Setting up plant clinics for farmers and their crops
"Plantwise is leading in demonstrating what we ought to do as an institution, and this initiative enhances our outreach efforts"Senior official at Makerere University in Uganda
The crops of poor farmers face numerous risks and health problems, and lack of knowledge on the farmers parts results in losses of 30-40 per cent of key crops. To obtain knowledge, farmers need access to efficient advisory services covering all aspects of good agricultural practices.
The Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) has established and supported sustainable networks of plant clinics, run by trained plant doctors, where farmers can find practical plant health advice. Plant clinics work similarly to clinics for human health: farmers visit with samples of their crops, and plant doctors diagnose the problem and make science-based recommendations on ways to manage it.
Plant clinics are reinforced by the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, a gateway to practical online and offline plant health information, including diagnostic resources, best-practice pest management advice and plant clinic data analysis for targeted crop protection.
Together, these two unique resources are part of the Plantwise approach to strengthen national plant health systems from within.
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The plant clinics can offer
- a reference point for improving crops through plant health advice
- a comprehensive information base with diagnostics and best practices for crop protection
Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique
IFAD, Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI)
2013 - 2016
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Plantwise is a global programme supporting a sustainable network of plant clinics, where farmers can bring samples of their crops to trained plant doctors for diagnosis and science-based recommendations. Plant clinics are enhanced by the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, a gateway to practical information about plant health, including diagnostic resources, best-practice pest-management advice and data analysis from other clinics for targeted crop protection.
Resource-poor smallholder farmers manage mixed enterprises with a range of subsistence and commercial crops. However, crop production is threatened by many plant health problems, including pests (insects, vertebrates, diseases and weeds) and abiotic stresses such as poor soil health and water management. It is estimated that pests alone destroy 30-40 per cent of smallholder farmers’ produce, and even higher losses regularly occur in key crops. Smallholders need access to capital and inputs to avoid and control these losses, but without knowledge, they are unable to make use of these resources effectively. To obtain knowledge, farmers need access to efficient advisory services covering all aspects of good agricultural practices, including seed varieties, soil management, crop rotation and integrated pest management.
The Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) began the Plantwise initiative as an effort to address these issues by creating a network of plant clinics that can diagnose a broad range of crop-production problems and advise farmers about potential solutions. Partially funded by IFAD, the clinics are set up in the same fashion as normal medical clinics. Their goal is to offer farmers solutions that are practical, economical, feasible and environmentally safe given the local context and availability of inputs.
Located in village markets and other places accessible by smallholder farmers, the clinics are run by qualified plant doctors trained using Plantwise methods and materials to diagnose plant health problems and give appropriate and locally relevant advice. Plant doctors are trained to interview farmers and gather relevant details of the on-farm context (such as the proportion and severity of the crop affected, the history of the problem, the importance of the crop enterprise and the general status of crop production and soil) to ensure that diagnoses are not compromised by assessing samples outside of their agro-ecological context. Information gathered at plant clinics is fed back to provincial, regional or national authorities to help with early planning about area-specific input supply systems and to cope with any emerging outbreaks of pests.
The Plantwise initiative trained 10 master trainers in both Rwanda and Uganda, who then trained 191 plant doctors in Rwanda and a further 301 in Uganda. By the end of 2016 there were 65 clinics in Rwanda and 191 in Uganda. Delays in implementation in Mozambique saw only 12 doctors trained and nine clinics become operational. The clinics identified a number of problems in each country, providing mitigation efforts according to each district's needs.
Lessons Learned/Potential for replication
In all three countries, there appears to be an appetite to expand the Plantwise model through further training of both master trainers and clinic doctors, in order to mobilise a greater number of clinics around the country.
The biggest replicable lesson came out of Uganda, where the model was changed to mobile clinics that each rotated weekly among four areas and were thus able to reach a higher number of farmers. The model was so successful that a similar approach will be taken for veterinarians offering advice for the livestock sector.
Various academic institutions have expressed interest in providing Plantwise training in other parts of Uganda. These institutions, which are spread across the country, would enable the initiative to reach more farmers and drive down costs of training. Providing master trainers in more institutions would thus allow for more trained doctors in the clinics as well.
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Last update: 23/01/2019