International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has commenced a new phase of the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) project to increase the availability of appropriate and affordable technologies to sustainably improve cassava productivity in sub-Saharan Africa.
ACAI is a five-year project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to increase the availability of appropriate and affordable technologies to sustainably improve cassava productivity in the short- and long-term.
It focuses on five countries: DR Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, to implement its mission, which is to develop and deploy cassava agronomy recommendation tools to intensify cassava farming, improve root starch quality, and reduce the yield gap.
With over 200 million people, the Foundation believes Nigeria will play an important role in improving the country and providing solutions across the continent to help people build better lives.
In Nigeria, it is working with government, the private sector, and civil society to help people lift themselves out of poverty. It wants to see children, mothers and farmers, in particular, given the opportunities to lead healthy and productive lives.
With over 100 grants, the foundation works in Nigeria to achieve six main goals:
Eradicate polio: It works at the international level with the World Health Organization and UNICEF, as well as at the country level, with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and state governments, to ensure regular vaccinations and immunisations.
Improve family health: The Foundation aims to reduce preventable deaths by focusing on maternal and child health; investing in programs that provide prenatal through postnatal care, as well as childhood immunisation programmes. It also addresses common healthcare challenges, including pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, and neglected tropical diseases, as well as access to clean water and proper sanitation and hygiene.
Strengthen healthcare systems: It bolsters primary healthcare and look for ways to integrate healthcare services to ensure a strong system for Nigeria’s people.
Improve nutrition: It partners with the Dangote Foundation and others to address severe malnutrition and improve overall childhood nutrition.
Increase agricultural productivity: It is boasting of helping smallholder farmers increase the yield of important crops such as yams, cassava, sorghum, cowpeas, and rice, as well as the productivity of their livestock. ‘’We do this by providing farmers with better tools, seeds, and systems, and also by supporting research and policies that help improve the lives of smallholder farmers over the long term’’.
Enhance access to financial services: ‘’Our programmes support the government’s aims to ensure that women, smallholder farmers, and other marginalized populations have access to the country’s financial system, which can help them save, spend, and plan for the future more effectively.’’
The project seeks to engage 100,000 households and generate value worth $28 million. ACAI plans to deliver the necessary knowledge base and tools for accessing this knowledge to cassava scaling partners and, ultimately farmers, in the target countries while instituting the needed capacity and skills for national system scientists to engage in transformative cassava agronomy.
The ACAI project has organised the work into six complementary and interdependent work streams: (1) Strategic research on cassava growth dynamics, nutrient and water requirements, (2) Geospatial modeling and development of GIS to support tool development, (3) Development of decision support tools for the six use cases, (4) Facilitation of the use of the decision support tools by the target clients, (5) Capacity development and institutionalization at the national system level, and (6) Project governance, management, coordination, monitoring, evaluation, and learning.
So far, ACAI has increased productivity and diversity of cassava-based systems and food security, improved income, and reduced poverty. It has also enhanced the continuity of cassava supplies to the market and processors and the sustainable use of natural resources and agro-inputs.