By Edwin Nwanojuo
The African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI)/IITA- Cassava Weed Management Project has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Viamo to promote the Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management extension toolkit via the 3-2-1 mobile service of Airtel.
The 3-2-1 mobile service will allow Nigerian farmers to have access to good agricultural practices developed by the Cassava Weed Management project through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system for as much as 10 times in a month free of charge.
“Through the mobile service, we aim to reach thousands of farmers especially women with information that would transform their cassava productivity, said Dr Alfred Dixon, Director for Development & Delivery at IITA, and Project leader of the Cassava Weed Management Project.
The use of the 3-2-1 mobile service will take advantage of the mobile subscriber-base in Nigeria with subscriptions of about 150 million and 97.2 million persons that use the internet. Furthermore, the availability of cheaper smartphones in Nigeria has given phone access to about 15 million persons, making it possible for this population to access improved weed control practices on mobile phones.
Dr Pieter Pypers, Project Coordinator of ACAI sees the collaboration as strategic for the project as it aims to deliver best bet agronomic practices at scale.
In most of rural Africa, information and knowledge is usually passed by word of mouth. Oral communication therefore presents the opportunity of knowledge/technology transfer.
Harriet Blest, Country Manager for Viamo said the 3-2-1 mobile service will bring messages from the Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management to farmers in local languages.
“All that farmers need to do is to get an Airtel SIM card and dial 3-2-1 and he or she will get the toolkit,” she said.
To ensure that farmers enjoy the 3-2-1 service with messages on the Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management, a validation workshop was conducted recently, drawing both private and public agricultural experts.
ACAI Digital Extension and Advisory Services Specialist, Godwin Atser made a presentation of the progress made in weed control and the achievements recorded.
He spoke on the benefit of using the Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management toolkit for cassava cultivation, stressing that farmers using the toolkit were doubling the yield of cassava from the current national average of 9 tons per ha to more than 20 tons per ha.
The meeting also provided participants the opportunity to pick the results from the Cassava Weed Management Project for scaling through their farmer networks.
Ms Aisha Babangida, daughter of the former Nigerian Head of State, and Chairperson, Better Life for African Rural Women pledged to work with the project to ensure that women farmers have access to the Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management toolkit.
Other partners who attended the meeting included Synergos, GIZ, representatives of universities of agriculture in Ogun and Benue, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Umudike; Syngenta, Bayer, UPL, Technoserve, Catholic Relief Services, and Market Development in the Niger Delta (MADE).