Plant clinics showcased at Harvest Money Expo in Uganda to help empower the country’s young smallholder farmers

23 March 2024, Uganda: The CABI-led PlantwisePlus programme showcased its plant clinics at the Harvest Money Expo in Uganda to help empower the country’s young smallholder farmers to grow more and lose less to potentially devastating crop pests and diseases.

The Harvest Money Expo, organized by the Vision Group in partnership with the Netherlands Embassy in Uganda, attracted over 20,000 attendees, and focused on agricultural transformation and innovations within the agriculture sector.

Uganda has one of the world’s youngest populations in the world. According to the World Bank, more than 75% of Uganda’s population is below the age of 30 and at least 13.3% of them are unemployed. Agriculture employs over 70% of Ugandans.

Indeed, Uganda’s young people make up 50% of the country’s workforce that contribute 37% to Uganda’s GDP.

Diagnose and remedy plant health problems

In 2023, CABI collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and Zirobwe Agaliawamu Agri-business Training Association (ZAABTA) and Rubanga Cooperative society to equip 179 youth with skills in managing plant health problems using various integrated pest management (IPM) approaches.

With facilitation from PlantwisePlus, these young men and women who received plant doctor training demonstrated their expertise in plant health diagnostics and management at the Expo which was held at Kololo Independence Grounds.

Smallholder farmers take their unhealthy crop samples to plant clinics in the community where plant doctors help them diagnose and remedy their plant health problems such as an attack of the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) pest on maize.

Modern farming technologies and techniques, high value vegetables such as butternut, spinach and snake guard were shown alongside training that served to equip attendees with modern skills. The event also highlighted Dutch farming technology and innovations for optimum yields as part of the ‘Dutch Village’ farm concept which was demonstrated by farmers from the Netherlands along with their local partners.

How plant clinics benefit smallholder farmers

CABI showcased a plant clinic which saw over 420 visitors – including; farmers, students, researchers, input dealers, bankers, insurers, and NGO staff amongst others – learn more about how plant clinics benefit smallholder farmers.

The common plant health problems presented included fall armyworm on maize, coffee twig borer, banana weevils, fruit flies in tomatoes, citrus and mangoes, banana bacterial wilt, red blister disease on coffee, blossom end rot on tomato, maize molding, and cassava brown streak disease.

The farmers who attended the plant clinic were all given fact sheets on the common pest and disease problems and were also supported in accessing digital tools from the PlantwisePlus Toolkit.

These included the CABI BioProtection Portal which helps users find and correctly use locally registered biocontrol and biopesticide products to treat crop pests.

Christine Alokit, Communication and Extension Scientist at CABI based in Entebbe, Uganda, said, “The platform gave the youth the opportunity to apply their skills in plant health diagnosis and management, boost their confidence, helped them to establish meaningful networks and inspired other young people to take on farming as an alternative source of livelihood. It was also an opportunity for CABI to enhance visibility in areas of youth engagement in agriculture.”

The farmers also constantly demanded livestock advice reinforcing the need for joint crop-livestock services. Uganda, in 2022, also launched two joint crop-livestock clinics in Kagadi and Hoima districts where smallholder farmers could also take their livestock – including cattle, chickens, pigs, goats and domestic pets – for advice as part of a ‘One Health’ approach to extension services.

The ‘Joint crop and livestock services for smallholder farmers’ project, funded by Biovision Foundation and WTS Welttierschutzstiftung has since seen 22 such clinics set up in Uganda. The project is also operating in Kenya’s Trans Nzoia and Elgeyo Marakwet districts.

Also Read: FMC Launches Arc™ Farm Intelligence Platform in India

(For Latest Agriculture News & Updates, follow Krishak Jagat on Google News)