In many sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, cassava yields are relatively low owing to the low adoption of good agronomic practices and other technologies for intensification. It is projected that an increase of 7.93 t/ha (70%) would be required to fill the SSA food gap by 2025.
The Cassava Compact Project, financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) under the framework of the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), seeks to achieve rapid cassava intensification through raising farm-level productivity, improving the efficiency of processing, and increasing market opportunities. Transforming cassava into an agro-industrialized crop will contribute to achieving significant poverty reduction and economic growth targets across SSA.
The scaling innovation
TAAT Cassava Compact is promoting the adoption of technology toolkits that involve the simultaneous use of at least three cassava productivity-enhancing technologies such as an improved variety, tillage (plow, harrow, or ridge), optimum spacing, fertilizer application, early planting, effective weed management and mechanization (planting, weeding and harvesting). The toolkits are good agricultural technology practices (GATP) that guarantee the doubling of farm outputs and sustainable intensive cassava production. TAAT Cassava Compact experts introduced the GATP to scaling partners such as researchers, extension personnel of Ministries of Agriculture, and NGOs in the project countries through the establishment of technology outreach farms where the technologies were situated. The partners were provided with theoretical and practical skills on using the different toolkits on GATP, which embrace a different combination of good agronomic practices and mechanization.
About 90 GATP outreach farms combined with seed farms were established in Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, and Uganda in 2018-2019. Farmers’ associations or groups with memberships ranging from 10 to 35 in the different communities hosted the farms. Criteria such as distance from the main road, drainage, soil type, soil fertility, slope, size of the farm, distance from processing centers (less than 10 km), and scale of the processing centers were used to select farm locations.
Using technology outreach farms for continuous training, scaling partners subsequently cascade the skills to a more significant number of small- and medium-scale cassava growers, youth, agriculture students, and other stakeholders. Local government authorities and policymakers in communities mobilize farmers and other groups for the field activities and training. Scaling experts from research centers, universities, extension departments of the Ministry of Agriculture, and NGOs regularly conducted field days and monitored the outreach farms for performance. The monitoring was done with the host farmers and other farmers from the communities. This activity, like farmer field schools, served as a platform for training additional farmers on improving cassava productivity through improved varieties, weed management, and other technologies such as mechanized planting combined. Scaling experts emphasize the purpose of the technology outreach farms and stress the need for farmers to make observations and assess the effectiveness of the technology packages applied. Hosting farmers conducted appropriate field management actions at each outreach farm guided by supervising scaling experts such as local extension officers and researchers. Farmers’ field days also allow lead farmers and extension/scaling partners to explain to other farmers the GATP in the local dialects. In Tanzania, the AKILIMO agronomy toolkits were introduced to farmers. Participating farmers were strategically linked to nearby commercial cassava processing centers to sell additional outputs of farmers adopting the toolkits on their farms.
In Nigeria, farmers that adopted the technology were often surprised to get a yield of 24.0 t/ha without hoe-weeding for 12 months compared with 11.1 t/ha typical in farms using labor-intensive present-day practices. The yield increases resulting from the use of GATP represented a 149% rise in productivity compared with the present-day practice (Table 1). In Tanzania, technology adopters obtained an average yield of 38.6 t/ha (quadrant approach) compared with 5.8 t/ha yield in farms where the local production practice was used. However, some contact farmers reported 20.3 t/ha for the GATP farms using their estimation method. Hence the productivity increase in Tanzania was between 292.6 and 615% for GATP farms over the traditional production practices. (Table 2).
|Location||GATP farms (improved variety, tillage, use of herbicides)||Present-day practice||Yield increase (%)|
|Variety introduced||Yield (t/ha; 12 months after planting)||(Yield obtained; t/ha; 12 months after planting)|
|Eruwa (site 1)||Provitamin A||20.0||12.2||63.9|
|Eruwa (site 2)||Provitamin A||19.4||9.8||98.0|
|Abia (site 1)||Provitamin A||24.2||7.2||237.4|
|Abia (site 2)||White||25.9||20.3||27.7|
|Location||GATP farms||Present-day practice||Yield increase (%)|
|Variety introduced||Yield (Quadrant method; t/ha)||Yield (Farmers’ assessment; t/ha)||Variety planted||Yield (Quadrant method; t/ha)|
In Nigeria, staff of agricultural research and extension institutions and other partners, farmers, youth, spray service providers (SSP), and agricultural trainees across sites were trained on calibration techniques, including the use of the IITA herbicide calculator app. In all countries, extensive discussions and demos were held on the safe use of herbicides and how personal protective equipment (PPE) safety gadgets are worn. Such training at community centers promote the link between farmers and SSPs who are regularly engaged by the farmers to spray their farms on demand.
Partnerships with scaling partners remained vital in deploying the technology. Cassava Compact formed strong technology delivery partnerships made up of over 100 research institutions, local authorities, projects, and programs for technology deployment in the 12 intervention countries. In collaboration with partner institutions, about 50,000 people were trained, and more than 40 new entrepreneurs were engaged in small- to medium-scale cassava enterprises. The concept of developing seed farms together with the GATP farms offered opportunities for farmers to have access to newly bred improved varieties.
Implications for future development
Outreach activities for the diffusion of yield-boosting technologies and innovations in SSA could share the knowledge and skills to farmers, women, and youth, resulting in greater adoption, increased productivity, and additional food outputs. The additional cassava outputs must be processed, and farmers offered access to a market that provides a suitable price. Therefore, a simultaneous introduction of cost-effective processing technologies and investments in processing industries in the rural areas is imperative for sustained adoption of the GATP and its component technologies such as improved varieties and agronomic practices.
Authors: Adebayo Abass1, Friday Ekeleme2, George Marechera3 Godwin Atser4, Toye Ayankami5, Pheneas Ntawuruhunga6, Emmanuel Alamu7, Regina Kapinga8, Perez Muchunguzi9, Emmanuel Njukwe10, and Beatrice Bachwenkizi10