African Cassava Agronomy Initiative
The core problem that the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) will address is the yield-gap. In sub-Saharan Africa average cassava productivity currently stands at 10-15 tons per hectare, and with pest and disease challenges can fall as low as 3 tons per hectare. This is well below the potential for cassava productivity of 25-35 tons per hectare.
Addressing cassava yields will improve the livelihoods and incomes of farmers. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)-led consortium plans to research and implement best-bet agronomic practices. It will harness African and international expertise to follow a demand-driven approach, with its interventions responding to the specific agronomy-related needs identified by the partners across the value chain (e.g. farmers, industry/ processors, NGOs and development partners, research institutions or extension services).
The five-year project anticipates it will provide the key to unlocking the potential of cassava in Africa with activities that could include:
- promoting cassava root quality
- promoting new varieties
- encouraging better planting practice (e.g. improved cropping patterns, staggering planting and intercropping)
- encouraging the use of fertilizer
- stabilizing cassava supply to the processing sector
- mechanization and easy labour-saving tools for planting and harvesting
- use of ICT and engagement of youth in agriculture.
Addressing the yield gap can be broken down as:
- Utilising bio-control/integrated pest management increases average yield to 9 tonnes per hectare
- Adding disease resistant higher yielding varieties increases average yield to 12 tonnes per hectare
- Adding good agronomic practices increases average yield to 18 tonnes per hectare
- Adding fertilizer application increases average yield to 26 tonnes per hectare
The project will reach 105,000 farming households in Nigeria and Tanzania and 30% of all farmers engaged will be women. The project also plans to have an impact in Ghana, Uganda, and DR Congo. This should result in benefits of over US$27 million in Nigeria and Tanzania, and over US$40 million across all participating countries by 2020.
The ACAI partners are developing a series of use cases that set our the best technical recommendations and suggesting appropriate communicate approaches for sharing the improved technology. The project will prioritise the areas that are judged to have the higher chances of success and impact.
The Africa Soil Health Consortium has been invited to lead the communications work stream for the program in Nigeria. This will involve establishing cassava value chain cluster and providing cassava agronomy information and tools.
This will involve looking at the role that different communications can play in changing the attitudes and behaviours of different members of cassava farming household. It specifically include:
- Adaptation of existing Cassava agronomy and ISFM information products
- Repackaging of information for last-mile delivery
- Supporting the cassava knowledge cluster development
- Support campaign design
The ASHC campaign approach will be implemented in Nigeria for the first time. This approach creates information campaigns that target different members of small-scale farming families with best practices and improved technologies for growing crops.
ASHC can build on the work on its work to date on cassava agronomy. This has included production of a cropping guide and materials that has been developed in Tanzania as part of the UPTAKE project. UPTAKE is looking at how SMS/voice messages and inter-active radio can work together to change farmer’s behaviour. There are, however, significant differences in the way that the cassava value chain operates in Nigeria because it is a significant commercial crop. IITA identified over 40 commercial uses for cassava. Nigeria is the largest cassava producer in sub-Saharan Africa.
The vision of success of project is to support access to knowledge by ACAI partners and ultimately farmers whilst simultaneously building capacity for national-system scientists to engage in the ongoing transformation of cassava agronomy.
ACAI is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The project lead within the CABI-ASHC team is Soloman Duah based in the Ghana office.