Delivering services to places that are hard to reach

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In the midst of its highly challenging surroundings, the INIA (National Institute of Agricultural Innovation) Experimental Station of Baños del Inca in Cajamarca offers an advisory service for smallholder farmers. Since 2013, when an agreement was signed between Plantwise and INIA, plant doctors Eng. Fernando Escobal Valencia and Eng. Marieta Cervantes Peralta operate plant clinics, one in Chamis and another in Chetilla. Three years of experience have taught them a lot about the challenge of providing a service that satisfies the demand, not just of male farmers, but of the women farmers too. A field visit in and around the town of Chamis showed how the plant clinics, through complimentary activities, can improve their reach so that more farmers can take advantage, especially women farmers. Creativity and flexibility are key, and above all, the willingness of the people.

Old pest, new tricks

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The maize earworm enters along the corn silk. Once inside, it cannot be controlled and it starts to eat the ear of the corn from top to bottom.

Eusebia Ramos Castrejón plants a wide range of crops to eat at home. In a plot of about 1000 m2 she has maize intercropped with quinoa. There is a severe problem with maize earworm. This pest has its own slogan: “When the grains fill out, the worm is about.”

“The worm enters using the silk thread and eats the ear of corn”, explains doña Eusebia. Her brother opens several ears to show the worm. “Look, it enters here and starts to eat. When it is already inside, there is nothing you can do,” he explains as he points out a white worm about 3-4 mm long.

To keep the worm out, doña Eusebia is trying an INIA technique, applying cooking oil. Each ear has to be treated once just as the corn silk emerges. Since all ears do not mature at the same time, the treatment must be staggered, every week, for a total of three times from the time the corn silk starts to peek out of the ear. The treatment requires a total of 2-3 litres of oil and each application takes her about a day. With more practice she could probably do it quicker.

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Doña Eusebia is trying cooking oil to control the maize earworm

This is the first time that doña Eusebia is trying this technique. “The agronomist told me that I have to apply the oil every week, and I am going to do it, she says,” laughing as she looks at Eng. Fernando. “I am going to do it”, she repeats herself. “I am going to see the result when I harvest”.

Fernando explains that the technology with cooking oil is 100% effective if done well. “It has been tested by INIA many times. It works and it is not expensive either. The expense per hectare is 56 sols for the oil (8 litres/ha) and 300 sols for the labour.”

Eng. Marieta agrees that giving good advice is not an easy thing. It is influenced by many factors. “The farmers we serve have very small subsistence farms,” she says. “The rural environment is very complex; it is important to understand that. Their farming systems are diverse and their problems are complex.” Fernando adds that the processes of adoption are slow. “First the farmers have to see that the technology works. Then the technology has to be accessible and affordably priced”.

When Fernando suggested that Eugenia try the oil, she was a little reluctant, because she did not have the money both for the oil and for the bus fare to go and buy it. Fernando offered to act as intermediary. “She gave me the 7 sols, and I bought her a litre of oil and sent it to her on the bus”, Fernando recalls.

At the end of the season, doña Eusebia will realise if the application of cooking oil has worked. The total cost will be between 14 and 21 sols for the oil plus 2 to 3 days of work, if she applies the whole treatment. With an estimated 50-80% of her crop infested by worms and 50% loss per ear, she could save her maize from a loss of between 25 and 40%. It is a considerable amount for a family whose food security depends on what they can take from their field.

Contributed by Sol Danielsen. Photos by Marieta Cervantes Peralta, José Gómez and Sol Danielsen.

Plantwise in Peru is coordinated by INIA, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MINAGRI), and implemented through 8 of the 19 experimental stations of INIA.

Sembrando las semillas de la sostenibilidad en Achuapa, Nicaragua

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Jose Perez, Israel Cerros, Brígido Sosa, and Eddar Castillo en el puesto para plantas JFPS (de izquierda a derecha)

La Cooperativa Juan Francisco Paz Silva (JFPS), fundada en 1990, comenzó la operación de un puesto para plantas en 2009. La cooperativa estaba buscando una manera de ofrecer asistencia técnica a sus productores asociados y los puestos de plantas proporcionan una manera para hacerlo. Inicialmente, dos técnicos, Oscar Calderón y Harold Espinoza, fueron capacitados como doctores de plantas para suministrar asistencia técnica a los productores, ellos a su vez entrenaron a otros técnicos en la cooperativa, incluido el doctor de plantas Israel Cerros. El puesto para plantas, jornadas de salud y los servicios de radio se proporcionan de forma gratuita cerca más de 500 productores de las comunidades cercanas, de los cuales 280 son productores asociados directos a la cooperativa.

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Sowing seeds of sustainability in Achuapa, Nicaragua

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Jose Perez, Israel Cerros, Brígido Sosa, and Eddar Castillo at the JFPS plant clinic (from left)

The Cooperative Juan Francisco Paz Silva (JFPS), which was founded in 1990, began operating a plant clinic in 2009. The cooperative was looking for a way to provide technical support to its member farmers, and the plant clinic provided a means to do so. Initially, two technicians, Oscar Calderon and Harold Espinoza, were trained as plant doctors to provide technical support to farmers, and they in turn trained others technicians in the cooperative, including current plant doctor Israel Cerros. The plant clinic services are provided for free to about 500 farmers in nearby communities, of which 280 are member farmers of the cooperative.

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Utilizando los módulos y la metodología de Plantwise para reforzar el currículo en UCATSE

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UCATSE (Universidad Católica Agropecuaria del Trópico Seco) es una universidad privada con financiamiento del Estado, que comenzó a operar un puesto para plantas durante la iniciativa Clínica Global de Plantas (GPC) en 2005. Con el inicio del programa Plantwise en Nicaragua en 2012, UCATSE incorporó la participación de los estudiantes en el puesto para plantas mediante la adopción de la metodología de los puestos para plantas y los módulos de capacitación de Plantwise como una herramienta educativa dentro del currículo de la carrera de Ingeniería Agrícola. Desde que la metodología de Plantwise fue integrada en el plan de estudios, unos 240 estudiantes se han formado  en diagnóstico de campo, muchos de estos estudiantes siguen después a trabajar para empresas privadas, extensión o como agricultores.

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Using the Plantwise training modules and approach to strengthen the curriculum at UCATSE

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UCATSE (Universidad Católica Agropecuario del Trópico Seco) is a private university with state funding that began operating a plant clinic under the Global Plant Clinic (GPC) initiative in 2005. With the start of the Plantwise programme in Nicaragua in 2012, UCATSE incorporated student participation into the plant clinic by adopting the plant clinic approach and Plantwise training modules as a teaching tool within the curriculum of the Agricultural Engineering degree programme. Since the Plantwise training was integrated into the curriculum, about 240 students have been trained in field diagnostics (as of mid-2016), many of whom later go on to work for private companies, extension, or as farmers.

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Una clínica para plantas vinculada a la investigación y enseñanza Mairana, Bolivia

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Telémaco Orquera evalúa las nuevas variedades de tomate para ver su tolerancia local a las enfermedades emergentes

En el 2009 la Gobernación de Santa Cruz, a través del Dirección de Sanidad Agroalimentaria (DSA), invitó a Telémaco Orquera, un ingeniero agrónomo de Mairana, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, a asistir a un curso de capacitación en la ciudad de Santa Cruz. A través del curso, el primero de varios enseñados por CABI, Telémaco apreció que organizar una clínica para plantas significa armar una mesa en un lugar público, aceptar muestras de plantas de los miembros de la comunidad, y dar recomendaciones de forma verbal y escrita. A Telémaco las clínicas para plantas le llamaron la atención por su sentido de servicio a su comunidad.

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A plant clinic linked to research and teaching in Mairana, Bolivia

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Telémaco Orquera evaluates new tomato varieties for local tolerance to emerging diseases

In 2009 the Government of Santa Cruz, through the Directorate of Agricultural and Food Health (DSA), invited Telémaco Orquera, an agronomist in Mairana, Bolivia, to attend a training course in the city of Santa Cruz. The course, the first of several taught by CABI, introduced Telémaco to plant clinics, which meant setting up a table in a public place, accepting plant samples from members of the community, and giving out written and verbal advice. The plant clinics appealed to Telémaco’s sense of public service.

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