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ACAI Annual Progress Report 2017

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ACAI_Annual_Progress_Report_2017

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

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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Preliminary results indicate significant cassava response to fertilizer

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Cassava trial farm

First yield results of Nutrients Omission Trials (NOT) reveal significant responses to fertilizer. First data on the 34 NOT trails have been analyzed and it is now available. The average root yield increase with NPK recorded from the first yield results is 4 t/ha but varying between 0-15t/ha.

The results from 23 trials in Tanzania and 11 in Nigeria show substantial responses to fertilizer following trends similar to those observed in other crops like Maize.

The NOT trial activities observed;

  • Non-responsive fields with low control yields (less than 10t/ha)
  • Strong responses in fields with medium control yields (10-20 t/ha) and less frequently
  • High yielding fields of more than 20t/ha with low response to fertilizer

This justifies the need for targeted fertilizer application through decision support tool that provides site specific fertilizer recommendation.

These results seem to indicate that Nitrogen (N) is the most deficient nutrient followed by potassium (K). No yield increase was observed when only Phosphorous (P) and Potassium was added. Application of Potassium results in site specific responses only.

Harvest for the for NOT trials is ongoing. There will be more analysis on the trail results is expected to provide extensive and conclusive data.

acaiPreliminary results indicate significant cassava response to fertilizer
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Second season of ACAI field trial 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 a total of 10 scheduled planting trials in Tanzania

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 districts in Zanzibar (Unguja and Pemba)

 

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 Mkombozi 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 ACAI field trial set up in Tanzania register remarkable success
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