23 September 2022, Africa: A new CABI-led worldwide programme – PlantwisePlus – launches in Ghana to help smallholder farmers produce more and high-quality food.
Special emphasis will be placed on improving extension services for the country’s female farmers who have 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 can help boost agriculture production and improve the welfare of rural households.
PlantwisePlus will support Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) predict, prepare and prevent a range of plant health issues which put food security and livelihoods at risk.
The new programme will also work in partnership with the Plant Protection & Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA Ghana), Ghana Green Label Scheme and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
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.
PlantwisePlus, for example, 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 factsheet app.
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.
Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, Executive Director, Global Operations and PlantwisePlus Programme Executive, 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.”
Dr Morris Akiri, Senior Regional Director, Africa, added that the use of low-risk plant protection solutions to reduce the reliance on high-risk farm inputs that have adverse effects on human health and biodiversity will be a key feature of the PlantwisePlus programme in Ghana.
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.
PlantwisePlus has already been working with the Women in Agriculture Development Directorate (WIAD) and the Deputy Director of the Agricultural Extension Services Directorate within MoFA to see how extension services for women can be approved.
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 is 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 encourage women’s groups to diversify and engage in the production of new crops.
Other work as part of the Plantwise programme in Ghana – and working with the PPRSD – included the Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE), which used state-of-the-art technology to help inform farmers of pest outbreaks that could devastate their crops and livelihoods.
PRISE forecasts the risk of pest outbreaks using a novel combination of earth observation technology, real-time field observations and plant-pest lifecycle.
A CABI-led pilot project – as part of PRISE – also helped nearly 61,500 farmers in Ghana tackle fall armyworm and stalk borer by broadcasting advice from a network of Community Information Centres (CICs) with a view to increasing their yields of maize.
Dr Akiri said, “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 These include 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.
Victor Clottey, Regional Representative, West Africa, based in Ghana, said, “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 advice services.”
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