The operation of plant clinics in Ghana received a major boost with the introduction of digital devices to facilitate the work of plant doctors. The introduction of tablets and Android phones has proven to help plant doctors improve the quantity and quality of data generated from plant clinic operations.
Before their introduction to Ghana, plant clinic operations were dependent on a paper-based system of recording pest and disease data provided by farmers during clinics. These data would then be captured by the plant doctor on the Plantwise Online Management Systems (POMS). By digitizing this process the intention was for plant doctors to more effectively capture and manage complex data in one simple device.
Therefore, in May 2016, Plantwise distributed Android tablets to 131 plant doctors in 6 operational regions along with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), a project partner, supplying an additional eight tablets. These devices were pre-loaded with Plantwise apps to help plant doctors gain quick and easy access to reference materials, such as Pest Management and Decision Guides (PMDGs), fact sheets, educational games among other online and offline resources.
To ensure proper and efficient use of the digital devices, Plantwise organised training for all plant doctors on how to operate the new Plantwise apps on the devices. This ensured plant clinic data could be accurately collected and searched at the touch of a button.
The use of these devices has made it possible for plant doctors to easily interact among themselves and also with crop experts through social media platforms. All plant doctors in Ghana are connected via a messaging app called Telegram, where they engage with each other to broaden their knowledge and deepen their understanding of topical issues. These social media interactions facilitate early detection and reporting of new pests and diseases and also allow for the easy dissemination of initial diagnostic and management information on an emerging problem. Such was the case with the outbreak of Fall Armyworm in Ghana in 2016 with its arrival, spread and management plan all being communicated through the plant doctors’ Telegram app.
The devices have so far enabled plant doctors to serve their farmers better by providing them with targeted advice on reducing crop losses and instantaneously capture crop health records. The digital system is much less tedious and consumes less time in collecting, processing and uploading data compared to the previous paper-based system.
Contributed by Solomon Duah, CABI Ghana