In October of 2020, two banks in collaboration with government agencies and development partners in Tanzania launched an initiative to finance cassava growers with a million dollar plus loan facility. This arrangement directly injected capital into more than 400 households. What makes this initiative significant was the arrangement that made it imperative that all farmers receiving the loan facility to be trained in improved agronomy practices using AKILIMO agronomy tools alongside access to inputs.
This approach will be one of the ways to ensure sustainable use and uptake of the AKILIMO tools and to address the bottlenecks in scaling the tools. Previously the ACAI project team identified poor access to financing, inputs, and markets as some of the bottlenecks toward successful scaling and adoption of the AKILIMO tools.
February 2021, ACAI Scaling Specialist, Thompson Ogunsanmi together with a section of development partners in Nigeria agreed to tweak and leverage on existing bundling models from other crop value chains. The bundling approach will see ACAI and her partners combine agronomy advice from AKILIMO tools with services provided to farmers by commercial, private and public sector entities. These services include access to seed and farm inputs like fertilizers and herbicides, structured financing and aggregation of cassava from farm to market.
These packages will come with instructions and recommendations for best agronomy practices. The aggregating centres’ membership will include training on scheduled planting and harvesting while loan facilities will require training in cassava agronomy using the AKILIMO tools before one can access the facilities.
One of the partners, Zowasel, a private sector Agrotech start-up that facilitates market linkages for farmers and input dealers, will integrate AKILIMO in their advisory services as part of the requirements to access benefit from the company’s platform. Zowasel helps farmers expand their agribusiness beyond their local market and ensure access to the market for farmers. Buyers and farmers can register for free on their platforms.
Zowasel has created a platform that was previously serving grain producers by facilitating access to financing, inputs and crop markets that brought together farmers and companies like Flour Mills Nigeria, Guinness brewery among others. The partnership between ACAI and Zowasel not only seeks to incorporate AKILIMO in the farmer service bundle but to also make AKILIMO available to more than 10,000 farmers using the Zowasel services.
Other partners that will work jointly with Zowasel for the bundled services that will incorporate AKILIMO include Notore Chemical Industries Plc, Kolping Society of Nigeria and CropLife Nigeria. According to the joint agreement, CropLife Nigeria will be leading the process by engaging input companies to supply agro-inputs for cassava production, while Notore Chemical Company Limited supplies fertilizer. With consultation from processing companies, Zowasel will facilitate quality checks and to access to markets. Jerry Oche, CEO/Co-founder of Zowasel has given a nod to this concept and Christopher Dauda of National Agricultural Extension Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) has also indicated this as a welcome idea and how NAERLS will be integrated into this is currently being discussed
Access to knowledge and modern agronomic practises has become imperative especially for financing institutions to reduce the odds of debt defaulting by farmers by improved crop performance. Processing companies will receive quality raw materials at a consistent rate of supply.
AKILIMO is an all-in-one agronomic advisory service to support cassava growers with knowledge and recommendations to intensify their cassava-based cropping systems. AKILIMO has gone through a set of learning cycles and has been co-developed with the primary partners of the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) and is built with and for smallholder cassava growers.