A recent study led by CABI and published in International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, explores how communication and its technical content shape farmers’ response to advice delivered at plant clinics. How willing were farmers to accept or reject the technologies recommended at plant clinic consultations? And what were the reasons? The research was carried out in Malawi, Costa Rica and Nepal, with the team visiting one plant clinic in each country.
Al Jazeera correspondent Gelareh Darabi recently travelled to Nepal for the broadcaster’s Earthrise programme, to see how plant clinics in Pokhara are helping farmers deal with crop pests such as tuta absoluta.
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.
E-plant clinic training commenced in Pokhara, Nepal, today, after a successful launch in Kathmandu earlier this week. ICT intervention for the country is funded by the Centre for Applied Crop Science (CACS), UK Government and training was inaugurated in Kathmandu by Dr. Suroj Pokharel, Secretary, Ministry of Agricultural Development and chaired by Sh. Dila Ram Bhandari, Director General, Department of Agriculture.
In developing countries, rural women play a significant role in agriculture, accounting for 60-80% of food production and selling food products at markets . In Nepal, it’s been reported that up to 98% of women are employed in the agricultural sector, a percentage which is higher than that for men (91%) [1b]. Contribution by women is therefore critical in agriculture to achieve global food security. However, they generally don’t have the same access to land, water, seeds, training and credit than men.  As a consequence, in Nepal, women involvement is greater in minor and subsistence food production for crops such as millet, maize, and soybean while men are more involved in cash crops and commercial production of crops such as rice. Moreover, whilst men generally perform heavy physical labour women are involved in tedious and time-consuming work such as weeding, harvesting, threshing and milling.
Climate change has emerged as one of the most important environmental, social and economic issues today – especially for South Asia, which is highly impacted by these changes. In light of this, an international conference on Biodiversity, Climate Change Assessment and Impacts on Livelihood (ICBCL) was convened in Kathmandu from 10-12 January 2017. The conference was opened by Bidhya Devi Bhandari, the President of Nepal, and saw participation from eminent scientists, policy makers and development workers across the agriculture sector in South Asia.
After a successful pilot phase in Nepal, with plant clinics in 45 districts reaching more than 5000 farmers, Plantwise is now looking to scale up and become sustainable by getting partners to commit resources to the programme. To maximise synergies with existing agricultural extension methods, partners have suggested linking plant clinics with farmer field schools, which are already established in Nepal.
In Nepal, farmer field schools are run by the Ministry of Agriculture and Development (MoAD) and the Plant Protection Directorate (PPD), with technical support from FAO and funding from the World Bank. About 250 farmer field schools were established but fewer than 100 are currently active. Five farmer field schools (one in each of the five administrative regions of Nepal) act as Key Resource Centres for all of the districts in their region, providing biocontrol agents, monitoring and technical support.