Dr. Alfred Dixon, Director for Development and Delivery, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, says joint efforts among stakeholders on the use of digital tools were needed to address the challenges in Nigeria’s agriculture sector.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Dixon stated this on Tuesday at a stakeholder meeting in Ibadan.
The programme entitled, ‘Presentation of Digital Tools: Disruptive Innovations in Cassava and Maize Farming systems to Policy Makers, ’ had in attendance Commissioners for Agriculture, Permanent Secretaries and representatives of state governments.
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Dixon said the objective of the programme was to share the knowledge developed into digital tools in the last five years by IITA Cassava Weed Management Project.
” Deploying the digital tools which include the ACAI tool on Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management, IITA Herbicides Calculator, Cassava e-market, Akilimo, Cassava Seed Trackers, IITA News App and the 3-2-1 toll-free code on airtel mobile line would solve farmers’ challenges in cassava production and increase income generation.
“In the last five years, the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project had developed integrated weed control methods that are helping farmers to double the productivity of cassava and maize,” he said.
He added that the recommendations of the Cassava Weed Management Project were being scaled out to farmers through digital platforms in the framework of the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI).
Dixon said ACAI disseminated knowledge to farmers on six steps to cassava weed management through the use of mobile phones and mini projectors with videos in the pilot states of Benue, Abia, Oyo, and Ogun.
According to him, ACAI is also presenting a series of digital innovation tools in cassava and maize for policymakers in Nigeria to empower extension workers and farmers in the country.
He noted that considering the challenges with traditional extension systems in Nigeria and Africa, the digital tools would enhance efficiency and effectiveness in disseminating knowledge to farmers.
In his presentation, Mr. Godwin Atser, IITA Digital Extension, and Advisory Services Specialist, said Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world.
He, however, said yield per hectare was low compared to other countries in Asia such as Thailand.
Atser noted that the IITA approach to digitalisation in agriculture was to complement the existing extension system and to offer practitioners tools that would help them do their jobs better.
He stressed that the herbicides recommended for use by ACAI were environmentally friendly as well as cost and labour efficient.
Speaking on Cassava Seed Trackers, Dr. Lava Kumar, a scientist at IITA, said the app would bridge the information gap that exists in the agricultural seed sector and also connect seed producers to their customers.
According to him, the National Seed Council of Nigeria had bought into the digital Cassava Seed Trackers for its numerous benefits and the app now serves as a means of registration for seed producers as well as certification.
“This will help the seed business that remains untapped as the majority of farmers reuse seeds or buy locally.
“The app will also help digital value chain as buyers are linked to seed producers and also improve tracking of cassava varieties released in Nigeria,” Kumar said.
Stefan Hauser, another IITA scientist, said the Akilimo app would deliver tailored agronomy recommendations to cassava growers at their various locations in the country.
“It will help the farmers make informed decisions on their investments, ” Hauser said.
In their remarks, the Commissioners for Agriculture in Ondo and Ekiti states, Adegboyega Adefarati and Folorunso Olabode respectively, commended the organisers of the programme.