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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.

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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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