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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is generally accepted that early morning is the best time to learn and retain new information. As the saying goes: “the early bird gets the worm.” This long-held belief is being applied in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka, where plant clinics are now conducted at the crack of dawn. The plant clinics are a platform for adult learning, where farmers are taught to follow Integrated Crop Management (ICM) principles to address crop health issues.