CABI’s global Plantwise programme has a major impact helping farmers in Kenya grow more and lose less to crop pests and diseases, according to a new impact report published last week.
Plantwise was launched in Kenya in 2010 to increase food security and transform rural livelihoods by reducing crops losses. It works by establishing networks of local plant clinics, where farmers get actionable and science-based agricultural advice from plant doctors.
Research undertaken by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and shows that:
Plantwise contributes to improvements on yields, crop-based household incomes and reductions in pesticide usage for farmers living in plant clinic catchment areas .Plantwise is improving institutional coordination in national plant health systems, improving the likelihood of detecting and responding to pest outbreaks such as the fall armyworm Plantwise is improving knowledge of extension agents and management of data, providing detailed insights into where response interventions should be targeted.
The research also highlights that the monetary benefits of the Plantwise programme in Kenya are estimated to be over GBP1.5m in 2017– giving a benefit to cost ratio of 2.9:1 and an internal rate of return of 54 per cent. This demonstrates that the benefits delivered far outweigh the donor-funded costs of running the programme.
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Plant clinic launch in Mbeere, Meru County. Photo: courtesy
The study, carried out between 2014 and 2018, included farmer surveys, a knowledge assessment of plant doctors, and interviews with focus group discussions at national and local levels.
It was also revealed that farmers in plant clinic catchment areas are more likely to practice crop rotation, check for plant health problems on a regular basis, remove weeds, and remove infested or damaged material. These farmers are also less likely to use pesticides and more likely to avoid chemical drift if they do use pesticides.
Farmers in plant clinic catchment areas are also more likely to use protective gear – such as gumboots, caps or overcoats – and are more likely to wash themselves and the equipment used after pesticide applications.
Dr Washington Otieno, Plantwise Programme Executive, said, “This latest independent research confirms that the Plantwise framework is an impactful and cost-effective approach to improving a national plant health system. Not only does it make smallholder farmers more food secure with safer practices but is also results in improved crop-based household incomes.
“We couldn’t operate the plant clinic network without working in partnership with local agencies so it is also fitting that the study also shows that the manner in which farmers interact with the Ministry of Agriculture at the local level has improved. This improved interaction with farmers through plant clinics is seen as being helpful in addressing farmers’ plant health needs and improving their knowledge of pests such as the fall armyworm.”
Philip Makheti, Director of Crop Resources, Agribusines and Market Development at the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, said, “The significant role the programme has played in filling the gap in the provision of advisory and extension services cannot be underestimated. The use of plant clinics is an innovation that has made the extension staff relevant to farmers in the counties where delivery of extension services has been on the decline.
“The overall impact is that crop losses due to pests and diseases have significantly reduced with the introduction of plant clinics by Plantwise.”