Nigerian Spray Service Providers (SSPs), most of whom are cassava farmers themselves, cannot stop basking in excitement over the new knowledge they are getting from the training on Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management and Best Planting Practices Decision Support Tool (DST) developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) as part of the AKILIMO toolkit a product of the Africa Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI).
During a feedback training session organized by ACAI on the IITA campus and facilitated by Godwin Atser, IITA Digital Extension and Advisory Services Specialist, many of the SSPs exhibited a good grasp of weed management techniques taught. They testified that the use of the printable guide on Cassava Weed Control and Best Planting Practices as part of the AKILIMO suite of decision support tools, alongside with VIAMO’s 3-2-1 service and IITA’s herbicide calculator app, makes cassava cultivation easy.
Features of the Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management and Best Planting Practices DST include site selection, land clearing, appropriate timing and application of herbicides, evaluating the profitability of tillage operations, best planting practices and how to control different types of weeds at different stages of crop growth.
“The training has really been impactful because despite my years of experience in agribusiness and farming, a lot of new things were introduced to me that will improve my practice and I’ll be able to use the concepts learnt to help others on the field,” Olusola Agoro from the Nigeria Farmers Forum, said in his feedback note.
“One of the new things I’ve learnt so far is that planting cassava on ridges makes better sense and increases yield per hectare,” he added.
On what he has resolved to do differently, Agoro said: “Plant my cassava on ridges, always use IITA Herbicide Calculator for to ensure herbicide spraying is done correctly and safely, and apply best practice in weed management in terms of how and when to apply different herbicides”
Another participant, Ola Agbetu Quadri, said he has now mastered the handling of spraying equipment and became more knowledgeable about different types and categories of weeds and how to control them.
“I can now start cassava farming knowing fully well that I can manage weeds effectively,” he stated, expressing confidence in his new ability to cultivate more hectarage without worrying about weeds.
Undoubtedly, the cost-effectiveness of the new techniques in herbicide application contained in the training was a morale booster for participants like Chukwuma Obisike and Adeniyi Coker, who carry out spray service provision as a form of business.
“The training gave me more insight into the lucrativeness of the business of spray service provision”, Obisike said, adding that he can also increase his farmland without worrying about weed problem in the midst to scarcity of labourers.
Coker, in his response, maintained that knowing that he could now save a lot of money with his new weed management skills and techniques was a huge relief.
A common new experience the participants shared was the digitization of weed control, farm practices and planting solutions as contained in the mobile apps and dial service.
An obviously motivated participant, Owolabi Felix, said: “The IITA Herbicide Calculator helps in ensuring the right dosage of herbicides to be applied. With this, there is no more room for guesswork.”
The IITA Herbicide Calculator is a mobile application that helps farmers to apply the correct dose of herbicides on cassava and other field crops.
The 3-2-1 service, which is available on Airtel, is a number that Nigerian farmers can dial to access extension and advisory services related to weed control, best planting practices and other aspects of cassava production on their cell phone for 10 times free of charge in a month. It is in several Nigerian languages.
Participants of the training were also introduced to AKILIMO—an advisory service being developed by ACAI. The AKILIMO app is nearing completion that will amongst other things, provide site-specific advice on fertilizer application, recommendations on best planting practices and weed control, intercropping, how to ensure a high root starch content and how to maintain a year-round supply of cassava root to the processing industry.
Story by Godwin Atser