Written by Eduardo Hidalgo and José Gómez
The Plantwise programme supports local implementing organizations in their efforts to mainstream gender equality in their activities. The Plantwise steering committee in Honduras invited Olinda Rubio (Chief of Communications at the Ministry of Agriculture [SAG-SENASA] and gender expert), to join the team and lead the in-country Plantwise gender strategy, which focuses on ensuring the inclusion of both men and women groups, and tailoring plant clinic services to their needs.
One of the first steps was to identify and approach groups of farmers to discuss whether plant clinics would be a relevant means to deliver technical support to their members. COMUCAP (Asociación Coordinadora de Mujeres Campesinas de La Paz), is an association of seven women-led cooperatives, and groups over 500 women farmers. COMUCAP’s president, Juana Suyapa García, as well as Maria Edith Villanueva, who leads the “Alfa y Omega” cooperative, expressed their interest in receiving support from plant clinics.
Another cooperative, “Siempre Viva” which grows and processes aloe vera and coffee, sees the potential benefit of using the technical support from the plant clinics. Currently, the plant doctors from SAG-SENASA have organized extension activities to assist these coffee and aloe vera farmers on how to prevent and detect pest and diseases. Additionally, the plant doctors will work on the preparation of aloe vera pest management decision guides to distribute among the cooperative associates and other none associated growers.
“Estamos registrados como productores orgánicos en el SENASA, también estamos recibiendo asesoría por parte de los doctores de la Clínica Móvil para Plantas, las primeras recomendaciones que nos dieron ya las implementamos, y estamos muy agradecidos” – (We are registered as organic farmers at SENASA, and we are also receiving technical assistance from the mobile plant clinic, we have already implemented the first recommendations given by them, and we are grateful for this) – Wendy Blascina Zelaya, COMUCAP member ( the above quotation is an excerpt from Olinda Rubio’s “Planta procesadora de Sábila beneficiada por Senasa y CABI internacional”).
“Mujeres Productoras de San Jerónimo” in Ocotepeque, is a group of women farmers receiving support through the CENOC-Solutec plant clinic. Plant doctors give technical advice and in-field demonstrations on how to recognize and manage tomato pests and diseases. For many of the participants it has been a surprise to learn that the damage they attributed to frost was in fact a fungus.
The plant doctor, Edgardo Arita, shows to a group of tomato farmers how a fungus in the root and base of the stem is causing the plant to wilt. Photograph by Eduardo Hidalgo, CABI.
“Antes de la clínica de plantas para nosotros todo esto era daño por hielo en las noches frías. Hielo es como llamamos nosotros a este síntoma” – (Before the plant clinic, we attributed the damage to frost during cold nights. “Ice” is how we all know this symptom) – said Estella, one of the oldest farmers.
Plant clinics are also reaching ethnic groups, such as the Lencas, one of the most important ethnics in Honduras and origin of the national hero Lempira, after whom was named the Honduran currency. The Lencas’ economy depends mostly on potato production, in which women play an active role in the commercial production, but are also responsible for growing subsistence crops. SAG-SENASA decided to approach the Lenca population located in La Esperanza, Intibucá, to contribute with technical advice aiming to reduce crop losses due to ‘Paratrioza’ (a psyllid insect responsible of transmitting the potato bacterial disease known as zebra chip). The Lenca population in this region is about 6,000 inhabitants, and approximately 1,600 farmers had been reached, from which 30% are women. This initiative is also encouraging women to use the plant clinic by visiting farmers’ fields with the goal of increasing their confidence and a steady use of the service.
Felipa Gómez and her daughter are scouting and collecting samples of plant health problems to take to the plant clinic. Photograph by Eduardo Hidalgo, CABI.
“Estamos muy felices de que la clínica haya venido a ayudarnos porque a veces es difícil conseguir ayuda con los cultivos” – (We are very happy because the clinic is coming to help us. Sometimes it is difficult to find help with the crops around here) – said Felipa Gomez from El Rodeo, Intibucá, who manages about 5 hectares of potato with his family.
To find out more on the Plantwise programme, please click here.
The authors would like to acknowledge that the testimony from Wendy Blascina Zelaya is an excerpt from a publication made by Olinda Rubio’s in SAG-SENASA’s blog.