Expo visitors discover the plant clinic experience in Milan

Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann sits down with Nethenga Is
Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann of Switzerland sits down for a crop consultation with Nthenga Isaiah, a plant doctor from Zambia

For 3 minutes, you, too, can experience how smallholder farmers in over 30 countries receive the practical plant health advice they need to save their crops. This was the message shared with visitors of the live plant clinic session hosted by Plantwise at the Swiss Pavilion, Milan Expo on June 25. Plant clinics are one way Plantwise, led by CABI, is working to bridge the gap between smallholder farmers and the science-based knowledge to sustainably reduce crop losses from pests and diseases, which annually destroy 30-40% of crops worldwide. Plantwise exemplifies how public funding from partners such as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and others can empower farmers to secure better yields, better incomes and better outcomes for their families.

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Visitors of the live plant clinic demo at the Swiss Pavilion were invited to select a sick crop sample from those on hand– tomato, maize, cucumber and others- and sit down briefly with real-life plant doctors who work to support plant clinics and Plantwise activities back in their home countries of Ghana and Zambia. The plant doctors use hand lenses to examine the crop symptoms- using diagnostic resources from the Plantwise Knowledge Bank in the process- and provides recommendations on how the farmer can safely manage the crop problem without harming themselves, their consumers or the environment. With over 1,500 plant clinics around the world and nearly 2 million farmers reached, progress is being made by this initiative to support stronger, more effective farmer services in countries where agriculture is the economic back bone. But there is more to be done- especially in the face of unpredictable risks to farmers due to a changing climate.

climate change panel at Milan Expo Swiss Pavilion
Panel inside Swiss Pavilion on June 25. Photo: DFAE Presenza Svizzera

In addition to the live plant clinic run throughout the day, high-profile distinguished guests stopped by the Swiss Pavilion for a Swiss Government and FAO panel titled ‘Food Security and Climate Change: Shaping Innovation for Agriculture’s Future.’  Speakers included Switzerland’s Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann, Dyborne Chibonga of the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi, Hans Herren with the Biovision Foundation and Millennium Institute, Michael Mack, CEO of Syngenta International, Ren Wang of FAO and CABI’s own CIO, Andrea Powell.

CABI's Andrea Powell on primetime RSI Television
CABI’s Andrea Powell on prime time RSI Television

“Keep in mind that we should not only think about increasing profitability of smallholder agriculture but also to reduce losses due to pests and diseases in the long term,” noted Powell about the importance both entrepreneurship and social responsibility in farmer services.

“The key is to implement a diversity of innovations,” noted Federal Councillor Schneider- Ammann in his opening address to the audience.

After meeting with plant doctor Nghthena Isaiah and receiving advice to safely stop tomato pests from threatening farmers’ livelihoods, one Expo visitor from the USA observed that “It’s definitely a good thing to have this kind of support for farmers- I had no idea how difficult it is to keep crops healthy and how complex it could be to get the right advice. Governments should be helping to bring this information to more farmers.”

Élisabeth Baume-Schneider
Minister of Education, Culture and Sports Élisabeth Baume-Schneider seeks crop health advice at the live plant clinic demo
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Fred Kofi Asante, of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Ghana, explains the role of plant doctor expertise in rural livelihoods

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CABI board member Roland Dietz visits the Swiss Pavilion and explores the permanent Plantwise exhibit- at Expo until October 31

This live plant clinic demo is part of the overall participation for Plantwise at Expo from May1-October 31 featuring interactive gamespots onsite, a video on the life of one cocoa farmer, Phu, in Vietnam, and the Plant Doctor Game free for iOS and Android devices, so people can take part in the Milan Expo and Plantwise experience from anywhere in the world.

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