Kenya Among African Countries Enlisted For ‘PlantwisePlus’ Initiative

Kenya is among 17 member countries in Africa that have been working with Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), an international intergovernmental development and information organization that seeks to support use of nature-based solutions to cushion farmers against crop losses. The global Programme dubbed, Plantwise has for the last 10 years been promoting the demand for safer food and working to increase supply and demand for safe food in local markets. Speaking during a high-level stakeholder meeting at the Trademark hotel to help create greater awareness of the PlantwisePlus initiative, its goals, and its potential impact in Kenya, Dr. Dennis Rangi, Director General International Development CABI said in Kenya they are working with small scale farmers in 30 counties. 'We started with what was initially called Global Plant clinics before evolving to Plant Wise and now the Plantwise Plus Programme. We have been putting know how in the hands of the farmers, given the fact that extens ion was growing weak in a number of countries,' he said. Looking at how best they could support extension services, Dr. Rangi explained that they came up with a Programme of training 'Plant Doctors,' who were given the tools and the know-how to be able to identify plant and pest problems and see what solutions they could use to address the challenges. 'We connected them to labs working with agencies such as the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to really see how those pest problems could be identified and therefore solutions provided. We also then started using digital tools to provide information to farmers at a time when the mobile phone was really becoming an everyday tool in most of the farmers' lives,' Dr. Rangi said. In Kenya, Dr. Rangi stated the PlantwisePlus programme is already working hard in partnership to help smallholder farmers increase their yields and livelihoods through many projects. For example, PlantwisePlus is supporting smallholder farmers in Taita Taveta Co unty with training on better banana agronomy, which can help them increase their livelihoods, crop yields and food security. The Programme is further focusing on youth as well as recognizing gender with a view to enhancing the fight against plants threats. In the last 10 years, Dr. Rangi said that the programme was able to reach over 60 million farmers worldwide in 34 countries the phase that has ended this year, but in the scale up that will run for the next 7 years until 2030, the target is to reach over 75 million farmers. Collectively you can see that we will be reaching 130 million farmers and this has been a very elaborate and very supportive program that has really enabled farmers to take and build their own initiatives and come up with control mechanisms and how to manage the issues that they face on a day-to-day basis, he added. By the end of it all, Dr. Rangi said that they want the activity to embed more in the work that the national programmes are being undertaken in their own individual count ries. Dr. Lusike Wasilwa, Director Crop Systems at KALRO said that when one looks at data being collected, it informs on early warning systems. She noted that pests such as the Fall army worm that entered the country through the borders was detected through the plant doctors, thus they are very key in addressing farmers' problems with pests. 'When you look at Plantwise and the plant doctors, they really fit in as an early warning system. They also ensure that we are able to cover the whole country as part of extension. Initially we had only 10 counties, but now the number has gone up to 35 counties. With KALRO Partnering with CABI, Dr. Lusike said Plant Doctors have a clinic, they have a table to collect data that they relay to a platform and from there people can be able to access the information and want to reach all farmers across the country. The doctors, she explained are now not just extension, she said adding that together with CABI they have been able to work and train researchers and first 12 re searchers trained are now ToTs, who will in turn train KALRO researcher in their 37 centres in the country 'We want people to be aware that we have crop health extension, that we have clinics where you take your personal diseases and the doctors there are able to diagnose and give you a safe protocol on how to manage those personal diseases,' Dr. Lusike said. The Director noted that Plantwise is not only addressing food security, but also food safety because the doctors are asked to give the safest way that is also environmentally safe and using the integrated pest and disease management options to manage that pest and disease. Dr. Lusike noted that by looking at Plant-wise and the information being collected, it is not just pests and diseases, but issues of nutrition, soil nutrition are coming up and urged for not only more funds to support, but also for Counties to take up and train plant doctors. 'Uasin Gishu County has done very well and trained several plant doctors. We also have a lot of donor commu nity now coming in, the GIZ, FAO, that are also training plant doctors and these are some of the avenues being used in terms of reducing losses to crop health,' Dr. Lusike said Meanwhile, the Director said Kenya has done very well on tackling plant health and there is now need for it to go and assist in training other countries to reach where it is since issues such as insects have no borders. 'If we are able to make sure that our partners and neighbours, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania are up to where we are, then the issues of these pests and diseases moving can be addressed,' he said. Dr. Lusike further asked that churches be involved to reach even more people, adding that because many plant doctors, extension workers and even researchers from the university have retired, they should be able to come in and work with to provide the backstopping of the plant doctors on the ground. Source: Kenya News Agency

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