After 2 hours drive, we arrive in Rufunsa District located approximately 150 kilometres east of the Zambian Capital, Lusaka. After exchanging pleasantries we settle down with Brian Siame, a trained plant doctor and one of the participants in our survey to find out more about plant doctor requirements for pest alert messages.
After a brief explanation of how PRISE will work, Brian was taken through the survey and its relevance to his role. “The pest forecast messages will be sent to plant doctors like you so that you can provide farmers with timely advice and help them manage local pest outbreaks,” explained Abigail Rumsey from CABI. “The alerts will take the form of short text messages, advising on predicted pest life stage and risk level, with the possibility of including the pest image to help ease identification and diagnosis”.
Mr. Guze Kampinga visits the plant clinic at Dowa Turn Off with his damaged maize samples and is received by Mrs Eluby Phiri a trained plant doctor.
“I have grown about 0.8 ha of rain-fed and 0.4ha irrigated maize (Ndimba). This year a strange pest has seriously damaged my maize and almost all people in this village are experiencing the same problem. The pest started damaging the crop a few weeks after germination and has continued damaging the crop up to now. I first noticed the tips of the maize funnel chewed and stunting yet I had applied fertilizer and there was sufficient moisture. When I checked the funnel I found small caterpillars inside, which were growing very fast. Later the leaves were chewed and holes seen in the cobs, they also feed on the kernels. I have tried to control the pest to no avail”, said Mr Guze.
Kenya has launched a campaign to control the Fall Armyworm, (FAW) which has been sighted by farmers feeding on Maize in Trans Nzoia County, Kenya. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mr. Willy Bett said the pest poses a serious threat to the country’s food security situation.
“Its impact will be severe given that the country is just recovering from a drought that has affected food production. This risk is heightened since Trans Nzoia is the country’s grain basket producing maize both for seed and for consumption. The government has allocated 200million Kenya shillings for the campaign and we are working with partners to help us fight this pest”. The pest is spreading fast and has been spotted in 10 other counties of Bungoma, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Kwale, Taita Taveta, Nandi, Makueni, Vihiga, Busia, and Kisumu.
As part of its mass extension activities for 2016, Plantwise Ghana rolled out a four-week radio campaign to educate farmers about the detection and management of crop pests and diseases prevalent in the project’s five intervention regions in Ghana. The campaign, which took place between September and October 2016, involved five radio stations noted for their experience in running agriculture-oriented programs targeted at farmers in those regions.
A loud booming voice on a megaphone breaks the silence in the farming village of Kaptum centre..”Akwaa! lo mite kapurto nyepo ceyec cepo nyepokaptisyet!”, (come attend a plant health rally by ministry of agriculture officials). Farmers quickly gather and listen attentively as Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) officials conduct the plant health rally.After the rally, we meet Betty Seyekwo, a hardworking farmer and mother of seven children living in Kapchorwa-Uganda. Last season, she planted beans in her 2 acre farm and harvested 13 bags. This was a decline from the previous season when she harvested 20 bags. Before changing crops to beans, Betty was predominantly a maize farmer until a strange disease wiped out her entire crop.
Betty Seyekwo (right) confers with a colleague during the plant health rally
Betty Seyekwo studies a pesticide malpractice poster after the plant health rally
Farmer interviews being conducted after the plant health rally
Excerpt from The New Times article, published 22 January 2016
It is a Monday evening and Dominique Nkundukozera, a farmer in Rusatira Sector in Huye District, is seated on a chair at Kinkanga market, with several cassava stems. He had brought the stems for examination by experts at a ‘Plant Health Clinic’ at the market.
“Before the Plant Clinic initiative, I was losing about 60 per cent of my produce each season. It was unbearable because I could not even recoup the investment on the farm; however, since I started getting advice on disease management, losses have declined to 20 per cent” Continue reading on The New Times website→
A small-scale farmer in Chilanga District, Moses Banda has seriously taken up vegetable production. Mr Banda commends Government for its continued support in assisting farmers in addressing crop problems and how best to control them organically.
“My vegetables always had holes due to Sefasefa (Diamond Back Moth) and all I could think of was spraying but little did I know that the chemicals were harmful not only to the soils but humans and the entire ecosystem. Through this interaction with the Plant Doctors, I have learnt insects are being resistant to chemicals and that we should consider treating these insects organically through the use of crop rotation and Neem tree, which is soaked in water and sprayed to infected plants,” he explained.
Plantwise addresses the constant struggle that small-scale farmers go through to produce food by providing affordable, locally available solutions to plant health problems.