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Archive for the ‘Technology transfer’ Category

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

AfricaRice launches free mobile app for rice weed control in Africa

The Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) has launched a powerful new decision-support tool, called ‘RiceAdvice-WeedManager,’ to help African rice farmers find the most effective and cost-efficient weed management strategies, matching their specific farming conditions and available resources.

Potentially all rice farmers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) can benefit from this interactive tool as it can be used across rice-growing environments, from rainfed uplands to fully irrigated lowlands, leading to significant improvements in efficiency, productivity and incomes.

RiceAdvice-WeedManager

Weeds are serious constraints to rice production in SSA across all rice environments. AfricaRice surveys indicate that farmers perceive weed infestation as the predominant biotic constraint to rice production in SSA. Annual weed-inflicted yield losses in rice are conservatively estimated at 2.2 million tons per year in SSA, resulting in at least US$ 1.5 billon losses per year.

It is estimated that improved weed control, when combined with good soil fertility management, can raise rice yields by 1 ton per ha. Improved weed management is therefore vital to prevent losses in rice yield and production costs. For this, rice farmers in SSA need timely and reliable advice to make better decisions on the most appropriate weed control options. But at present they have limited access to such information.

The WeedManager app has been developed in close association with Co-Capacity, The Netherlands, with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Rice Agri-food Systems (RICE). It is strongly based on research findings of AfricaRice and its partners, who have long been involved in developing efficient weed management strategies that are affordable and feasible for resource-poor rice farmers in SSA.

The app is now being field-tested with farmers in Nigeria and Tanzania with the help of the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI), commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). “We are planning to organize training in the use of WeedManager app, which is an exciting tool for weed management,” said Dr Kazuki Saito, AfricaRice Agronomist.

The app provides a range of adapted recommendations for weed management – before, during and after the main rice-cropping season – based on information entered for each participating farmer relating to his/her field conditions, available resources (financial, human and natural resources and equipment) and prevailing weed problems. Each farmer decides which of the recommendations to adopt and can then be further advised and monitored by service providers.

“The WeedManager app stimulates adoption of targeted and integrated weed management practices by smallholder rice farmers in SSA, helping to reduce their reliance on manual weeding. This contributes to sustainable productivity enhancement leading to food security and income generation,” explains Dr Jonne Rodenburg, former AfricaRice agronomist, who has spearheaded the development of the WeedManager app. Dr Rodenburg is currently Senior Lecturer/Researcher Agroecology at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich, United Kingdom.

The WeedManager app can be used by farmers, extension workers, private companies involved in rice agri-business, development agencies and other stakeholders in Africa, who are interested in getting expert advice on weed management for rice production. It can also open opportunities for young professionals to serve as service providers by delivering personalized recommendations generated by the app to smallholder rice farmers and by assisting farmers during the implementation of the recommendations.

The WeedManager app can be freely downloaded from the Google Play Store on any Android device (smartphone or tablet). It is available in English and French, and other language versions are planned. The WeedManager app uses the same login data as the RiceAdvice app earlier launched by AfricaRice.

Related links :

Posted by AfricaRice AfricaRice at 6:35 AM

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Investing in smallholder farmers for a food-secure future

Mr. Kampinga

Smallholder farmers provide the vast majority of the world’s food supply, and ‘small-scale farming’ is the largest occupation group of economically active people, 43% of which are women.

Approximately 2 billion of the world’s poorest live in households that depend on agriculture in some form for their livelihoods, whether this is for market or subsistence. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that growth in agriculture in developing countries is on average almost 3 times more effective in reducing poverty (relative to non-agriculture GDP growth).

DSC_0057In light of SDG 2, to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, this is an important statement. According to the FAO, “meeting the goals of eradicating hunger and poverty by 2030, while addressing the threat of climate change, will require a profound transformation of food and agriculture systems worldwide.” It is fundamental to invest and support small-scale sustainable agriculture

Plantwise helps smallholder farmers to invest in themselves by providing them with the key knowledge and skills they need to lose less and feed more. Plant clinics are a proven way of increasing farmer yields and empowering communities from within. Ensuring farmers are well-equipped against the threat of pests and diseases to their crop improves food security.

Farmers who use our plant clinics are more productive. In 2017, maize farmers in Rwanda who used plant clinics saw an increase across yield (29%), net income (29%), and productivity (13%). Whilst costs also went up by 14%, a general increase across the board shows the positive impact of plant clinic use.

The same was also found for tomato farmers in Malawi whose yield went up by 17%, net income by 17%, and productivity by 6%, again alongside an increase in total costs by 12%. These farmers made use of their local plant clinic and compared to those that didn’t, were able to put their skills and knowledge into positive change for themselves.

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With Africa’s population set to double by 2050, new jobs will be needed for the more than 600 million working adults who will then be entering the labour market. Growth in agriculture is key for job creation for unskilled labour as well as for employment generation in agricultural equipment, inputs, processing, and retail. If we invest in agricultural development then that should feed a projected 9.7 billion people by 2050.

With the dangers of climate change potentially cutting crop yields, particularly in the world’s most food-insecure regions, continuing to share knowledge to those that need it most is vital.

Learn more about Plantwise impact →

 

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Plant Doctors in Vietnam go digital

Group photo

Plant clinics in Vietnam have received a major boost with the introduction of digital devices to facilitate the work of plant doctors. The use of tablets and smartphones has been proven to help plant doctors improve the quantity and quality of data generated from plant clinic operations. With improved ICTs, the captured data from plant clinics can be added swiftly to the Plantwise Online Management Systems (POMS) and managed from one device. Prior to this, plant clinic operations were dependent on a paper-based system of recording pest and disease data provided by farmers during clinics.

Earlier this month, an E-plant Clinic Pilot Workshop commenced at the Vietnam Academy of Agriculture and Sciences (VAAS), Hanoi. ICT intervention for the country is funded by the Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) and training was inaugurated in Hanoi by Dr Dao The Anh, Vice President of VAAS.

A total of 22 experienced plant doctors and 3 data managers from 4 provinces, had been nominated to launch this new approach. Plantwise distributed 15 tablets to plant doctors in 12 operational regions. These devices were pre-loaded with Plantwise apps to help plant doctors gain quick and easy access to reference materials, such as Pest Management and Decision Guides (PMDGs), fact sheets, and educational games, among other online and offline resources.

The training was facilitated by Ms. Claire Curry and Dr. Manju Thakur, from CABI’s Plantwise Knowledge Bank team. The National Coordinator for Plantwise Vietnam, Dr Tran Danh Suu, said he will be able to monitor the flow of plant clinic data and plant clinic activities using this new ICT. All the plant doctors in training were keen and excited to work on this new approach to the extension system in Vietnam.

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How does communication and its technical content shape farmer responses to plant clinic advice?

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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.

PlantClinicMalawi
In Malawi, Violet (right) spends a long time listening, and explaining her recommendation to the farmer, Joseph.

Advice given in plant clinics in all three sites was found to be generally clear and open with plant doctors speaking in the local language in a respectful and accessible manner. This was followed up with a written ‘prescription’ which outlined a number of options for a single problem (consistent with IPM principles). This allowed farmers to choose their preferred recommendation, even if it was intended as more of a to-do list rather than a “menu” of choices. The written prescription ensures that the communication is lasting after farmers leave the clinic; not only does it enable farmers to remember the advice but they can also take the prescription to suppliers when buying pesticides. Clinics, therefore were found to have engaged in sound didactic teaching (where the required theoretical knowledge is provided); once the farmers had received their prescription, they were able to subject those recommendations to further environmental learning (e.g. experimenting with new techniques) back home.

NepalCoupon
A handwritten recommendation in Nepal which can be taken to suppliers.

 

 

 

As  extensionists became plant doctors, they had to quickly adapt to diagnosing plant health problems on dozens of crop species and provide sound advice on multiple pests and diseases. This is a huge challenge. Earlier studies indicate that plant clinics did not consistently give accurate diagnoses or recommendations. In this study, there were relatively few misdiagnoses or gross errors of communication. In addition, the plant doctors were able to contact experts to help improve their diagnoses via digital platforms such as WhatsApp or Facebook groups.

Farmer responses to the clinic advice proved too complex to be labelled dichotomous (accept/reject). Their decisions are more nuanced, based generally on the fit of the technology and how well the innovation was communicated.  The research did discover problems with the communications and recommended ways in which it could be improved, for example:

  • The Plantwise prescription forms include a number of tick boxes which facilitate data input after the consultation. However this is not of much use to the farmers and leaves only a small section for the recommendation. Not all plant doctors remember to write down the diagnosis. The forms could be improved, making them easier to read and printing them in the local language rather than in English.
  • Problems with terminology were identified, such as using units of measure (e.g. grams or millilitres) that farmers find difficult to replicate at home without the right equipment. In addition, it was difficult for them to extrapolate further information from this, such as how much they should dilute the chemicals. Measurements must always be communicated in volumes that rural people understand such as a ‘spoonful’ rather than 15ml.
FarmerCostaRica1
In Costa Rica, Don Gerardo grows ginger
plants under his blackberries to control pests

Farmers learn from other people such as plant doctors or fellow farmers, but in addition, they are also actively experimenting with the advice they receive. Experimenting and learning from others are complementary and is part of the process of developing novel techniques that work for each farmer. What is fundamental for farmers is harvesting a healthy and profitable crop. This means that while the research can ascertain whether technologies were adapted (or not) and why, it doesn’t necessarily define whether the crop problems were actually solved. More research is required to understand not only which options farmers accept from plant clinics but also the extent to which these solved farmers’ problems. As the the research surmises, ‘odds are that farmers temper outsiders’ advice for technical reasons, not because of mis-communication.’

Read Farmer responses to technical advice offered at plant clinics in Malawi, Costa Rica and Nepal in full with open access →

Read the country reports in full, including individual testimonies and photos:

 

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Autor: Eduardo Augusto Neves Reconocimiento a: Marieta Cervantes y Fernando Escobal, INIA Baños del Inca Ing. Marieta Eliana Cervantes Peralta, doctora de plantas de la estación experimental de INIA ‘Baños del Inca’ en Cajamarca, Perú, conoce bien la realidad de las mujeres rurales. Hija de campesinos, vivió su niñez y adolescencia en una comunidad rural […]

via Empoderamiento de la mujer a través de las clínicas de planta del Perú — The Plantwise Blog

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The Plantwise Blog

 

New coalition puts knowledge and skills into the hands of those who need it

ipm-blogbanner-rice

CABI has joined forces with the ISEAL Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Coalition in the fight to implement better, less chemical-dependent, ways for farmers to manage agricultural pests and diseases that account for around 40% of lost crops worldwide. By linking with the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, the coalition aims to share knowledge on sustainable pest management strategies, strengthen knowledge exchanges on alternative methods for pest management, as well as identifying and focusing on specific pest-disease.

Cambria Finegold, Global Director, Knowledge Management, at CABI, said, “One of the ways in which CABI works to help the 500 million smallholder farmers around the world grow more and lose less is to present them with the latest knowledge and advise on how to tackle devastating pest and diseases. “Our partnership with the ISEAL IPM Coalition is a major step forward in disseminating the very best in information and expertise into the hands of those who need it to grow healthy and sustainable crops but also protect their livelihoods.”

Other areas of cooperation as part of the new agreement includes exploring the possibilities to train Plantwise plant doctors  on sustainability standards and promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences on integrated pest management. The partnership will also explore the possibilities to implement pest-specific integrated pest management events and workshops as well as sharing examples of good practice and alternatives to pesticides.

For the IPM coalition, the technical and field experience of nine standard systems covering many countries and diverse production systems combined with Plantwise’s rich information about alternative pest control methods provide a great opportunity for technicians of farms, fields and forests to responsibly offer the best available information for least toxic chemical or non-chemical pest control methods. The dissemination of this upgraded information package to thousands of stakeholders of the IPM coalition members will not only lead to transparent information about sustainable pest management, but most importantly contribute to a more informed selection of pest control alternatives with the least environmental and human impacts.

The IPM Integrated Pest Management Coalition is composed by ISEAL Alliance members: Better Cotton InitiativeBonsucroFairtrade InternationalForest Stewardship CouncilGlobal Coffee PlatformRoundtable on Sustainable BiomaterialsGolf Environment OrganizationSustainable Agriculture Network and Rainforest Alliance. The overall long term goal of the coalition is to reduce or eliminate the use of Highly Hazardous Pesticides and to achieve a significant reduction of pesticide risks to health and the environment with effective standard and certification system’s tools.

For more information on the coalition, visit http://www.ipm-coalition.org

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by Sathis Sri Thanarajoo. Reblogged from CCAFS: CGIAR News blog. The Pest Smart program aims to enable farmers, particularly women and marginalized groups, to become resilient against potential pests and diseases outbreaks due to climate change. The Pest Smart program promotes the adoption of climate-smart practices that manage pests and diseases, and empowers women to be actively […]

via Women farmers in Ekxang Village equipped with pest-smart practices against pest and disease outbreaks — The Plantwise Blog

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