The role of extension staff in reaching smallholder farmers with relevant agricultural information is key to enabling them to grow more and lose less to crop pests and diseases. The advice given on agricultural practices helps to improve crop quality and yield and to sell agricultural produce for better prices.
Burundi joined the global Plantwise programme in October 2020. It is locally-led by Burundi’s main agricultural research body ISABU and by the Plant Protection Department DPV of MINEAGRIE. Since joining, several Plantwise extension training drives have taken place to build extension staff skills and information resources. These have included the training of plant doctors and plant doctor instructors as well as courses on integrated plant management (IPM) and biological controls, gender and advisory data management. As a result, Burundi now has 16 pilot plant clinics in 8 of its provinces, providing field diagnosis and practical guidance to farmers.
This September, another round of Plantwise training took place in the country. The training was given to 16 apprentice plant doctors, all of whom passed their exams and are now providing plant health advice to farmers at the newly established plant clinics.
In addition, CABI’s Stefan Toepfer, Integrated Crop Management Advisor, conducted a training of trainers in the production of locally valid agricultural extension materials. These documents are indispensable in helping plant doctors relay timely and actionable information to plant clinic attendees.
The group of 25 trainers and plant protection experts from various stakeholders, were guided through the development of pest management decision guides, also called green and yellow lists and factsheets. These documents will be added to the Plantwise Knowledge Bank in the near future.
Mass extension campaigns
Mass extension campaigns were also covered in the training. This type of coordinated campaign is designed to reach many farmers in one go with relevant agricultural advice and information. The training covered how to plan and execute mass extension campaigns and plant health rallies for the maximum benefit of the farmers attending.
Additional training was conducted on how to use other mass campaign channels such as posters, radio, videos screenings and mobile SMS. The need for gender consideration was also highlighted during the course and contextualising the campaigns to fit the social context.
Plant health rallies
As a result, 11 plant health rallies on fall armyworm (FAW) and tomato leafminer (Phthorimaea absoluta) were implemented in the latter half of September. Nearly 350 farmers attended the rallies, many of whom said they gained new information on how to prevent and manage these highly damaging invasive species.
The rallies were also an opportunity to speak with local farmers. During these discourses, several knowledge gaps among farmers were highlighted, including the safe use of chemical pesticides. These topics have now been earmarked as possible themes for future plant health rallies and mass extension campaigns.
Further Plantwise training in Burundi is planned for later in the year. Training of trainers is expected to cover monitoring and evaluation of plant clinic performances, while Burundi’s new Plantwise trainers will cover biocontrol/ integrated pest management and e-clinics.
Since its launch in 2011, CABI’s Plantwise programme has been introduced to 34 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas. The aim was and is to increase food security and improve rural livelihoods by reducing crop losses. This is achieved by establishing sustainable networks of local plant clinics, run by trained plant doctors, where farmers receive practical plant health advice. Working in close partnership with over 170 in-country partners, Plantwise strengthened national plant health systems from within, enabling countries to provide farmers with the knowledge they need to lose less of what they grow.
Find out more: https://www.cabi.org/projects/plantwise/
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