Report by Peter Karanja and Abigail Rumsey
Between May and July this year, 22 new plant clinics were established in Kenya. Nine of these clinics were launched by the Smallscale Horticulture Development Project (SHDP), which has been funded by the African Development Bank to help smallholder farmers increase the amount that they produce and earn through irrigation and enhanced marketing. The new clinics have been initiated by the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries in irrigation schemes in nine districts.
The constant availability of water in the irrigation schemes allows for year-round cropping on farms. It is important to have the SHDP plant clinics present in the irrigation schemes because the increased humidity and lack of a dry season of dieback creates an ideal environment for agricultural pests and diseases. Therefore, there are often more pests in areas of irrigation than in other agricultural environments in Kenya. Last year, CABI trained 26 project staff to be plant doctors. The trained plant doctors will be playing an important role in reducing crop losses in the irrigation schemes. There will also be ‘Farmer Champions’, volunteer farmers who will be trained by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to identify the symptoms of common plant health problems. They will act as the link between the farming community and the plant clinics, and their role will be to scout for pests and diseases, advising the farmers to take their ‘sick’ plants to the clinic.
The video below shows Madam Jane Ngugi, National Coordinator for the SHDP, introducing the scheme and explaining how plant clinics can help smallholder farmers lose less of their horticultural products to pests and diseases.