI project
Cassava stakeholders with members of CSTC.

ACAI is currently validating the tools with the help of many smallholder farmers, who supported their initial development. To date, development and delivery of the support tools have been carried out by an extensive network of ACAI partner organizations, including Minjingu Fertilizer, FJS starch company, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA), and Farm Concern International.

Uzokwe said, “We welcome more partners from all levels of the cassava value chain. We believe that CSTC will be able to help us reach more farmers through extension agents. Training these stakeholders will promote food security, generate incomes, and support people’s livelihoods. This aligns with the goals of IITA.”

Mathew de Klerk, CSTC General Manager, said that his company is willing to work with a dynamic organization that has a good track record in agriculture. He also thanked and praised the Tanzanian Government for providing an enabling environment to drive cassava industrialization in Tanzania and East Africa as a whole.

acaiCassava farmers in Tanzania to benefit from new industry partnership with ACAI project
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