Scientists meet to strengthen agronomic component of SARD-SC cassava value chain

SARD-SC, Roundtable discussion  on survey questionnaire and the trial protocolThirteen scientists convened at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Kampala, Uganda, recently, to brainstorm on how to develop the agronomic component /unit of the institute. This is essential for strengthening the agronomy unit in terms of personnel, research work and protocols for research. Hence, participants at the event included eight researchers from the cassava component of the Support for Agricultural Research and Development of Strategic Crops(SARD-SC) project, four from IITA Kampala and one from Kathiolieke University of Leuven in Africa. They came together to discuss how to strategize and revitalize this important area of study in IITA. Developing the agronomy component of the Institute, according to the scientists, will support such disciplines as Breeding, Food Technology, Socio-economic research and other important disciplines along the cassava value chain.

The meeting was moderated by Dr. Laurence Jassogne, who stated that the objective of the workshop was to plan, strategize and agree on common agronomic approaches and protocols that would identify and investigate the agronomic challenges of cassava and in turn strengthen the weak agronomic component of the Institute. e therefore, encouraged all participants to contribute immensely to the discussion and also interact with other participants to exchange ideas.

SARD-SC, Participants at the Agronomy meeting in Uganda Dr Marie Yomeni, the SARD-SC Cassava Specialist enlightened the group on what SARD-SC project is all about. She stated that the SARD-SC project aims to improve on a sustainable basis, cassava value chain as well as increase farmers’ income which could be achieved by the contribution of a multi-disciplinary team at every step across the chain. However, Dr. Yomeni affirmed that one of the ways in which cassava productivity and sustainability could be achieved is through generation and dissemination of agricultural technologies and innovation. “Hence, there is the need for the agronomists to develop and operationalize a uniform agronomic approach which can be sustained and utilized across a wide range of environment for transformational impact in cassava. This gathering creates a great opportunity for scientists to strategize on the best approach to attain this goal,” said Dr. Yomeni.

Dr. Piet Van Asten, System Agronomists & Country Representative for IITA, Uganda, gave a presentation on logical framework and approach for agronomic research, towards a sustainable cassava technology innovation and dissemination. The framework requires the agronomists to assess first, all the processes involved in the current farmers’ practices at plot and farm levels through a well-planned subsample survey from planting to harvesting on their field, also taking into cognizance how the farmers maintain their soil fertility. The criteria for selecting the farmers plot to be assessed in the country should be based on the use of the Afsis map, which is a GIS-based approach (geo spatial techniques to map adoption domains) within representative areas like the landscape/community level and soil ph mapping. Consequently, an adaptive and applied research is conducted by both the farmers and researchers based on what obtains on the farmers field.

Ms Annet Babirye, a cassava Agronomist from the National Agricultural Research Organization, Uganda talked about the different procedures such as appropriate varieties, preservation of planting materials, planting methods, cropping systems, input, pests & diseases control, harvesting & processing, and profitability involved in the successful production of cassava in Uganda. Ms Wivine Munyaholi, a PhD Research Fellow from the Katholieke University of Leuven, talked about the nutrient requirements of cassava under the management systems in South Kivu, D.R. Congo. She emphasized the need to investigate more information on how to maximize cassava production in various cropping systems including other crops.
Some of the agronomic protocols presented by Drs. Veronica Uzokwe, Nhamo Nhamo and Kintche Koukou, SARD-SC Cassava Agronomists, Field Fellows, to tackle various in-country agronomic challenges were also reviewed. The two recipients of the SARD-SC/AFDB cassava value chain doctorate degrees scholarship awards presented their proposed topics of study while participants made useful contributions to their presentation.