Progress made by Plantwise in 2015 was the subject of the global programme’s annual Donor Forum earlier this month (October 6-7, 2015). The meeting took place in the Swiss Pavilion at the Milan World Expo where Plantwise is the focus of an interactive exhibit.
Plantwise executives invited key programme donors to attend the annual meeting and those participating included the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (DGIS), Irish Aid, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Ministry of Agriculture, People’s Republic of China.
Kicking off the two-day session, Plantwise Executive Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann reported on progress from the past year of expansion and consolidation for Plantwise across 34 countries. Highlights included the updated Plantwise Strategy for 2015-2020, the development of a systematic monitoring and evaluation plan for roll-out in all Plantwise countries, as well as more than 850 newly trained plant doctors.
Dr Shaun Hobbs, Plantwise Global Director for the Knowledge Bank, presented findings from e-plant clinic pilots. The piloting of tablets at plant clinics first started in February 2014 in Kenya and, based on very positive early results, has now been further expanded to India, Rwanda and Sri Lanka, with 71 e-plant clinics currently being piloted across these countries. The idea of e-plant clinics is to improve the current plant clinic model through mobile technologies. Tablets very effectively support the collection of data at clinics and also increase plant doctors’ access to substantial information on crop management.
Dr Abdillahi Alawy, Plantwise Global Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, presented the results of a farmer satisfaction survey carried out in the first half of 2015. The questionnaire was pre-tested in Kenya and implemented in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Malawi and Rwanda by two external research firms. In total, the survey interviewed 933 farmers via telephone and results show that 94% of farmers are satisfied with plant clinic services.
Dr Wade Jenner, Plantwise Programme Support Manager, updated colleagues on an exciting new development for the programme – its first simulation game as a professional development tool for plant doctors. Plantwise has been trialling a simulation which will act as a learning tool to complement plant doctor training modules, while also helping to inform future training requirements based on game play results. Plant doctors are able to investigate the symptoms of plant health issues using the Plant Doctor Simulator and identify what is causing the problems. Feedback from plant doctors has been very positive and therefore Plantwise will continue to develop and roll-out this tool from early 2016.
The results of a rigorous in-depth impact assessment in Kenya as well as an external evaluation in five Asian countries were also presented. The American Institute of Research (AIR) reported on a baseline household study in Kenya which is part of a four-year impact assessment led by the American Institute of Research and funded by DFID. This assessment so far confirmed that the Plantwise programme helps to improve coordination within the plant health system and enhance the knowledge of its stakeholders. The external evaluation in Asia was commissioned by Evidence on Demand (EoD) to undertake an overall independent assessment on the performance of the programme according to OECD indicators. The lead evaluator reported that the Plantwise approach is still entirely relevant and appropriate, with expected positive impact whilst being highly cost-effective.
One of the Donor Forum’s highlights was the panel discussion with national Plantwise partners from eight different Plantwise countries – Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These individuals serve in different Plantwise-related functions in their home countries and were able to share their experience of the Plantwise approach on the ground. They offered donors the opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of the challenges and successes they have experienced.
CABI CEO, Dr Trevor Nicholls, took the opportunity to inform the donors about CABI’s overall goals and strategy.
Being at the Milan Expo, it was a special Donor Forum for all participants and a valuable opportunity to hear about the progress made by Plantwise to date.