Plantwise connecting smallholders to knowledge through ICT Interventions

The emergence of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the last decade has opened new avenues in knowledge management that could play important roles in meeting the prevailing challenges related to sharing, exchanging and disseminating knowledge and technologies. The types of ICT-enabled services are capable of improving the capacity and livelihoods of poor smallholders are growing quickly. One of the best examples of these services is the use of mobile phones as a platform for exchanging information through short messaging services (SMS), use of broadband services and other android applications. According to a report of Swedish mobile network equipment maker Ericsson, India is the world’s second-largest telecommunications market, with 933 million subscribers and the subscriptions are adding year by year. The growing market of mobile phones in the country is due to the falling cost of handsets which is coupled with improved usability and increasing network coverage. (www.ibef.org).

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Combatting the “black spot” on citrus production in Ghana

Contributed by Melanie Bateman, Integrated Crop Management Adviser, CABI in Switzerland

Citrus fruits with angular leaf spot (M. Bateman)

Citrus fruits with angular leaf spot (M. Bateman)

Not long ago, farmers in the Ashanti region of Ghana had seen citrus as a potential money-maker but now many are now giving up in despair as pathogens such as citrus angular leaf spot (Pseudocercospora angolensis) and citrus black spot (Guignarida citricarpa) diminish yields and make the fruits unmarketable. Many farmers have even gone as far as cutting down their orange trees and replacing them with cocoa.

Recently, a team of plant doctors, Ministry of Agriculture extension staff, researchers and other experts led a series of plant health rallies to help equip farmers with information on how to manage citrus angular leaf spot and other plant health problems constraining citrus production. The rallies were presented to unsuspecting members of the public – ‘spontaneous’ rather than regimented extension. The plant health rally approach enabled the team to reach many farmers in the affected area in a short period of time. It also served as a means for the team of experts to gather information from farmers’ on their problems and experiences.

During a plant health rally, an expert gives citrus growers some advice on how to manage some key plant health problems (M Bateman)

During a plant health rally, an expert gives citrus growers some advice on how to manage some key plant health problems (M Bateman)

For example, the discussions with the farmers uncovered another major challenge for the citrus producers: because of a lack of a market, farmers are unable to sell the oranges that they do produce. This is another factor contributing to the decision taken by some to replace citrus with cocoa. This feedback loop will help to strengthen the support provided to farmers. Ultimately, it is hoped that the support provided through plant health rallies, plant clinics and other extension activities will help farmers to respond to and begin to remove the “black spot” on Ghana’s citrus.

Pesticides-L mailing list: creating a global conversation on pesticides issues

Written by Melanie Bateman, Integrated Crop Management Adviser, CABI Switzerland

plant clinicAs has been mentioned before in this blog, there are a staggering number of chemicals in the world – estimates go as high as 2 million different preparations for sale. This is a lot for regulators in any given country to assess and monitor for safety concerns, especially given the nature of many of the problems associated with pesticides. While symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning become apparent relatively rapidly after exposure, chronic effects such as cancer can be caused by repeated, low level exposure over extended periods of time. For these chronic problems, it is much more difficult to uncover the connections between the chemical and the disease.

International agreements such as the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions provide formal channels for information sharing on these issues between countries.

At a recent workshop on pest management and pesticide risk reduction, Mr David Kamangira, Senior Deputy Director in Zambia’s Department of Agricultural Research Services, offered up a suggestion for a grassroots approach for sharing information and staying informed about pesticides. He shared his experience with the “Pesticides-L” mailing list, an online forum for discussions regarding pesticides management issues. Moderated by Dr Andrea Rother of the School of Public Health and Family Medicine of the University of Cape Town, Pesticides-L is open to anyone with an interest in issues related to pesticides. Posts to the list cover topics ranging from research results on human health and environmental effects to policy debates to meeting announcements. The Pesticide-L mailing list is a rich information source and a valuable tool for linking together a global community of stakeholders such as researchers, NGO’s, chemical companies, policy makers, affected individuals, unions, farmers, community groups and government representatives. To subscribe to this list, email ‘pesticides-l-owner@lists.uct.ac.za’.

Behind the scenes of Plantwise plant clinics in Uganda

PhD student, Andrew Tock, of the Warwick Crop Centre, has spent three months monitoring Plantwise plant clinic success in Uganda as part of a BBSRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership. During this time, he kept a research diary (video above), describing his experiences in Uganda and the day-to-day work of plant doctors in the field.

To read an interview with Andrew, visit the BBSRC website: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2014/141029-f-plant-clinics-in-uganda.aspx

Plantwise Data Management Training in Mozambique

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Since its launch early this year, the partnership between the Plantwise Initiative and the Ministry of Agriculture in Mozambique (MINAG) continues to grow. The National Directorate of Agrarian Services (DNSA) that falls under MINAG is the Plantwise implementing institution in Mozambique. There are currently 5 plant clinics established and running in Maputo and Manica provinces. Read more of this post

Backstopping visit to Bangkok, Thailand

As the last part of our data management trip, Claire and I headed to Bangkok for the 11th and 12th of September. We joined a group of plant doctors and farmers at the plant clinic/rally in Nong Kung village, Suppaya district, Chainat province. We saw a demonstration on biocontrol, looked through pamphlets and information available to farmers about crop problems, and discussed the rice harvest which was currently taking place. In the backstopping training at the Rice Department, the participants shared their concerns and plans for future data management in Thailand.

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Participants of the data management backstopping in Bangkok. ©CABI

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Farmers attending the clinic to listen to advice about crop protection. ©CABI

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Emily, Claire, Fook Wing, and Siva observing how plant clinics operate in Chainat province. ©CABI

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Discussing data management in Thailand. ©CABI

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Looking forward to a delicious meal in Nong Kung village! ©CABI

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Farmers learning about biocontrol products using fungal spores grown on a culture of cooked rice. ©CABI

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A farmer and plant doctor discussing issues with food crops. ©CABI

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Preserved samples and specimens for comparison purposes when diagnosing crop problems. ©CABI

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View from the plant clinic into part of the village – it was a beautiful, sunny day. ©CABI

Backstopping visit to Hanoi, Vietnam

After our stay in Cambodia, Claire and I continued on our way to Hanoi, Vietnam on September 8th and 9th. From there we drove out to Hưng Yên province, visiting two plant clinics and an agro-dealer. We had the opportunity to speak with farmers and plant doctors about how clinics are going, and how useful they can be for farmers to seek advice on their crops. On the way, we enjoyed some pomelo and longans, and shared a cup of tea.  Afterwards, we headed back to the city and facilitated a backstopping training session about data management for 6 participants. Together, we identified bottlenecks in the data flow process, and discussed how they can be improved.

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Plant doctors at Plant Clinic 8 in Hưng Yên province. ©CABI

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Longan season in Hưng Yên province. ©CABI

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Interview with the leader of Nhat Quang commune while sharing a cup of tea. ©CABI

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Pomelo picked fresh from the tree! ©CABI

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Visiting an agro-dealer and learning about the safety information available for farmers. ©CABI

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Claire highlighting the importance of data management. ©CABI

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The group visiting plant clinic 8 and talking with farmers about how much they valued the advice provided by plant doctors. ©CABI

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Group photo from the backstopping data management training. ©CABI

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