Contributed by Vinod Pandit, CABI Nepal
After a successful pilot phase in Nepal, with plant clinics in 45 districts reaching more than 5000 farmers, Plantwise is now looking to scale up and become sustainable by getting partners to commit resources to the programme. To maximise synergies with existing agricultural extension methods, partners have suggested linking plant clinics with farmer field schools, which are already established in Nepal.
In Nepal, farmer field schools are run by the Ministry of Agriculture and Development (MoAD) and the Plant Protection Directorate (PPD), with technical support from FAO and funding from the World Bank. About 250 farmer field schools were established but fewer than 100 are currently active. Five farmer field schools (one in each of the five administrative regions of Nepal) act as Key Resource Centres for all of the districts in their region, providing biocontrol agents, monitoring and technical support.
Capitalizing on Plantwise’s experience in over 30 countries, Vinod Pandit, the CABI Country Coordinator for Nepal, facilitated the first inter-regional Plantwise workshop of its kind in Asia. In the workshop, led by Dr. Dilli Ram Sharma, the national coordinator for Plantwise, the Nepali stakeholders who implement the farmer field schools and plant clinics respectively, learnt how to make the most of linking the two extension mechanisms from similar situations in Kenya, Mozambique and Rwanda. Martin Krmani, the CABI Country Coordinator for Mozambique, also attended and shared his experiences.
Amongst the participants were Caritas, an NGO who already operates mobile plant clinics. Caritas indicated that 47 of their staff could be as trained plant doctors and would be able run around 127 plant clinics. Caritas already has a presence in 33 districts, in 16 of which they are currently promoting of integrated pest management methods through farmer field schools. The organisation also has the technological infrastructure to support the management of data that the clinics will eventually produce.
The workshop concluded with a collective decision that formal linkages between plant clinics and farmer field schools will be established. These linkages will be piloted in 15 districts in 2016 and subsequently scaled up, pending evaluation. Through this collaboration, up to 120 new clinics could be established over the next two years. Farmer field school facilitators will be trained to run plant clinics and a taskforce will be established to determine the training content, clinic locations and monitoring arrangements. All stakeholders at the workshop will be represented on the taskforce, which will be headed by Dr. Dilli Ram Sharma, the current national coordinator of Plantwise.
It is hoped that farmer field schools will benefit from plant clinics by using clinic data to identify which pests to focus on in a particular season. Many farmer field schools evolve into farmer collectives or associations, which always benefit from pest management advice like the Plantwise Knowledge Bank offers. Plant clinics on the other hand will be able to refine their locally-relevant recommendations based on the validation of advice tested in local farmer field schools.