The 2020 Annual Review and Planning for the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative was held virtually owing to the Covid 19 pandemic. Despite the unprecedented circumstance within which the event was held, the ACAI family and partners held a largely successful event.
Review meetings of this nature provide an opportunity to reflect on the activities of the project in the course of the year, the achievements, learnings and prioritize key actions points for the next year. Save for the virtual interaction, this year was no different from previous years, it showcased dissemination of AKILIMO, access to AKILIMO and the research process and finally reflections and feedback on the tools, the research and development process and the project progress. See Agenda here
The ACAI team put together a series of presentations showing the activities, results and impact of the project for the year 2020. The presentations were organized thematically as follows;
AKILIMO in action
An overview of ACAI in 2020 by Dr Pieter Pypers, Theresa Ampadu-Boakye and Saburi Adekunbi (See presentation below)
Scaling approaches by development partners by Linda Byaba and Samson Oguntoye (see presentation below)
Digital Partners Integrating AKILIMO by Gloria Akhabue, Patrick Kiao and Sally Ndung’u (See presentation below)
Scaling to next users through secondary partners and AKILIMO integration in national extension systems, presentation by Dr Thompson Ogunsanmi and Dr Freddy Baijukya (see presentation below)
From Concept to platform – AKILIMO in a Timeline by Dr Pieter Pypers
Validating AKILIMO 2nd season validation exercise results Dr Pieter Pypers, Dr Guillaume Ezui, Dr Chrsitine Kreye, Dr Freddy Baijukya, Dr Stefan Hauser, Dr Meklit Chernet.
Plenary presentation on learnings from the validation approach by Abubakar Mzanda and Ademola Adebiyi
ACAI and EiA 2030 Sustaining the use of AKILIMO by Dr Pieter Pypers and Dr Bernard Vanlauwe
Dr. Mkamilo regaled meeting participants on the eventful early begins of the ACAI project in Tanzania. He noted that in such a short time, the project had transformed in many ways that showed progress owing to good and strong leadership.
Representing the government of Tanzania as director general of TARI , Dr. Mkamilo recognized the import contribution that the ACAI project had made over time to the cassava value chain sector in the country. Dr. Mkamilo pointed out that the research and data collection activities, that involved farmers, helped them understanding the decision support tools and increased their willingness to use AKILIMO.
Commenting on the future of the AKILIMO tools, Dr. Mkamilo said TARI has been an integral part of the development process of AKILIMO, a history he proudly held, the tools will be incorporated into the extension training curriculum and adopted for the national cassava manual. He expressed optimism on the direction that the ACAI project research was headed for. He expected even more innovations resulting from the collaborations in the project.
Dr. Mkamilo thanked participants and declared the meeting open.
Prof Chris Daudu, Director, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS)
Prof Daudu pointed out that AKILIMO tools had been introduced to NAERLS at such an important time as the institute sought to empower extension agents through digital platforms. He affirmed the commitment of NAERLS to take up AKILIMO tools and scale them using the existing NAERLS extension network.
Commenting on the ingenuity of the AKILIMO tools, Prof Daudu said NAERLS will be interested in the site-specific fertilizer recommendations and recommendations for intercropping cassava with maize. He said these two-fundamental use-cases play right to the needs and demands of the farmers for tools to help improve productivity. In NAERLS, the AKILIMO tools will be integrated into a single extension tool.
Dr Bernard Vanlauwe, Director, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)Dr Vanlauwe praised ACAI as an image of excellent science, combined with excellent delivery and partnership. He said that results like reaching 100,000 farmers after developing the AKILIMO suite of tailored agronomy decision support tools are quite impressive. Dr Vanlauwe also congratulated the students who graduated in 2020, noting that it takes a significant amount of efforts, resources and personal drive to achieve such a milestone. He said he will be looking forward to more students graduating. According to Dr Vanluawe, one of the most outstanding highlights for ACAI is that it was the seed to develop Excellence in Agronomy, with the vision to fully integrate AKILIMO into the new initiative that is still under discussions. In conclusion, Dr Vanlauwe said ACAI has over-delivered its mandate, and this owed to the leadership, noting that the ACAI project leader Dr Pieter Pypers, has been outstanding in every way coordinating such a complex project that demanded all components run smoothly in synchrony.
Dr Christian Witt, Senior Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates FoundationDr Witt reiterated comments that ACAI is indeed a mark of excellence in terms of science and linkages with scaling partners, terming the ACAI ARM as one of his favourite events of the year. Dr Witt appreciated ACAI’s human approach to the scientific research and ability to adopt especially during the pandemic. Dr Witt confirmed that the BMGF has renewed its commitment to ACAI, with a belief that the project will continue in a different form and shape under One CGIAR. He pointed out that the extension will provide an opportunity to explore stronger collaborations between partners and make important contributions to the future of the CGIAR. Speaking about the progress ACAI has made, Dr Witt said in the last decade, this is one of the projects that pushed the envelope and inspired the idea for excellence in agronomy. “Science is an evolution always and that you stand on the shoulders of many years of experience and work that others have done before, but I am very impressed by how you in a way reinvented agronomy at scale” He said ACAI gives hope that similar research can be done at scale, connect with scaling partners and essentially linking research with delivery. in conclusion, he commented ACAI for partnering smartly with others and expressed optimism that the partnership and innovations that have come out the project can be mainstreamed in other initiatives, organizations and projects.
Dr Adeyemi Olojede, Director, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Nigeria,On coming of DST in the extension delivery systems is one of the achievements on ACAI. The project has brought in a new set of good agronomic practices in cassava growing in Nigeria and Africa in general. The coming of EiA as an offshoot of ACAI is a show that ACAI has done a good job and the future is bright for partners in the project. Grateful to BMGF and the team of the ACAI project that has worked tirelessly to see the project through.
Wiston Mwombek Farm Concern International
The project has achieved all this success because of strong leadership and commitment from all those involved. ACAI partnership at the grassroots level played a major role in what will have a positive impact on cassava production Africa. ACAI has generally improved the knowledge and understanding of cassava agronomy for development partners involved in the project. Efforts should now be channelled at looking for solutions to address market access in the value chain. .
Alfred Dixon, Director, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
ACAI embodies a lot of good science that is demand-responsive, working with a diverse partnership with impressive delivery. The achievement is exemplified in the PhD and MSc graduates and on-going students but most importantly the capacity building for national partners. Pieter has done well in managing ACAI, such a complex and big project.