ACAI held a training of trainers for the Tanzanian development partners in August to kick off the validation of the ACAI decision support tools in the country. The training was organized to create a better understanding of the ACAI use cases in Tanzania, the process of effectively evaluating the decision support tools (DSTs) and teaching reliable means of collecting feedback. This was the first step towards the planned capacity building for the project partners to carry out the validation exercises.
IITA’s senior Agronomist and ACAI coordinator for East Africa Dr. Veronica Uzokwe led the training; outlining the project approved standard protocols to be used for site selection, layout of the fields to be monitored during the validation and inputs to be used in the trial fields.
The two-day event was held in Mtwara, the southern zone of Tanzania on 14th and 15th August, 2018 with 37 people in attendance. Participants drawn from organizations partnering with ACAI in Tanzania including CAVA-II, FJS Starch Development Company, MEDA and MINJINGU Fertilizer received practical training on using the current version of ACAI’s DSTs and the methodology of how to train extension agents and farmers to implement the validation exercises.
ACAI is targeting more than 500 farmers in Tanzania for the validation of the DSTs using 40 extension agents pooled from the network of development partners. During the validation, farmers will run a side by side comparative cropping of their normal cassava farming practices against a plot within their fields where ACAI recommendations will be applied based on the tool that is applicable.
The project is running validation trials in the farmer’s fields for the Scheduled Planting Recommendation decision support tool (SPT), Site Specific Fertilizer Recommendation decision support tool (FR) and the Intercropping recommendation decision support tool.
Each of the partners is expected to carry out step down trainings in their respective extension networks and are tasked to monitor the extension agents they will have trained to ensure a successful implementation of the validation process for the DSTs.
Dr Desudedit Peter Mlay from the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute, TARI, led the discussions that drew a schedule of planned activities starting from the onset of the new planting season in September.
Each partner is responsible for coordinating their extension agent network, to communicate to them the expectations from the project and maintain a close relationship with the farmers under their scope. ACAI has also developed an incentivized trial monitoring and data collection system that encourages spirited involvement of EAs and lead farmers, reward their efforts and appreciate their contribution to the project.
The project is carrying out validation exercises to test the version one of the decision support tools that it has been developing. The validation kicked off in Nigeria early 2018 with similar trainings followed by step-down trainings at state and partner levels.
Results and feedback from the validation exercises will be incorporated into further development and improvement of the second version of the decision support tools to improve their prediction and recommendation.