PlantwisePlus Blog

Digital tools can benefit farmers and those in agricultural advisory services. CABI envisions a world in which digital innovation magnifies agricultural and environmental development impact. Through the creation and application of digital technologies, CABI brings science-based agricultural knowledge to millions of smallholder farmers, helping them increase their yields sustainably.

Advisor using a tablet while speaking to a farmer
Advisor using a tablet while speaking to a farmer. Credit: CABI

PlantwisePlus has carefully tailored the programme’s digital decision-making and learning tools to different needs. This ensures essential information and learning materials are easily accessible for plant health monitoring and management.

Stakeholder workshop

Recently, CABI’s digital promotion team brought stakeholders together at a workshop to understand their different needs and challenges and map out how they navigate the digital space in Kenya. The event also allowed the team to introduce CABI digital tools, which support farmers and extension workers in making more informed decisions in crop health management.

Group image of CABI's digital promotion team with stakeholders.
CABI’s digital promotion team and stakeholders. Credit: CABI

In collaboration with the Nakuru county government, stakeholders from the private, public, education, and non-profit sectors came up with three roadmaps to integrate digital tools into education, farmer advisory systems, and policy interventions to enhance the uptake of digital tools for sustainable impact. These activities align with the PlantwisePlus programme’s aim to ensure that agricultural advisors, including extension officers and agro-input dealers, have access to the latest information on pest distribution, diagnosis, and pest management.

 “This one-day workshop has broadened our understanding of the key stakeholders and decision-makers who influence the usage and adoption of Agri-digital tools in various sectors”, commented Dr Malvika Chaudhary, PlantwisePlus Global team leader for Digital Product Usage. She emphasized the nine digital development principles that inspire CABI to build upon a digital tool framework as a sustainability model for the CABI digital tools.

PlantwisePlus digital tools

Have you ever wondered why your phone is slow and inefficient when using different applications? Kevin Muraguri, the Agri Digital Communication Coordinator for Africa, led the team through an icebreaker exercise centred around optimizing mobile phones. Kevin sought to increase their motivation to use new digital tools through this activity.

Discussion group. Credit: CABI

During discussions, some participants said they were already familiar with some CABI digital tools. The tools covered included:

1.     CABI BioProtection Portal– A free website and application that helps you find and correctly use locally registered biocontrol and biopesticide products to treat crop pests.

2.     Crop Sprayer App—This app helps you calculate the correct amount of pesticide to buy and use for safer and more effective applications.

3.     CABI Academy – A site with professional development courses and certifications in agriculture and research.

4.     PlantwisePlus Knowledge Bank – A site with global and country-specific crop health and pest management advice.

5.     PlantwisePlus Factsheet Library– A free Android and iOS app that shares up-to-date information to support the diagnosis and safe management of crop pests.

Digital decision-making tools

Mr. Samuel Matika Musah, an agricultural extension officer in the Department of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries, Nakuru County, has experience with all of CABI’s digital tools. He was happy to be involved in creating a roadmap to scale up usage in Nakuru County.

“CABI digital tools are simple, relevant to solving current problems farmers face and cost-effective since some can be used offline. The tools are of great help to extension officers, integrated pest management champions, plant doctors, spray service providers, and farmers who are the main partners in my work,” said Mr Matika.

While all the participants had smartphones, they cited a lack of access to the Internet while in the field as the most significant barrier to using digital tools. However, most thought CABI tools could complement and make their work easier.

“We just need to update the tools regularly and make them lighter and compatible with the phones we use. Digital skills training for farmers and users will also help a lot,” Mr Matika added.

Opportunities for uptake of the tools

After identifying opportunities and challenges in digital tool uptake, Angel Li, CABI’s Regional Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, led a discussion on blockers, floaters, and supporters and who they are, as well as how CABI should engage with them to drive the adoption and adaptation of the tools. This exercise led to developing three road maps, which will be the marketing strategy for CABI’s digital tools over the next two years.

Landscape image of Angel Li CABI's Regional Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator presenting at the stakeholder workshop.
Angel Li, CABI’s Regional Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator presenting. Credit: CABI

A gender and digital advisory tools assessment in Ghana showed that male farmers had higher access to and use levels of digital tools than females. Men are better placed and financially empowered to access more information about the benefits of such tools for extension and advisory services from their networks. After sharing these findings, the participants cited similar experiences in Kenya. This will be a crucial consideration in developing our outreach strategy for digital tools.

Creating a roadmap

CABI’s team is now in conversations with the stakeholders, who have been mapped out to train and introduce the tools to different target audiences. With further consultations, PlantwisePlus will replicate this roadmap development workshop in other counties in Kenya and other target countries for PlantwisePlus digital tools.

“We need to inform smallholder farmers that the digital tools are actually here to help them increase their knowledge on smart farming, ” said Hannah Wambui, a seed bank and nursery officer at Seed Savers Network, Kenya.

With smartphone usage rising in Kenya, CABI anticipates an increase in the use of these websites and apps among farmers and agriculture advisors. The availability of accurate and timely plant health information will support farmers in producing more and safer food.

PlantwisePlus

PlantwisePlus gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS), Netherlands; European Commission Directorate General for International Partnerships (INTPA, EU); the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), United Kingdom; and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

Learn more about PlantwisePlus here

Learn more about our work in Kenya here

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