Healing Plants to Feed a Nation

Growing up in a small village in Western Kenya, I often accompanied my mother and other village women on customary weeding expeditions. Whenever we came across sick plants in the fields—which was all too often—my mother would instruct me to pull them out and cast them aside.

I help farmers properly diagnose plant disease and heal their sick plants-Miriam Otipa

I help farmers properly diagnose plant diseases and heal their sick plants-Miriam Otipa

I did as she asked, but wondered to myself: Why do we simply throw out the plants instead of doing something to make them better?

At times, my mother lost nearly 80 percent of her tomatoes to plant disease. The loss was so bad that she eventually stopped growing tomatoes all together. Yet when one of our cows got sick, my mother would call a veterinarian to come and treat the cow. I wondered: Were there no doctors who could also cure our plants?

I turned this curiosity into a career in science and became the first child in my family to attend university as well as the first woman in my village to earn a science degree. Seeking answers to my childhood questions, I studied botany and zoology as an undergraduate to better understand the diversity of crop and animal pests and diseases afflicting farmers like my mother in Kenya and her peers across Africa. I wanted nothing more than to find a practical solution.

So, I became a plant doctor

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Infographic: Plantwise progress in Africa

Plantwise_Africa_Infographic

Farmer Field Day training in Malawi

Salima Rice Field Day 021On Tuesday, June 3rd, Land O’Lakes held another in a series of Farmer Field Day training events at one of their signature Answer Plot® sites, known locally as Yankho Plot™ sites in Malawi.  This farmer training event was held in Salima district, Malawi, on a plot planted with several varieties of rice.  On this day, farmers got to see Kilombero and Funwe rice plants right before harvest and to hear from Lead Farmers (who had been trained by Land O’Lakes staff) and Ministry of Agriculture field extension agents, all about the characteristics of these two new strains of these two rice varieties.  In addition, farmers were taken through rice trials done on site in collaboration with the GOM Ministry of Agriculture, the CCARDESA (Center for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for South Africa) and the World Bank.  Under this USDA-funded Food for progress project, Land O’Lakes uses the Yankho Plot™ sites as learning platforms where complementary information is given out about goat production, animal welfare, best animal feed practices and animal health.  In addition, Land O’Lakes nutrition staff work hand-in-hand with MOA Nutritionists and staff from the GOM Ministry of Health to share nutritional information and to conduct cooking demonstrations for all farmer field day participants.  At this special field day event, more than 150 USDA-funded Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) handbooks were distributed by Land O’Lakes to the female heads of community-based Nutrition Groups in order to assist with their community education efforts.  Land O’Lakes also invited many agricultural suppliers and service organizations in order to facilitate farmers networking with other sources of information, services and products.  For example, Demeter Agriculture Limited and CABI Plantwise had tables on which they displayed their helpful information and where staff were ready to talk about their services for helping farmers be better producers.  More than 350 male and female farmers from Salima District participated in the Farmer Field Day training event.

Introducing APHLIS: The African Postharvet Losses Information System

APHLIS_Logo

Plantwise have recently been investigating APHLIS data, a great source of information on postharvest losses in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The system is run by a network of local experts who collect and supply data.  Using a shared database and a Losses Calculator APHLIS provide estimates of weight losses for cereal grains at a national and provincial level.  Read more of this post

Infographic: Plantwise progress in Malawi

Malawi_Infographic

Plantwise initiative helping improve food security in Zambia

Zambia cassava-high-yeild-farmer

Ever since Lackson Njovu, a farmer in Rufunsa district, learnt how to deal with plant diseases and pests using the natural way, his harvest has improved.
Mr Njovu now registers less losses and feeds more by identifying, preventing and curing plant health problems.
On his five hectares farm east of the capital, Lusaka, where he grows maize, cassava, groundnuts, pigeon peas and cow peas, Mr Njovu places chemical solutions as the last resort to safeguard human life and the environment.

Click here to read the full story

Plant clinics help improve yields in Machakos, Kenya

Plant doctor John Mutisya examining a potato sample at the Katoloni plant clinic Credit: David Onyango © CABI

John Mutisya, a plant doctor at the Katoloni plant clinic examines a potato sample
Credit: David Onyango © CABI

“Approximately 300 farmer-self help groups from Machakos County and its environs under the Katoloni community-based organization have registered improved crop yields in the last one year due to high levels of sensitization on crop pest and diseases at plant clinics in the region,” writes Maugo Owiti of HiviSasa.com.

In the article, Pius Ndaka, a farmer from Iluvya village shares the benefits he has experienced from the Katoloni plant clinic.

Click here to read the full story

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