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. (

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One stop shop for information on internationally restricted chemicals

Contributed by Melanie Bateman, CABI Switzerland

mel blogTogether, the three conventions that govern chemicals and hazardous waste safety at the global level (the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions) have launched an online search tool for finding technical and scientific publications to support sound management of chemicals and waste:

In particular, the member countries of these Conventions have singled out certain chemicals because of the harm that they can cause to human health and the environment. The online search tool makes it easy to access information on these chemicals, and it brings together information on management and risk reduction across the chemicals’ life cycles. With the click of a button, it is possible to access information on the production, trade, storage, use and safe disposal of these problematic pesticides and other chemicals.

Giving thanks and lending support for bountiful harvests and good health

Contributed by Melanie Bateman

ThanksgivingToday, families in the US gather around the table for Thanksgiving, a national holiday to celebrate the harvest and to give thanks in general for all of life’s bounties. The United States is not unique in this custom; many other countries celebrate harvests and mark particular days as occasions for reflection and giving thanks. For example, Canada’s Thanksgiving took place in October, and Liberia celebrated Thanksgiving just a few weeks ago on Thursday, the 6th of November.

Thanksgiving also serves as a time to reflect on the challenges faced by those who are not as fortunate, particularly those in places where food security is at risk. In her statements to mark Liberia’s Thanksgiving holiday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf commented on the havoc wreaked by Ebola on her country and she further stated that “it is befitting that a day be set aside for the Nation and its people to give thanks … for the preservation of the lives of its people to overcome the spreading of the pathogenic disease”.

Liberia’s neighbours Sierra Leone and Guinea also continue to struggle against Ebola. According to a recent article, Sierra Leone will soon displace Liberia as the country worst hit by the outbreak. Many parts of the country are under quarantine, restricting the movement of goods and people. These travel restrictions have profound implications – getting food to people in quarantine is no small task. For small-scale farmers and small-scale miners in particular, Ebola’s impact has been “catastrophic”. While Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and the affiliated plant doctors continue to try to persevere with activities to support farmers, many challenges stand in their way. Even so, activities are still going forward as possible since the national team has passes to visit plant clinics and they have made distributions of items to plant doctors. Thankfully, there have been no reports of any problems with a plant doctor.

Reflection on challenges such as Ebola can in turn serve as a call to action. The people of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are working to defeat Ebola, but it is essential that the international community joins them in this fight. To learn more about the efforts of international organisations and to lend your own support, visit the webpages of organisations like the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Doctors without Borders (Medecins sans Frontiers) and the International Medical Corps, among others.



Plantwise knowledge bank wins Open Data Award for Social Impact

Plant doctors in Kenya help advise farmers about sick crops at a local plant clinic with the help of the Plantwise knowledge bank Factsheet Library app. (Photo Wright/CABI)

Plant doctors in Kenya help advise farmers about sick crops at a local plant clinic with the help of the Plantwise knowledge bank Factsheet Library app. (Photo Wright/CABI)

On 4 November, the CABI-led Plantwise programme was announced as the winner of the Open Data Award for Social Impact. This is the latest accolade for this innovative open access platform for knowledge to help farmers lose less of what they grow to crop pests and diseases. Plantwise knowledge bank Global Director Shaun Hobbs accepted the award from Open Data Institute Chairman and Co-founder Sir Nigel Shadbolt at the ODI Summit gala dinner at the Museum of London.

Also nominated for the Social Impact award category were communications development consultancy Internews and the UNHCR Data Portal.

With this award, the Open Data Institute celebrates ‘innovation and excellence in the ways open data are used and published,’ as judged by a panel of industry experts, influencers and leaders in the field of open-access technology. It is hoped that recognition of Plantwise knowledge bank will continue to drive other public and private organisations to collaborate for the benefit of rural communities and global food security.

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Plantwise in Pakistan and its opportunities to share knowledge

The group of participants for the data sharing and use workshop held by Plantwise at the CABI CWA office in Islamabad

The group of participants for the data sharing and use workshop held by Plantwise at the CABI CWA office in Islamabad


In June 2014, Dr Aamir H Malik, CABI Country Coordinator for Pakistan, Cambria Finegold, Head of Project Development for the Plantwise Knowledge Bank and Julien Lamontagne-Godwin, Plantwise scientific officer, organised a workshop in Islamabad that united major stakeholders in the Pakistani plant health system. These included the departments of Extension and Adaptive Research, Pest Warning and Quality Control of Pesticides, Agricultural Information, the National Agricultural Research Centre, the Punjab Seed Corporation and the Horticultural Development and Export Company.

The objective was to demonstrate the power and possible use of the data being generated by the rising number of plant clinics in the country. The participants felt that it is crucial that the data, owned by the Directorate General of Extension and Adaptive Research, is shared to a maximum amount of actors in the plant health system.  This will enable them to work more efficiently in the agricultural domain, depending on their mandates: develop updated and topical research strategies, conduct more targeted extension campaigns, understand the health of various crops in a region and develop better seeds or resistant varieties. Indeed, this is one of the core objectives of Plantwise.

Overall, the workshop was an unqualified success, as many partners are now keen to be linked to the data sharing platform that is the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, and receive topical and interesting data from the Directorate General of Extension and Adaptive Research plant clinics.

Plantwise captures the imagination of the Afghan Agricultural hierarchy through its National Forum

Group Photo NFM

Representatives at Afghanistan’s National Forum

Since 2012, the Plantwise Afghanistan team, including Muhammad Faheem as Country Coordinator, Dr Babar Ehsan Bajwa as Regional Director for CABI Central and West Asia and Julien Lamontagne-Godwin as European Support Staff from the CABI UK centre, has been increasingly involved in the agricultural development of the country. As the programme has gone from strength to strength, it has not only grown its clinic network, but also engaged regularly with the various stakeholders involved in the country’s agricultural system.

The National Forum is one of the many stakeholder engagement tools at the programme’s disposal, and it was used to full effect in March 2014. Read more of this post

Youth Changing the Face of Agriculture in Kenya

They are young and sophisticated technophiles operating in the fast lane of life. A typical day for them entails spending considerable amounts of time on the cyberspace. Additionally, they are innovative and have a proclivity for taking greater entrepreneurial risks.  Meet the burgeoning youth population that is revolutionizing the agricultural landscape in Kenya.

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