Archive for the ‘Technology transfer’ Category


The Plantwise Blog

by Kate Dey


A woman farmer harvesting tea in Indonesia (CC0 Public Domain).


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August 17, 2017 | By Maddie Poole

Guest Commentary – The New Wave of Agricultural Extension

From the agriculturists of the Zhou dynasty who educated farmers 2,000 years ago, to Peace Corps volunteers educating farmers on soil management practices today, agricultural extension services have served as a vital tool in spreading critical knowledge to farmers—helping them produce more profitable harvests, and ultimately, escape poverty and hunger. However, many extension programs—where they exist at all—are failing to reach smallholder farmers in a way that is effective in spreading scientific research to better agricultural productivity.

Extension programs face a variety of obstacles that restrict them from having the largest possible impact. According to a study conducted in southwestern Ethiopia, many extension workers lack practical skills, and they only cater to farmers who are financially stable. Another study in Democratic Republic of Congo pointed out that extension programs “fail to deliver knowledge due to lack of coordination, no unified and clear policy mandate, lack of funding, aging and low competencies of agents, and lack of mobility and interactions of agents with key actors.” Aside from those factors, poor rural infrastructure in low-income countries has affected transport, communication, and markets on which extension programs depend.

While some farmers deal with flawed extension systems, many have no system to rely on at all, and the everyday challenges traditional extension programs face have forced governments to rely on other ways to educate farmers. This means that without quality, formal extension, farmers have to rely on either word-of-mouth or literature to supply them with crucial information. Unfortunately, a large percentage of smallholder farmers in developing countries are illiterate, making obtaining this information even harder. In India, over 32 percent of the rural population is illiterate, and that number is expected to be even higher among farmers. In Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger and Senegal literacy rates are below 50 percent.

Without literature as a viable tool to help farmers thrive, agricultural extensionists have begun to explore a new way to spread crucial information: digital animations. The concept of videos to portray information to farmers is not necessarily new; videos demonstrating agricultural concepts have been around since the invention of the video camera. For instance, in Bangladesh, videos on rice seed management, released in 2007, helped over 70 percent of women improve their rice seed drying practices. However, normal video footage cannot show microscopic activity. Digital animation is helpful here because it can illustrate agricultural issues on a microscopic level. Through this technology, farmers are able to learn about pathogens, spore production, and fungal parasites that may inhibit plant growth.

Today, there are several organizations that are producing digital animations for extension, one being Scientific Animations without Borders, or SAWBO.  SAWBO, which was founded in 2011 by Bary Pittendrigh and Julia Bello-Bravo of the University of Illinois, was created to “transform extension information on relevant topics such as agriculture, disease, and female empowerment, into 2D, 2.5D, and 3D animations.” Their videos cover a variety of topics, including row planting of teff, drip irrigation, solar treating of cow-pea seeds, and preventing post-harvest loss, just to name a few. All of their videos can be viewed on their website in their video library. SAWBO relies heavily on collaboration from a variety of global actors including universities, farmers, and everyday people to create these videos. The diversity within these collaborations ensures that the videos are palatable to a variety of audiences. Today, with over 50 animations translated in over 90 different languages, SAWBO has reached millions of farmers worldwide.

In a world where over 75 percent of the global population has a mobile phone, accessing such videos is quite simple. Animations can be downloaded and displayed on computers, tablets, televisions, cellphones, and overhead projection systems from websites such as YouTube. They are deployed all over the world from organizations and everyday people alike. SAWBO, for one, highly encourages the reproduction and distribution of their videos for educational purposes at no cost. They even offer a credit card USB drive that contains over 10GB of SAWBO videos that people can carry and share with ease.

If we want to achieve global food security, the methods by which information is spread to farmers need to be revamped. Fortunately, a world that is constantly advancing technologically makes this possible. It is evident that easily accessible and highly understandable videos have transformed the face of agricultural extension. While there is still a long road ahead to achieve global food security, digital animations hold promise in educating farmers for generations to come.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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This issue of the icipe e-bulletin includes, amongst others, an excellent article on ‘Invasive species in Africa‘ by Dr. Segenet Kelemu, Director General, icipe  and on the invasive fall armyworm, Spodoptera frujiperda, by IAPPS East Africa Regional Coordinator, Dr. Tadele Tefera.

To view the bulletin click on the url below:

Click to view: icipe e-bulletin – Volume 7, Issue No. 2, 2017 (pdf)

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University Innovations Cross Borders to Deliver Impact

August 3, 2017
Photo by Amer Fayad-  Farmers in Nepal prepare seedling trays using coconut pith and the beneficial fungus Trichoderma.

Bangladesh and Nepal are so close they could touch, if not for the small sliver of India between them. The three countries share more than proximity: Thanks to the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management, they also share technologies and research that help them grow better food and increase agricultural productivity.

For many years, agriculture has made huge advances because of research, helping farmers and food producers boost yields, produce more nutritious and safe food, and keep up with agricultural demand. Through 24 U.S. university-led Feed the Future Innovation Labs, Feed the Future supports research that combats emerging threats.

Often, this important work spans borders.

In 1998, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management began working in Bangladesh and expanded its work to India and Nepal in 2005. While the Innovation Lab no longer has projects in India, the innovations it developed there are now helping address agricultural challenges in neighboring countries.

“Crop pests and diseases don’t care about borders,” said Muni Muniappan, director of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab. “So we also share technologies across borders.”

One of the biggest successes to come out of this three-country partnership is the use of Trichoderma, a fungus that fights diseases, promotes plant growth, and is safe to handle. Researchers from the Innovation Lab previously worked with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in India, which had been producing and selling Trichoderma to farmers. Once researchers learned about its benefits, they began promoting its production and use in Bangladesh and Nepal.

Trichoderma has been a godsend in treating fungal diseases in developing countries,” Muniappan said. “It is easy and cheap to produce, very effective against pests, and in addition to helping farmers regain their livelihood, it has created a new source of income.”

In India, the commercial production of Trichoderma was so successful that Tamil Nadu Agricultural University built a new plant pathology building out of the money it made from the sale of the fungus. It is also an asset to vendors. In Nepal, entrepreneurs are making a living selling the fungus, based in part on trainings they received through the Innovation Lab. And in Bangladesh, Trichoderma is mixed with compost and applied in the field to combat soilborne diseases of vegetable crops.

Another technology developed in India and implemented successfully in Bangladesh and Nepal is the use of coconut dust to help raise seedlings. Coconut dust, previously considered a waste material, provides an ideal medium in which to grow healthy, young seedlings until they’re ready to be transplanted. Producing the seedling trays creates jobs, especially for women. They often earn valuable extra income doing this work, which they can invest in their families.

The Innovation Lab has disseminated other technological innovations and approaches throughout the three countries, like grafting vegetable shoots, using pheromone traps, and making bio-pesticides. To help rural farmers access and understand these tools and improved practices, the Innovation Lab is not only working through the usual channels of extension agents, NGOs, and development projects, but also by helping local, small-scale industries produce and market the recommended products to those that need them most.

Continuing their work to connect researchers from across the world, the Innovation Lab facilitates the transfer of vital technologies by organizing travel opportunities for Bangladeshi and Nepali farmers, scientists, and entrepreneurs to visit Indian universities and bio-pesticide companies. They also arrange for Indian scientists to visit Bangladesh and Nepal to host scientific workshops to share knowledge.

In 2016, five representatives from Bangladesh’s leading agribusiness firms traveled to India to visit nurseries, attend university lectures, and see a bio-fertilizer lab.

The connections made between India, Bangladesh and Nepal have led to increased crop production, a reduction in health and environmental damage, and an economic benefit to local farmers and agri-business entrepreneurs. They are also a valuable opportunity for developing countries to profit and learn from one another

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A plant assistant of Plant Clinic in Rohal Suong is recently recruited as an agricultural extension worker for her commune. Women can help reach more sectors in the communities. Photo: Dyna Eam (WorldFish)

Greater involvement of women in plant clinics has improved the climate resilience of the farmers in Rohal Suong village, Cambodia. Women farmers play a critical role in agricultural production and food security, as well as household welfare in most Southeast Asian countries. According to a Census of Agriculture in Cambodia in 2013, of the 82% of Cambodians engaged in the agriculture sector, at least half of them were women.

Female youth and women, however, have limited access to education, agricultural extension services and social events, as they often have low education backgrounds, and are frequently busy with household activities and other unpaid work. They are historically underrepresented in agriculture decision-making and community leadership as well.

Agricultural development projects are now seeking to increase women’s involvement. The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), aims to improve gender equality and women farmers’ decision-making in agriculture through the establishment of Climate-Smart Villages (CSVs). Rohal Suong Village in Battambang, Cambodia is one of the six CSVs in Southeast Asia.

As such, the Rohal Suong CSV has emphasized the inclusion of women farmers in its activities and strategies, such as the Plant Clinic. Operating since June 2016, it is a meeting place where plant advisors and assistants help farmers who are faced with issues of plant pests and diseases. The Clinic has been supported by WorldFish and Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International Southeast Asia (CABI-SEA). Plant advisors and assistants, who are trained through CABI’s Plantwise program, provide diagnoses, treatment advice and recommendations to farmers. Women farmers are encouraged to join the program.

Training and field practices on rice pest and diseases provided by Cambodia’s General Directorate of Agriculture and CABI’s Plantwise program.  Women farmers join the program. Photo: Dyna Eam (WorldFish)

The Plant Clinic is currently led by plant advisors from Battambang Provincial Department of Agriculture and Aphivat Strey (AS), a local NGO, and supported by plant assistants. Plant assistants who are recruited from local farmers play an important role in engaging local farmers to bring their crop issues to the clinic and also in following up with client farmers.

One woman farmer, Ms Savet, was recruited to join the Plant Clinic as a plant assistant. Through her involvement in the project, she has learned several things, such as plant disease identification, plant treatment, and community engagement. She has also had more opportunities to work closely with other community committees and to deliver services to local farmers, particularly other women. Ms Savet was not only able to help local farmers to improve their plant management technique, but has also applied the techniques and treatment methods she learned on her own farm.

I am so happy to work as a plant assistant because I have learned many things about plant disease, pest and treatment methods from the plant advisers and trainings, such as training in Phnom Penh. Now I can provide the advice on some plant diseases to my villagers,” said Ms Savet.

As a result of her experience in the project, Ms Savet has been recruited as an agricultural extension worker for her commune. Now, she is organizing groups of community members for an agricultural demonstration project run by the Battambang Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Agriculture Services Programme for Innovation Resilience and Extension (ASPIRE). ASPIRE is a program of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, and is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

I thought that I was recruited as a commune extension worker because I could answer well the questions from examination committees, actually this knowledge came from my experiences at Plant Clinic,” added Ms Savet.

She is now trying to understand the common and different needs of women and men famers in agriculture. Ms Savet is keen to learn more about agricultural technologies and extension service methods, and to transfer her knowledge to her villagers.

Engaging local farmers through the Plant Clinic and extension work is an approach that has helped to successfully build local farmers’ capacities and also help local farmers, particularly women farmers, to get better access to agricultural services. In doing so, the project has helped improve the livelihoods of farming households and increase the resilience of agriculture-dependent communities.

By Dyna Eam. Reblogged from the CGIAR CCAFS blog. Read the original here→

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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, […]

via  — The Plantwise Blog

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As part of its mass extension activities for 2016, Plantwise Ghana rolled out a four-week  prevalent in the project’s five intervention regions in Ghana. The campaign, which took place between September and October 2016, involved five radio stations noted for […]

via Plantwise Ghana Educates Farmers on Major Crop Pest and Diseases — The Plantwise Blog

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