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ICT4BXW@Scale – Multiplatform delivery of co-developed tools for national control and prevention of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) in Rwanda: Scaling innovation for enhanced Banana production and Food Security

Research domain:
Organisation of agriculture

Project duration:
01.07.2021 - 31.12.2023

The aim of the project is a vision of advancing national impact on banana production and national food security in Rwanda. The researchers propose the implementation of the scaling phase of ICT4BXW in Rwanda, as a step towards scaling innovation along the R4D continuum, to broaden the delivery of previously co-developed tool and knowledge products for BXW control. The goal is to build-up direct impact of BXW control tools from few smallholder farming households during the pilot phase, to reach banana farming households nationally (approx. 50% male and 50% female) by empowering them to combat BXW, improving their productivity through healthier bananas, and securing their source of livelihood. To achieve this goal, the researchers will leverage multiple platforms and tools that are currently in use by scaling partners (such as IVR, chatbots, USSD) that are compatible with the simple mobile devices that most farmers currently use, and combine that with investments in capacity development for digital literacy, banana agronomy best practice, coherent information provision, awareness, policy and stakeholder collaboration.

I. Smartphone-based digital surveillance tool for BXW prevention and control;
II. Stepwise diagnostic tool and decision support for effective BXW; management;
III. Best-fit BXW management practices, including agronomic recommendations for healthy bananas;
IV. Robust curriculum for proactive extension delivery on banana and BXW.

Context:In the past 2 years, the idea of actively engaging farmers and extension providers in using ICT-tools to advance the control and prevention of BXW was advanced from proof of concept to pilot stage along the R4D continuum, with compelling evidence of viability and demand for scaling. During the implementation, principles of human-centered design and citizen science were adopted to co-develop a fully functioning digital surveillance system (tool + early warning platform) that can aid cost-effective monitoring and control of BXW disease. This co-development process of what became known as ICT4BXW was intentionally focused on understanding and addressing contextual realities while incorporating critical inputs from various target [next- and end-] users. The activities during the proof of concept and ongoing pilot phase have been focusing on selected geographies within Rwanda, and selected target users representing different gender, education, income, banana production system, and agro-ecologies. The underlying assumption is that the diverse cohorts of engaged users and stakeholders (5 government officials/ 8 sector agronomists/16 farmer promoters/ 698 banana farmers) across 138 Villages, from 28 Sectors, within 8 Districts are representative of the larger population across Rwanda (> 600,000 households) which would facilitate the scaling of ICT4BXW innovations. The innovations that have been delivered through this project provide the gateway for other strategic opportunities to engage citizens with [non-]digital tools for the control of BXW and nurturing of healthy banana production systems. This has fostered new and mutually beneficial collaboration with prospective scaling partners who see strong value in the process, intermediate outcomes, and envisioned the impact of the project activities. For instance, a non-partner international social enterprise (Viamo) approached the researchers with a request to access the best-fit banana agronomy practices which was developed and embedded as an add-on module in the co-developed digital BXW tool. By deploying the content for a limited time (~8weeks) on interactive voice response (IVR) platform, Viamo proved the demand for this product and viability of scaling rapidly across the country, with a record of >11,000 unique access to the content.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is the project lead institution. The main partners and stakeholders involved in this project are IARCs IITA and Bioversity International, the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO), Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), smallholder farmers (of different socio-economic status, gender and age groups), and private sector actors (ICT developers and mobile phone service providers).