Digital innovation: integrating PlantwisePlus digital tools in Bangladesh

18 December 2023, Bangladesh: PlantwisePlus is developing and updating various digital tools for decision support and learning. In Bangladesh, these digital decision-support tools enable farmer advisors to serve farmers more effectively.

Around two-thirds of Bangladesh’s population is engaged in agricultural activities, of which 80% rely on farming as their primary source of income. However, crop pests and diseases significantly impact smallholder yields, threatening livelihoods.

In addition, Bangladeshi farmers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with unpredictable rainfall, extreme temperatures, and drought intensifying crop threats. When faced with unforeseen plant health problems, farmers need access to up-to-date knowledge and resources to implement effective and sustainable solutions.

PlantwisePlus digital tools in Bangladesh

Through PlantwisePlus, CABI delivers digital advisory tools that improve the capacity of those supporting smallholder farmers to manage plant health problems. In Bangladesh, the programme is increasing access to these intuitive decision-support tools and information so that farmers can make more informed decisions in their crop management.

In late August, a four-day workshop took place in the bustling city of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Department of Plant Pathology, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Dhaka, Bangladesh, organized this four-day training workshop. The event was also facilitated by Prof. Abu Noman Faruq Ahmmed, Chairman, Dept. of Plant Pathology, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University and Professor Dr. Mohammad Shaef Ullah, Dept. of Entomology, Bangladesh Agricultural University.  

The event allowed the CABI-PlantwisePlus team including Dr Saleh Ahmed (CABI Associate, Bangladesh), Dr Manju Thakur (Knowledge Bank Regional Coordinator, Asia), Dr Malvika Chaudhary (Plantwise Regional Coordinator, Asia), to introduce the programme’s capacity-building digital tools to agriculture experts and enthusiasts. Attendees included representatives from university agriculture faculties, students, extension officers, and personnel from the Agricultural Information Service (AIS) and Department of Agricultural Extension’s (DAE) Mango trade facilitation project.

CABI Academy

The workshop focused on the CABI Academy online learning platform and PlantwisePlus digital tools. Stakeholders discussed how public universities can integrate digital learning and capacity-building tools into the current Entomology and Plant pathology departments’ curriculums. 

In addition, attendees looked at how the plant clinic approach could benefit the eKrishi programme. The eKrishi programme is a unified network for farmers, agri-input industries, agri students, and professional and agri experts, providing information and solutions that enable farmers to achieve better yields and higher profits. The CABI Academy online courses, which are open access in Bangladesh, would be a valuable source of training and knowledge, helping to build plant health skills.

Over the four days, the CABI team demo-ed the CABI digital tools. Participants delved into the CABI Academy’s Crop Diagnosis, Crop Pest Management, and Introduction to Bioprotection Products courses, navigating through modules and assessments on the learning platform. What is more, several participants successfully earned Crop Pest Diagnosis Foundation certificates, showcasing their enthusiasm for digital learning and the CABI Academy’s accessibility.

PlantwisePlus Knowledge Bank

Attendees also learned about the PlantwisePlus Knowledge Bank during a hands-on demo where they had to use the platform to find solutions to different agricultural challenges. The PlantwisePlus Knowledge Bank contains over 15,000 crop and pest management factsheets, guides, videos, a pest diagnostic tool, and country resources, including pesticide lists and diagnostic support.

Bioprotection products

Another tool helping to tackle threats to plant health is the CABI BioProtection Portal. This ground-breaking online bioprotection resource helps growers, farmers and pest management advisors identify, source, and correctly apply biocontrol and biopesticide products for their crop-pest problems. During the workshop, participants explored how to use the portal. The portal is particularly beneficial for growers looking to replace chemical pesticides with biological products to meet market or export standards, satisfy consumer demands for healthier and safer food, and reduce environmental pressure.

Digital tools in Bangladesh – future prospects

The workshop’s final day saw participants learning about e-plant clinics and data management, including an overview of the Data Collection App. In the afternoon, interactive sessions led to the creation of impactful presentations on incorporating the tools into work activities. These included strategies for promoting the CABI Academy to students and extension workers, integrating CABI Academy courses into teaching methods and utilizing PWKB for extension materials.

Throughout the workshop, the CABI team gathered participant feedback. As a result, the PlantwisePlus team will use both positive and negative responses to improve the usability of the different platforms.

PlantwisePlus envisions digital tools enhancing agricultural education and extension services in Bangladesh. They have the potential to sit alongside traditional teaching methods, empowering agricultural practitioners with knowledge. With the proper knowledge, pests can be identified earlier, their spread controlled, and the best treatments recommended to prevent significant yield damage. Tools, such as CABI Academy, BioProtection Portal and PlantwisePlus Knowledge Bank, can strengthen advisory services by making this knowledge accessible to those who need it most.

Also Read: Four New Baby Plum Tomatoes with ToBRFV Resistance

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