Driving from Kathmandu to Panchkhal, there are occasional reminders of the traumatic 2015 earthquake. Collapsed buildings which have not yet been rebuilt and major road damage, made worse by each successive monsoon season. Farmers on terraced fields are getting ready for the upcoming paddy season. I am going to meet Debraj Adhikari, an old friend and the plant doctor responsible for plant clinics in Kavrepalanchok district.
I meet Man Bahadur Chhetri and his assistant on a bright Sunday morning as they are setting up the e-plant clinic in Gorkana, on the outskirts of Kathmandu. On the drive over, I saw plenty of maize being grown on smallholder plots and, here and there, tomatoes in polytunnels. Around the corner from the clinic, a woman is sorting potatoes on the floor of a dark storage room on the ground floor of her house. Nepal’s economy is predominantly agricultural and even a mere 10km from the centre of Kathmandu, I can tell it is a major part of people’s lives.
The spread of pests and pathogens that damage plant life could cost global agriculture $540 billion a year, according to a report published on Thursday.
The report, released by the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) at Kew in London, said that an increase in international trade and travel had left flora facing rising threats from invasive pests and pathogens, and called for greater biosecurity measures.
Looking for something to read over the weekend? The latest Plantwise newsletter has just been published, featuring stories about the programme from around the world.
The big headline for this edition is that our work has recently been recognised with two major awards: the $100,000 St Andrews Prize for the Environment and the Bond International Development Award for Innovation.
You’ll also be able to read about how Plantwise is supporting the fight against fall armyworm in Africa; how we are expanding our successful network of e-plant clinics; and how radio is helping Plantwise reach out to more farmers.
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.
Home gardening enthusiasts and farmers from as far as Rio Claro seized the opportunity to have their plant sicknesses diagnosed at a plant clinic hosted by Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MoALF) at its Farmers’ Training Centre in Centeno. After a in-depth one-on-one discussion with Ministry representatives from the Extension, Training and Information Services Division (ETIS), participants were each given a prescription sheet which captured a host of valuable information, including a description of the plant problem and the recommended control measures.
The Plantwise Annual Report is an update on the programme, listing key highlights along with details on progress, lessons learned and next steps for each of the three programme components: Plant Health Systems Development, the Knowledge Bank and Monitoring & Evaluation.
Highlights include (cumulative numbers):
- 9.8 million farmers have been reached directly and indirectly through plant clinics, plant health rallies, and mass extension campaigns;
- 6,787 agricultural extension staff have been trained as plant doctors, with local trainers responsible for over half of the training workshops;
- 2,292 plant clinics have been established, 432 of which are equipped with tablet computers.