When we started to implement the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative project plans for 2020, together with our partners we were very optimistic of the outcomes to be achieved in the course of the year. We believed that 2020 will be the crowning year for ACAI. For the past four years, ACAI has carried out research and developed agronomic recommendation tools. We proudly called it AKILIMO, ready to supply advice to cassava growers in Nigeria and Tanzania.
AKILIMO tools have been calibrated to provide site-specific recommendations for fertilizer use, best planting practices, cassava weed management, intercropping, increased starch content in the cassava roots and scheduled planting to ensure a continuous supply of cassava roots to the processing industry.
As witnessed in previous years, our momentum thus far has been impressive and our commitment to the project goals remain steadfast. We have carried out extensive trainings with our partners on the use of AKILIMO tools, we have continued to improve the performance of the AKILIMO app, and we moved to integrate AKILIMO recommendations in platforms run by our digital partners. At the same time, our team of data scientists and agronomists from IITA and NARS have continued to collect and analyse data to improve our recommendations.
Unfortunately, in the midst of all the activities in the field and elsewhere to move the project forward, the coronavirus pandemic spread across the world causing significant interruptions in every sector, including the cassava value chain. Over the past weeks, governments across the continent have taken measures to curb the spread of the virus. These measures range from complete shutdown to minimized movement, social distancing and increased hygiene. Without a doubt, the pandemic itself, as well as the steps, take to contain the virus have had a big impact on our operations and plans since the end of March to this moment. The next few months remain uncertain as efforts by relevant bodies to end the pandemic continue.
As ACAI we support these steps taken to contain the virus. We believe that in all endeavours that we pursue, our personal health and the wellbeing of those that we love is important. We encourage all our stakeholders across the world to observe the rules and regulations put in place by their authorities and to help end this pandemic.
Some organizations within our partnership are encouraging staff to work remotely and thus ensuring continuity. In some areas, activities are allowed for small groups of people while taking great precaution to avoid infections and maintaining social distance. ACAI shall continue to provide necessary support while at the same time adhering to the existing guidelines by the respective governments in countries that we are working.
Our digital engineering team and data specialists have stayed on course to make sure that the AKILIMO app and the prediction engine are improved regularly. Our team that is leading promotion and facilitating the use of the AKILIMO tools is actively making sure that all the materials needed are available on-demand for our partners, stakeholders and individual entities interested in our innovations. We renewed efforts in developing content and training materials that are easily accessible and sharable through social media and other digital channels, allowing farmers and extension workers to learn and apply the AKILIMO suite of tools.
We shall maintain active communication with all our partners and stakeholders albeit remotely and respond to issues that can be addressed under the current circumstances. Reach out to us using the contact details available on our websites and digital platforms. We remain focused, and we shall stay the course.
In ACAI, we have always gone the extra mile. On this occasion, I ask that we focus on looking after one another and that we take care of ourselves and those close to us. I wish you all the Best.
Senior Agronomist and ACAI Project Coordinator
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture