Nearly 1000 farmers in Karnataka are set to be trained as ‘Plant Doctors’ in a major programme funded by the Karnataka State Department of Agriculture and Bio-Control Research Laboratories (BCRL), part of Pest Control India Ltd. (PCI), and supported by CABI. By the end of March 2011 there will be enough trained plant health workers to run 72 independent, community-based plant health clinics throughout the state.
The plant health clinics will follow the model already established by CABI in other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The clinics advise farmers on pests and diseases in the way a health centre does for humans. They are run by local technical people, who visit markets and small towns every week. Farmers drop by with samples of diseased plants, to get the problem identified by the plant doctor and to learn what to do about it. Studies of clinics in Bangladesh and Bolivia have shown that, as a result of the clinics, farmers have increased crop yields and spent less money on expensive pesticides, increasing their average household income – a recent impact assessment in Bolivia has shown farmers benefiting by $4/day from the plant doctors’ advice.
The Department of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka, and BCRL-PCI are funding the establishment of the plant clinics in order to empower local farmers to deal with endemic pests and diseases, and help create an early warning system for those that are spreading. BCRL had been training officials at the Karnataka State Department of Agriculture on quality analysis of biopesticides when they took the opportunity to discuss the ‘Plant Doctor’ concept with Dr Arun, Deputy Director of Agriculture (IPM). The Commissioner for Agriculture and Director of Agriculture invited BCRL to submit a proposal, which was accepted, to train coordinators and co-coordinators of Raitha Shakthi Groups (RSGs) formed by the Department under Rastriya Krishi Vikas Jojane (RKVY).
18 districts have been selected to receive plant doctor training during 2010–11. The three-day programme is already under way for the RSGs in these districts and the response from farmers is encouraging. Remaining districts will be covered in the next year in consultation with the Department for Agriculture.
The trainees all come from farming families and have a keen interest in agriculture. Many of them are women or come from disadvantaged groups – scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
“This is a major commitment from the Karnataka State Department of Agriculture and BCRL-PCI, and one that I am sure will deliver substantial benefits to the state as a whole,” said Eric Boa, Head of the Global Plant Clinic initiative at CABI.
Since 1997, CABI has helped to establish more than 80 Plant Clinics in nine countries throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia. Under CABI’s new initiative, Plantwise, we plan to expand the clinic programme to 40 countries and over 400 clinics by 2014.
Find out more about Plantwise and the Plant Clinics at www.cabi.org/plantwise