The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in partnership with the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), the International Potato Center (CIP), One Acre Fund (OAF), and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT (the Alliance) are implementing the triadic comparison of technology options (tricot) methodology, to help farmers identify the most suitable crop varieties for the local conditions of their farm. This approach has been used since 2020 to identify novel varieties of potato and cassava preferred by farmers for release.
From 3rd-5th November 2021, tricot partners (IITA, RAB, CIP, OAF, and the Alliance) gathered in Rwanda, to present and discuss the results from the two years of trials and to plan potential next steps for trials and potential mainstreaming of tricot into RAB and OAF. Both RAB and OAF demonstrated interest in a stepped adoption of tricot as part of their variety selection activities.
Elyse Tuyishime (Agricultural Research Specialist at OAF) commented,
“We have been using the Randomized Complete Block Design (RCBD) approach in our field trials, which requires all participants to have the same varieties. Alternatively, the tricot approach uses an incomplete block design, which allows participants to use different varieties. Since working on this project, I have realized that this [tricot] approach is very efficient because a researcher does not conduct the trial; farmers lead the research by planting trials under their normal practices and conditions. Moreover, for RCBD approach, a farmer is passive; therefore, the trials inform primarily a researcher, not a farmer. Yet for tricot approach, a farmer is actively engaged in conducting trials, hence the results inform both the farmer and researcher. Further, the tricot approach is cheaper, as field visits are not necessary, and the approach also facilitates data sharing.”
Tricot trials in Rwanda
Tricot engages farmers as ‘farmer researchers’ in the testing or validation of new crop varieties and other promising technologies. The tricot trials format is very simple for participating farmers: each executes the mini-task of evaluating only three varieties, out of a range to be tested, in their fields under their real farm conditions and usual agricultural practices. The methodology does not specify management practices, simply requesting farmers to treat the plots, as they normally do for their own. The farmer gives their preference to which variety is best and which is worst relative to a suite of traits (e.g. yield, disease resistance, taste, marketability). The methodology works on the premise of external validity to validate varieties.
During the course of the project, RAB, OAF, IITA, CIP, and the Alliance researchers have been monitoring the trials through the use of digital tools. Data is collected by phone and recorded through phone-based data collection applications and analysed in ClimMob (tricot’s analytics application). Farmers from Nyamagabe, Nyabihu, Gicumbi participated in the potato trials and Nyanza, Ruhango, Kamonyi and Bugesera in the cassava trials.
The first season of cassava trials were recently harvested, with farmers and researchers measuring the cassava yield together, thus enabling yield comparisons across varieties and agro-ecological zones.
“From the yield that I am seeing right now, taking into consideration that these cassava varieties have only been in the ground for 11 months, yet our local cassava varieties normally mature from 12 to15 months, these varieties are very promising. I think these varieties will increase cassava production in our area, and I have already prepared land to plant these cuttings in the next agricultural season.,” said Daniel Habimana from Kigoma sector, Nyanza district, one of the farmers who evaluated the novel cassava varieties using tricot approach.
The simplicity of tricot allows for it to be used across value chains, not just by producers, but also processors, and consumers. Recently, more than 100 consumers from across Rwanda gave their preferences on potato varieties using the tricot approach. Participants were invited to rank their preference across potato varieties, identifying their favourite in terms of taste, appearance, and other characteristics. The initial results from this exercise highlighted that preferences of consumers were notably different to producers. These results reinforce the need for a full value-chain analysis of varieties before they are recommended for release.
The current phase of the project concludes in Rwanda in December 2021. Despite this, the benefits of the tricot approach are evident by both RAB and OAF showing interest in gradually adopting it for their variety selection research. Further to this, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently approved a pan-African project that will see these activities continue in Rwanda.