Nigerian farmers can now access extension and advisory services related to weed control, best planting practices and other aspects of cassava production on their cell phone free of charge, thanks to the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI).
The mobile telephony service is powered by Airtel using the 3-2-1 Service of Viamo. Farmers with Airtel sim cards who want to access the service and get good advice on cassava production can simply dial 3-2-1 and listen to all the information they need to make the most out of cassava production.
Alfred Dixon, IITA Director for Development & Delivery, said the use of mobile phones would give farmers, especially women, access to the knowledge they need to improve their livelihoods.
"The mobile approach will also enable the recommendations contained on the 'Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management and Best Planting Practices' to reach the hard-to-reach terrains in Nigeria," he added.
The cassava information on weed control and best planting practices on the 3-2-1 service are the combined recommendations from the now merged IITA Cassava Weed Management Project (CWMP), and the IITA African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI).
The recommendations from these projects were validated during a stakeholders' meeting involving the National Root Crops Research Institute (Umudike), and the two premier universities of agriculture in Abeokuta and Makurdi. State extension agencies from Abia, Benue, Ogun and Oyo were also part of the initial message development. There were also development partners such as GIZ, Catholic Relief Services, and the Market Development in the Niger Delta project (MADE) who gave useful insights into the message development process.
Pieter Pypers, ACAI Coordinator, said the release of evidence-based messages on the 3-2-1 service provides farmers the tools they need to improve cassava yield and make more profits.
Harriet Blest, Country Manager of Viamo, said they were excited to work with IITA in the framework of ACAI to transform cassava in Nigeria using the 3-2-1 service of Airtel.
With a subscriber base of 43.1 million, Airtel is one of the top three telecommunication companies in Nigeria, according to data reported by Nigeria's leading newspaper, the Punch.
Godwin Atser, Digital Extension & Advisory Services Specialist with IITA, who coordinated the messages with Viamo, said the development was a new dawn for cassava farmers.
"This move will complement the extension work we are doing in Nigeria by offering farmers the information they need in real time. All that farmers need to do is to dial 3-2-1 and listen to how to grow cassava," he added.
In the days ahead, IITA-ACAI and Viamo plan massive awareness so farmers can take advantage of the information on the 3-2-1 space to improve their livelihoods.