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New programme to support farmers tackle plant issues

BY: Ama Amankwah Baafi

A new programme to support farmers prevent a range of plant health issues to improve food security and protect livelihoods will be launched on Thursday, September 22, 2022.

Dubbed ‘PlantwisePlus’, it is a new Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI)-led worldwide programme that will also work in partnership with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA Ghana), Ghana Green Label Scheme and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

A media release issued in Accra said special emphasis would also be placed on improving extension services for the country’s female farmers who had limited access to extension advisory services, including plant health services due to various challenges.

This often contributes to a gender gap in agricultural productivity which if closed, could help boost agriculture production and improve the welfare of rural households.

 

Sustainable production

PlantwisePlus builds upon CABI’s Plantwise and Action on Invasives programmes and will particularly empower farmers to increase income, food security and food safety amid a changing climate, which can exacerbate crop losses.

“For example, it will draw upon a range of existing CABI open access products and projects. These include the CABI BioProtection Portal – a free tool to enhance awareness and uptake of biocontrol and biopesticide products by growers and advisors – and the newly launched CABI Digital Library and fact sheet app,” the release said.

PlantwisePlus also seeks to accelerate the availability of nature-positive and low-risk plant protection products to reduce reliance on high-risk farm inputs.

The new programme will further create and transform employment to support economic development and contribute to consumer demand for safer, higher quality and locally produced food to drive the uptake of safer production practices.

The Executive Director, Global Operations and PlantwisePlus Programme Executive, Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, said, “The programme in Ghana will deliver processes and tools that will strengthen detection and response to pest outbreaks such as the devastating fall armyworm.

“It will also provide digital advisory tools to boost sustainable agriculture and improve the capacity of public and private actors offering support to smallholder farmers to diagnose crop health problems – and recommend sustainable management practices.”

Ghana is one of six PlantwisePlus countries that will effectively serve to ‘prove-the-concept’ for the programme in its delivery of digital innovations. These will bring efficiency in plant health management and have strong potential for broad application. The other countries are Kenya, Pakistan, Zambia, Bangladesh and Uganda.


Interventions

PlantwisePlus has already been working with the Women in Agriculture Development Directorate (WIAD) and the Agricultural Extension Services Directorate, both under MoFA, to see how extension services for women can be improved.

The programme conducted an assessment – using the Gender and Rural Advisory Services Assessment Tool (GRAST) developed by the FAO – to measure how gender-sensitive the delivery of extension services was in the country.

This led to a series of recommendations that include recruiting more women lead farmers as extension contact farmers, supporting women farmers by covering transportation costs and offering on-site childcare facilities and encouraging women’s groups to diversify and engage in the production of new crops.

Other works, as part of the Plantwise programme in Ghana – and working with the PPRSD –, included the Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE) which used state-of-Information Centres (CICs) with a view to increasing their yields of maize.

According to the Regional Representative of CABI for West Africa, Dr Victor Attuquaye Clottey, “Our extensive work in Ghana has already shown the benefits of the Plantwise programme to helping the country’s smallholder farmers maximise their yields.

“Working in partnership once again, the new PlantwisePlus programme will go one step further in harnessing the very latest technology.

“This will help ensure that farmers have all the information at their fingertips so they can more readily mitigate a fuller range of potentially devastating crop pests and diseases.”

For the first three years of the programme, PlantwisePlus will test new interventions, including enhanced digital advisory tools to boost climate resilient agriculture and greater availability of more sustainable biological plant protection products.

This will be achieved by equipping agricultural advisory service providers with decision-making tools to provide advice to farmers in a way that ensures that both men and women farmers are able to equitably access and benefit from such services.

Dr Clottey added that “the intention is for PlantwisePlus to deliver advisory services which are mindful of the sensitivities of gender differences”.

“Indeed, Ghana’s smallholder farmers cannot effectively contribute to the country’s agricultural economy and feed its residents – as well as export its goods to profitable worldwide markets – unless both men and women are part of the process.

“We have already held training workshops to build the capacity of the regional agricultural officers to deliver advisory services which are mindful of the sensitivities of women farmers who have traditionally experienced barriers to advise services,” he added.