The world’s last meal- what does a homogenous global diet mean for food security?

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You’d think, from the vast variety of international cuisines that line our high streets and supermarket shelves, that globalisation was widening the global palate. Recent evidence suggests it’s just not the case. As the global diet narrows, concerns are growing for the world’s food security and the ecological implications of setting up a ‘global monoculture’.

A recent PNAS study found that the variety of crops we are eating is narrowing. It found that in the last 50 years the global diet has homogenised on average by 16.7%. The highest rates of homogenisation are being seen in East and Southeast Asian and sub-Saharan countries. Diets are tending to ‘westernise’ with wheat, rice and oils becoming much more popular. More traditional local foods like sorghum, cassava and millet are contributing less to the global diet. Read more of this post

Tackling food insecurity with mobile technologies

It is important for farmers in developing countries  to have access to the best agricultural information available to prevent crop losses and boost food security and wider livelihoods. Under the Plantwise programme, CABI helps local governments and extension workers set up plant clinics where farmers can come for unbiased and practical agricultural advice helping them to “lose less and feed more”. Farmers come with their crops and the trained plant doctors diagnose plant pest and disease problems and give them tailored recommendations. These clinics have a range of hard copy resources to help the plant doctors make diagnoses and recommendations. Data on the problems are also collected via paper prescription forms- the analysis of these data could allow countries to map the spread of pests and diseases and feed back critical advice. This model has been working well for a number of years but as technologies have evolved they are opening up new opportunities for getting even more resources to farmers and ensuring data is collected and fed back even more quickly potentially making it far more useful.

In response to the new opportunities Plantwise are introducing mobile technologies (tablet computers and SMS messaging) into clinics through a number of pilots. These pilots will test how and in what ways mobile technologies might place plant doctors in the best possible  position to help farmers prevent crop losses and boost food security.

Mobile training workshop: teaching plant doctors to use tablets, the Factsheet app and how to fill in 'e-rescription forms'.

Mobile training workshop: teaching plant doctors to use tablets, the Factsheet app and how to fill in ‘e-rescription forms’.

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Finding ‘a way forward’ at Sri Lanka’s national Plantwise forum

Over 60 stakeholders from Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector came together in the hilltops over Kandy in Sri Lanka recently to exchange experiences and discover strategies for implementing the Plantwise model on the ground. Video also available on Vimeo here.

Coming from extension, research, private enterprise, academia and policy-making, attendees at this national forum represented the top tiers of the plant health system, and were led by guest of honour Dr. D. B T Wijeratne , the Additional Secretary (Agriculture Technology) of the Ministry of Agriculture. The ‘Review and Way Forward Workshop’ was aimed at all those who are directly responsible for agricultural development, encouraging them to create concrete ideas for to ensure sustainability for plant clinics, or ‘crop clinics’ as they are known in the country.

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Direct2Farm reaches 4 million farmers in India

D2F mobile services have reached 4 million farmers in India. Credit: Sharbendu Banerjee © CABI

D2F mobile services have reached 4 million farmers in India. Credit: Sharbendu Banerjee © CABI

The Direct2Farm (D2F) project, run by CABI, provides mobile information services to farmers in India. Two D2F initiatives in India that use voice-based systems to communicate with farmers, mKisan and IKSL, have now cumulatively reached over 4 million farmers. The use of mobile technology allows extension messages to reach isolated communities that have few means of accessing such information. Read more of this post

Plantwise 2013 Highlights

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As we move into the New Year and all that 2014 has to offer it seems like a good time to review some of the achievements of 2013. Here are a few of the Plantwise highlights of 2013!

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Plant health system developing well in Zambia

Farmers' validation of factsheets during Plantwise training in Lusaka, Zambia

Farmers’ validation of factsheets during Plantwise training in Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: Stefan Toepfer © CABI

Since the launch of Plantwise in Zambia last year, much progress has been made to build capacity within the national plant health system. In collaboration with the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI), CABI staff have successfully trained crop officers and extension staff from the Department of Agriculture, ZARI, and Self Help Africa on ‘how to be a plant doctor’. In addition to this, training on development of pest management decision guides and factsheets has produced content that will be made available on the Plantwise knowledge bank for other plant doctors to use. A workshop on data management has also been run, training plant health experts in recording data at plant clinics, data harmonization, validation, analysis and sharing. Read more of this post

Good news for Ghana’s plant health promoted this National Farmers’ Day

pd ghanaNational Farmers’ Day is a day set aside to commemorate the contributions of farmers and fishermen to the national development of Ghana. Combined, these industries account for over 45% of the country’s annual GDP. At this year’s official Farmers’ Day ceremony at Sogakope in the Volta region, Plantwise and partners will take the opportunity to celebrate one of the biggest targeted platforms for plant health: the plant clinic network expanding across Ghana.

The global Plantwise initiative, led by CABI, first launched in Ghana in 2012 with plant clinics in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions. After the clinics’ early success providing timely plant health advice to farmers, operations were scaled-up to Northern and Eastern regions of Ghana, with a total of over 25 clinics now running across four of the ten regions. As well as growing clinic numbers in these four areas, the Volta region, where the Farmers’ Day event will take place, will be the 5th region for expansion of the plant clinic network in 2014.

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Record crop losses cost the United States $17.3B last year

iStock_000007228944LargeOver $17 billion was spent in 2012 on farm insurance claims for destroyed crops in the U.S., up from an average of $4.1 billion per year from 2001 until 2011. This record-breaking jump in insurance pay-outs was in large part due to extreme weather conditions over the past growing season. Drought, heat and hot wind accounted for 97 percent of destruction in Iowa alone, with the third largest agricultural GDP in the U.S. These figure come from a report published by the National Research Defense Council (NRDC) which argues that destructive conditions such as these are expected to become only more common, and action will have to be taken to restructure the insurance and pay-out system within the U.S. The question is whether these decisions will echo through emerging farm insurance markets abroad.

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Plantwise Photo Of The Month- September

The participants of of Plantwise Module 4 training in Sri Lanka, which took place in July. Module 4 is a training module which aims to look into managing and monitoring clinic data collected at plant clinics

The participants of of Plantwise Module 4 training in Sri Lanka, which took place in July. Module 4 is a training module which aims to look into managing and monitoring clinic data collected at plant clinics

This photo was taken in July when data management training and Module 4 training took part in Sri Lanka. Twenty-seven participants took part in the Module 4 training, in which methods for managing and monitoring clinic data collected at plant clinics in Sri Lanka were discussed.

A Happy Brinjal Farmer in the North of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka plant doctor

The farmer studies the mites on his crop © CABI

In Sri Lanka many plant clinics are running to provide free advice to farmers. One such plant clinic at Mallavi vegetable market, received a desperate farmer with an unknown problem in his brinjal crop in the beginning of May 2013. He was fed up of using different pesticides suggested by the local agro-chemical dealer and spending lots of money for nothing so wanted to quit brinjal farming. Find out how the plant clinic team helped him and saved his crop by reading the full case study at http://www.plantwise.org/default.aspx?site=234&page=4321

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