Scientists, experts and scaling partners of the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) are set for their 4th annual review and planning meeting. The aim is to discuss and unveil the progress made in cassava agronomy and how such efforts are addressing the low yield per hectare on farmers’ fields in Nigeria and Tanzania.
Across Africa, yield per hectare of cassava is about 9 tons per ha as opposed to Asia with more than 20 tons per ha. This undermines African cassava farmers’ competitiveness in the export market.
The ACAI meeting holding on the exquisite Unguja Island in Zanzibar, Tanzania, from 9 December to 12 December 2019, presents an opportunity for the entire ACAI team to get-together, celebrate successes of the project, discuss challenges, and plan for the fifth and final year, says the Project Coordinator, Dr Pieter Pypers.
This year’s meeting will have less of plenary presentations but more of poster sessions, a world café, breakout sessions and information booths where scientists, knowledge exchange experts and partners will showcase and share ideas.
According to Dr Pypers, “the meeting will also be about scaling and dissemination ﬁrst, and how we have started gaining momentum with Akilimo. The ﬁrst day will be entirely devoted to how we have been putting our tools to use within the extension activities of our partners. Only on the last day, we will talk about science.”
Akilimo is the mobile agronomy advisory tool developed to serve as the face of ACAI’s decision support system. It combines data, predictions models, software infrastructure and interfaces, using pragmatic and user-centred approaches to provide the information in ways that are attractive and useful to partners, extension workers and cassava farmers.
Apart from the ACAI team members, partners leading the dissemination of the ACAI Decision Support Tools through extension work in Nigeria and Tanzania expected at the meeting include Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), Farm Concern International (FCI), UWAMWIMA, Minjingu, Psaltry International, 2Scale and NOTORE. The technical partners working to strengthen Akilimo (VIAMO 321 service, eSOKO digital solutions and Arifu chatbot) will also be present at booth sessions.
Zanzibar presents a unique venue for this year’s ACAI review meeting. The island is a real gem, a beautiful place with an interesting history, beaches, sun, palm trees, and great food.
“We will take the opportunity to enjoy some of the pleasures that Zanzibar has to offer. But Zanzibar is also a place where cassava is grown. And cassava is a very important crop for Zanzibari farmers, both for food and for cash. Together with the Zanzibar Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI) and our partners–Farm Concern International (FCI) and UWAMWIMA, we want to demonstrate some of the very interesting work that has been conducted here. We will be taking you out to the ﬁeld, and let you experience ﬁrst-hand how recommendations on cassava intercropping are now being validated and demonstrated to farmer groups on the island,” Dr Pypers added.