Western Africa

Humidtropics works with farmers to choose best-bet farm practices

An IITA  project is working jointly with farmers and members of Innovation Platforms at selected field sites in Nigeria in choosing best-bet farm practices. Farmers in four locations in two States have been participating in field evaluation trials to test and choose the best combination of cassava growth types, legumes, and management practices in their farms.

The Cassava/Legume Intensification Project, funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), is being undertaken in Nigeria, Kenya, and DR Congo, and works on three components: seed systems, social science/agribusiness, and natural resources management (NRM).  The project is mapped under the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics).

Humidtropics, and through it, the project, uses participatory rural appraisal, a research methodology that employs participatory tools such as focus group discussions or village-level discussions to understand rural problems. The process involves the full collaboration of stakeholders, for instance, farmers, rural people, and policymakers, in all stages of the “research” process—from defining the problem to conducting the research and thus identifying solutions to farm problems in their specific context.

A series of demonstrations and Farmers’ field days were organized recently to get feedback from farmers on the options that suit their situation, and determine their reasons for favoring or rejecting these options. Dr Christine Kreye, IFAD cassava intensification-NRM project leader for Nigeria, said “The outcome of these field days will be used to prepare options for farmers on their own farms in the next wet season, and ‘recruit’ interested farmers for these on-farm trials.”

All the farms are cocoa-based systems that also grow cassava for food security and additional cash income. The demonstrations and trials were undertaken in Akinyele, Iddo, Lagelu, and Ogo-Oluwa Local Government Areas (LGA) in Oyo State, and Osunwoyin, Ayedire LGA and Iwara, Atakunmosa East LGA in Ogun State.

The project provides planting materials (except for the local variety), inputs, and know-how; the farming community provides land, labor, and information. The project also manages the demonstration trial jointly with the farmers. After planting, at mid-term, and at harvest, researchers ask the farmers to evaluate all practices.

The “treatments” in the demonstration plots featured farmers’ current or local practice, and several best-bet options (e.g., cassava monocrop, cassava–legume intercrop to demonstrate high yield options), and several treatments where factors such as planting density, fertilizer application, and others are changed or tested.

Specifically, the demonstration farms used the following management practices: sole cassava using the varieties TME 419 (erect plant type/growth habit and 30572 (branching plant type) at 1 m × 1 m spacing and different options involving fertilizer (NPK), cassava–legume intercropping, spacing with a legume intercrop, and legume type (cowpea, groundnut, soybean).

For the farmers’ trials, farmers will grow cassava in 2 to 4 management packages that were developed jointly during the demonstration trial phase. Farmers manage these trials by themselves. They also agree to provide information through a field book provided for the purpose, facilitate sample collection, and allow field visits from other farmers. The project provides planting material, inputs, and advice.

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