ACAI unveils Akilimo to support cassava growers
The African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) has unveiled a new agronomic advisory service, called Akilimo to support cassava growers with knowledge and recommendations to intensify their cassava-based cropping systems. Christened the new face of ACAI, Akilimo is built with and for smallholder cassava growers. The name ‘Akilimo’ is portmanteau of two Swahili words: ‘akili’, which means smart and ‘kilimo’, which means agriculture.
Unveiled during the ACAI annual review and planning meeting in Zanzibar archipelago, Akilimo’s recommendations are based on knowledge gathered from field trials in over 5,000 farmers’ fields. It combines this data with weather and soil data in spatial crop models to calculate expected yield increases and revenue gain from investments in improved agronomic interventions. These include customised advice on fertilizer application, tillage regime and best planting practices, cost-effective weed control measures, intercropping practices and tailored planting and harvest schedules.
The meeting brought together over 80 experts: agronomists, breeders, social scientists, development partners, farmers and policymakers, and provided an ample opportunity for reflection of ACAI’s activities not just for 2019, but also in the last four years of the project. Furthermore, it was a time for implementers of the project to look into the future of ACAI with emphasis on 2020-work plan. Unlike in the past, the meeting focused on dissemination: How dissemination activities took off in 2019, and what momentum is needed for 2020.
ACAI Project Coordinator, Dr. Pieter Pypers said the meeting is about scaling and dissemination ﬁrst, and how the body has started gaining momentum with Akilimo. More than the scaling of the new innovation, there were scientific sessions where the science behind ACAI recommendations was presented. A session by the PhD students on the ACAI project added glamour and insights to the scientific work of the project. Senior Program Officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Christian Witt said one thing that stands out ACAI is “the science behind what you do.”
A session about ‘Beyond Rhetoric,” focused on ‘the how’ and ‘the tools’ that partners are using to disseminate agronomic recommendations to farmers in their different communities.
At the end of the 3-day event, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Director for Development & Delivery, Dr. Alfred Dixon, expressed confidence that ACAI was showing the way to revolutionise cassava agronomy.
“I am a breeder of cassava … I spent years breeding, but I think it is time to look towards agronomy to narrow the yield gap,” he said.
For IITA Director for Central Africa, Dr. Bernard Vanlauwe, the 2019 ACAI annual meeting was super-excellent.
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