Taking Maize Agronomy to Scale in Africa (TAMASA) is a 4-year project (November 2014-October 2018) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, seeking to improve productivity and profitability for small-scale maize farmers in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nigeria.
The overall purpose of TAMASA is to use innovative approaches to transform agronomy that:
- Use available geospatial and other data and analytics to map maize areas, soil constraints, and actual and yields at different scales;
- Work with service providers (i.e. input suppliers, government and private research and extension services, agro-dealers, and others) to identify and co-develop systems and applications that transform this data and information to useable products that support their businesses or programs to reach clients more effectively; and
- Build capacity in national programs to support and sustain these approaches.
The core products and services of this project include:
- Annual assessments and digital maps of maize growing areas, actual and attainable yields in core research areas or focal areas;
- Decision-support tools for ex-ante spatial analysis, nutrient management, fertilizer formulation and variety selection;
- Open-access databases of agronomic data;
- Increased capacity in national programs and partners through in-country data science and software application training and mentoring.
The critical short-term outcomes will be: (i) the use of tools and data by service providers and research organizations; (ii) an increased or more efficient use of appropriate inputs by smallholder farmers; and (iii) a better understanding of how to increase the effectiveness of delivering agronomic advice at scale.
Project funding and management
TAMASA is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is implemented by CIMMYT and IITA . Key institutional partnerships within TAMASA include the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI; co-development of a site-specific nutrient management decision support tool), the African Soils Information Service (AfSIS ;collaborative access to geospatial data and derived analytical products) and the Universities of Leuven, Reading and Wageningen for PhD capacity development. Key institutional partners within each country include Bayaro University in Kano, Nigeria (BUK), The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) in Ethiopia, and Selian and Uyole Research institutes in Tanzania.
- Maize area: defined as where maize is grown using the AfSIS crop mask, SPAM and national production statistics
- Maize-based systems: defined as areas within the maize area where >50% of the crop in more than half the seasons is maize
- Area of Interest (AOI): defined using intensification criteria of areas within maize-based systems where population density >25 km2 and that are <4 hours travel time to an urban market.
- Focal areas (FA): defined as areas within the AOI where TAMASA and its primary partners will conduct research and deliver outputs and impact.
TAMASA’s activities are organized into seven sets of activities, called Workstreams:
Workstream 1 addresses core data gaps. There are several components of this work:
- Collect georeferenced data on plot-level soil characteristics, agronomic management, and maize yields, supplemented by farm-level data on resources, management decisions and production outcomes. Much of these data will be collected on panel observations, i.e. repeated visits to the same plots in successive seasons over the duration of the project.
- Analyze the data collected, along with complementary data sources generated by other projects (e.g. LSMS-ISA data) to characterize management, input use and yields over time and space.
- To collect data within a centrally managed repository which is accessible by project researchers as well as national partners.
- To evaluate alternative data collection methods (e.g. mobile-camera-based yield estimates over crop cuts; UAV-based yield estimates), and promote such methods if/where they are cost-effective.
Workstreams 2 through 5 are focused on the development of decision-support tools.
Workstream 2 will establish a spatially-explicit framework for ex-ante analysis of alternative targeting of productive investment, e.g. where new fertilizer blends may be more profitable than existing blends.
Workstream 3 will establish working versions of a Nutrient Expert tool which will provide site-specific nutrient management advice to farmers. This work is done in collaboration with IPNI.
Workstream 4 will establish a tool for the selection of maize varieties most appropriate for particular geographic locations and specified trait requirements.
Workstream 5 consists of developing data to support the identification of opportunities for new fertilizer blends. This work is currently being done in Nigeria in collaboration with OCP.
Workstream 6 focuses on evaluating the actual and potential adoption and impact of the tools developed in Workstreams 2-5. Data collected under Workstream 1 (i.e. the agronomic panel survey) will be used to evaluate adoption via experimental methods. Within Workstream 6, there is also space for evaluating complementary agronomic and other interventions.
Workstream 7 consists of project management activities. Within this Workstream are included monitoring, evaluation and learning (ME&L) activities, communication, and collaborative management of training and research conducted by doctoral students who are sponsored by the project and who conduct their coursework at Wageningen University (Netherlands), Leuven University (Belgium) and Reading University (UK).