AKILIMO Tool is Scaling up Tailored Fertilizer Recommendations for Cassava Grown across Southwest Nigeria
Fertilizer application to cassava has proven to be a veritable way for farmers in Nigeria to boost their yields. Important information that guides adequate rates and proper application methods is contained in AKILIMO (Smart Agriculture), a knowledge product recently developed by the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI), which was a project carried out by International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in collaboration with the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria (FUNAAB).
However, this important innovation needs scaling to farmers to achieve impact. Dr. Mutiu A. Busari and his team at FUNAAB initiated an outreach program through a grant provided by the African Plant Nutrition Outreach Fellowship on the use of the ACAI-tailored cassava fertilizer recommendation tools (AKILIMO-FR). This training was designed to deliver up-to-date information and recommendations on issues surrounding the use of fertilizer to boost cassava yields, especially to Extension Agents (EAs) of southwest Nigeria.
Initial advocacy targeted the leadership within Ondo State Agricultural Development Programme (ODSADEP), Ekiti State Agricultural Development Program (EKADEP), and Lagos State Agricultural Development Authority (LASADA) to familiarize them with the functions and benefits of AKILIMO-FR and advocate for the institutionalization of AKILIMO in cassava cultivation extension packages.
“Our initial visits explained how AKILIMO came about and the role of APNI in disseminating AKILIMO as well as its commitment towards proper plant nutrition for increased food production in Africa.” – Dr. Busari, Associate Professor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta – Nigeria; and African Plant Nutrition Outreach Fellowship Recipient
R-L Mr. Omole Director of Agricultural Extension Services, Ekiti State Agricultural Development Program (EKADEP); Dr. (Mrs.) F.A. Olowokere (FUNAAB-APNI); Mr. Oladele Yakubu, Program Manager EKADEP; Dr. M.A. Busari (FUNAAB-APNI) and Mr. Azeez Sodeeq (FUNAAB-APNI) on advocacy visit to EKADEP.
During subsequent training-of-trainers events, core groups of EAs were equipped with the essentials of the AKILIMO-FR tool. In Lagos ADP, 20 extension officers were invited and trained alongside some youth agripreneurs already engaged in training from the ADP. Similarly, 25 and 20 EAs were trained in Ondo ADP and Ekiti ADP, respectively.
“Extension agents were given an overview of AKILIMO agronomic content and formats, AKILIMO tailored fertilizer recommendations, and monitoring and evaluation tool for digital data collection.”
Each training also discussed strategies on further dissemination and subsequent “stepdown” trainings (SDTs) meant for other EAs in each state. Reward structures were put in place to incentivize further dissemination of AKILIMO technology with the initial goal of reaching a minimum of 20 farmers per EA. A set-back prevented further state-level activities in Lagos State due to regulation set against the use of urea fertilizer due to extensive soil acidity in the state. However, activities were able to be diverted to train 16 EAs within the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, in Oyo State.
Stepdown training sessions were organized within each ADP on a zonal basis to train other extension personnel within their networks on the agronomic content and formats of the AKILIMO fertilizer recommendation tool, use of data collection tool, and strategy for eventual dissemination to t heir farmers. After each training, each EA agreed to disseminate AKILIMO to a minimum of 20 farmers. Each SDT was backstopped by the FUNAAB team to ensure the quality of the information being passed across to these extension personnel.
The EAs that were trained either at the initial or stepdown sessions across Ondo and Ekiti states have swung into action by identifying farmers within their jurisdiction and organizing trainings to disseminate the technology.
Dr. Busari’s team are closely monitoring these outreach events through monitoring, evaluation and learning experts.
“Over 1,200 farmers have been trained with AKILIMO tailored fertilizer recommendations and the feedback mechanism put in place has revealed that farmers in Ondo and Ekiti states are already getting the message of AKILIMO for use on their cassava cultivation.” – Dr. Busari
Contributors: Gavin Sulewski, APNI Communications Lead | Editor; Dr. Mutiu A. Busari, Associate Professor, Soil Physics/Soil Conservation, Ag. Director, Directorate of Research, Innovations and Partnerships (DRIP), Commonwealth Academic Fellow, Department of Soil Science & Land Management, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta – Nigeria.