Plantwise wins the 2017 St Andrews Prize for the Environment

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From left: Terri King (ConcoPhillips), Dr Washington Otieno (CABI Plantwise), Lord Alec Broers (Chairman of the Prize), and Professor Sally Mapstone (University of St Andrews)

Plantwise, a global programme led by the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) which provides smallholder farmers across the world with the knowledge they need to lose less of what they grow to pests and diseases, has won this year’s St Andrews Prize for the Environment, worth $100,000 USD.

The Prize is a joint environmental initiative by the University of St Andrews and ConocoPhillips which recognises significant contributions to environmental conservation. Since its launch in 1998, the Prize has attracted 5,200 entries from around the world and donated $1.67 million to environmental initiatives on a wide range of diverse topics including biodiversity, sustainable development, urban re-generation, recycling, health, water and waste issues, renewable energy and community development.

Plantwise helps increase food security and improve rural livelihoods by reducing crop losses. It achieves this by establishing networks of local plant clinics, run by trained plant doctors, where farmers can find practical plant health advice. Plant clinics are reinforced by the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, a gateway to online and offline plant health information, including diagnostic resources, pest management advice and front-line data about the spread of pests. By applying the principles of Climate-Smart Agriculture and Integrated Pest Management, Plantwise helps farmers adapt to be more resilient to the effects of climate change and mitigate agriculture’s negative impact on the environment.

Plantwise has reached over 9.8 million farmers in 34 countries to date. With plans to roll out tablets and other ICT innovations to plant clinics in multiple countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas, Plantwise is aiming to improve the quality of recommendations given to farmers, as well as the speed of data collection, allowing countries to track outbreaks of pests in real time.

Lord Alec Broers, Chairman of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment Trustees says: ‘We are delighted to award this year’s St Andrews Prize for the Environment to Plantwise. The investment from the Prize into each of our finalist projects will make a real difference to their work and we are confident that they will continue to achieve great things in years to come. This year’s Prize attracted over 800 entries ensuring our Screening Committee and Trustees had an extremely difficult task to select our three finalists. The range of challenges faced across the world remains diverse and complex. Hearing from our three finalists and learning about the incredible work that is taking place to confront these challenges is very humbling. In recent years, we have seen a rise in sustainability projects coming forward and, we hope, by supporting such projects that we can help tackle these challenges together.’

Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of St Andrews says: ‘The University of St Andrews is home to world-leading research on environmental issues and is committed to reducing the environmental impact of our own activities. Our ongoing partnership with ConocoPhillips in the St Andrews Prize for the Environment helps us to bring these strengths to bear at community and grass-roots level. Over nearly twenty years the St Andrews Prize for the Environment has selected, rewarded and publicised some of the very best ideas and projects dedicated to enabling communities, tackling environmental problems and creating a more sustainable way of life. I wholeheartedly congratulate this year’s winners and look forward to following their progress.’

Terri King, President, UK for ConocoPhillips says: ‘ConocoPhillips recognises biodiversity as a vital factor in human well-being and we understand its importance for maintaining ecosystem health. With an increasing number of species considered to be at-risk or threatened, and an increasing number of protected areas established to conserve habitats, evaluation and mitigation of our potential impact on biodiversity is one of our priorities. Our sponsorship of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment lets us engage externally through collaboration with academia and non-government organisations, helping us to develop insights into issues faced by remote communities around the globe including an increased knowledge of sustainable land use.’

Dr Washington Otieno, Executive Director of Plantwise says: ‘It’s a privilege and an honour to win the 2017 St Andrews Prize for the Environment. The prize money will help scale up the use of our ICT tools and applications, enabling plant doctors to make better diagnoses and recommendations, as well as improving the speed of data collection. As a result, more countries will be able to respond to emerging crop pests more promptly. We are grateful to our existing donors, whose support has enabled us to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers through sustainable agricultural practices on a global scale and the St Andrews Prize represents an exciting opportunity to scale up our ICT innovations.’

Notes: In 2017, the St Andrews Prize for the Environment is awarding its 19th winner. Submissions are assessed by a panel of Trustees representing science, industry and Government. The award goes to the project that the Trustees believe displays the best combination of science, economic realism and sustainability.

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