The United States Agency for International Development Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (USAID ADVANCE) project in collaboration with the CABI/PPRSD and Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA)has developed and introduced the Plant Doctor and Plant Clinic concept in some selected communities in its operational areas in the three regions of the Northon to provide basic plant disease prevention, control and diagnostic support services to farmers as well as complement the efforts Agricultural Extension Agents (AEAs) especially in hard to reach areas and areas where AEAs are inadequate.
Speaking at a ceremony to introduce one of the trained plant doctors to members of the Kpatili community in the Gushegu Municipality in the Northern Region on August 15, 2018, the Senior Agronomist of the USAID ADVANCE project, Mr. Isaac Condua explained the plant clinics are farmer friendly spots or designated areas mutually agreed by community members where farmers bring a sample of an unhealthy plant into the clinic and the plant doctors who have been selected in those communities and trained by the MoFA on plant disease identification, prevention and control, diagnose the problem and advise the farmers, free of charge, on practical ways to improve the health of the crop or prevent that problem from appearing the following season. Mr. Condua added that, under the plant clinic concept, diseases that are brought to the plant doctor and are beyond the diagnostic capacity of the plant doctor are readily referred to the MoFA AEA assigned to that area for quick solution.
Mr. Condua said the plant clinics, which is a community-based initiative plays a critical role in reaching out to smallholder farmers and effectively responding to their needs to solve plant health problems in a timely manner. He explained that the plant doctor is a community volunteer who has been trained to identify plant diseases in sample plants sent to the plant clinic and recommend the control measures and therefore encouraged all farmers to work closely with the plant doctors in their communities by patronizing the plant clinics to prevent diseases and pests from destroying their crops.The plant clinics Mr. Condua indicated also allowed collection and sharing of information on the extent and trends of plant pests and diseases in the country, thus facilitating informed action such as publicizing pest alerts, developing evidence-based extension materials and conducting relevant research.
According to the MoFA,Ghana’s crop production sub-sector generates 32% of the country’s GDP and intensifying crop production was essential for the country’s economic growth. To this end, the country has to confront the threat from pests and diseases, which are estimated to be responsible for about 30% of the annual crop yield losses. Also, the current 1:2500 Agricultural Extension Agent to Farmers ratio in Ghana made farmers in a lot of communities not having access to extension services especially in the early detection of plant disease and pest outbreaks, thereby in most cases lead to crop failures.
To address these challenges, Mr. Condua saidCABI/PPRSD in 2017 collaborated with the USAID ADVANCE project and the MoFA tointroduce plant clinics with trained plant doctors in its operational areas in the south (Ashanti, and Brong Ahafo) and trained 28 lead farmers working with grower businesses as community level Plant Doctors in the Upper East, Upper West, and Northern regions and linked them with the Agriculture Extension Department of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Ghana.
Abdulai Karim Nabrizini, a trained plant doctor in Kpatili community in the Gushegu Municipality in an interview said the plant doctor training has equipped him with the required knowledge to support smallholder farmers in his community in preventing and fighting pest and plant diseases in the area through early pest and plant disease identification, diagnose and control. According to Mr. Karim Nabrizini, the plant doctor training he received from the USAID ADVANCE project has put him in a better stead to educate farmers in his community about the Fall Army Worm (FAW). “I learnt a lot through the plant doctor training by USAID ADVANCE, I got to know the symptoms of a lot of diseases and how to diagnose those diseases. The Telegram platform has helped me a lot to learn more about other plant diseases from other plant doctors.”Mr. Karim Nabrizini emphasized. He thanked the USAID ADVANCE project and its partners for introducing the plant doctor concept, adding it would lead to a drastic reduction low crop yields and failure arising from plant disease and pest outbreaks. Mr. Karim Nabrizini also appealed to the USAID ADVANCE project to extend the plant doctor concept to other communities across the country, especially the hard to reach areas due to the low number of AEAs in the country to shore up agricultural productivity in those areas.
The USAID Feed the Future Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (USAID ADVANCE) project is a five-year project implemented by a consortium led by ACDI/VOCA, with the goal to increase the competitiveness of the maize, rice, and soy value chains in Ghana.