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Plant Clinics To Restore Food Security

by Wangah Wanyama
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By Prossy Nandudu

Crop pests and diseases, coupled with climate change hazards such as droughts and floods, present serious limitations to agriculture production and constrain the realization of a food secure world.

And when these happen, most farmers have no idea or cannot even tell why some of their plants are appearing the way they are.

“Some plants tend to yellow, which could be due to pests and diseases or nutrient deficiency. But because farmers may not easily tell, they end up applying pesticides, hence destroying the plants, living organisms in the soil and also wastage of resources, explained Moses Musimbi, an agriculture extension worker based in Sironko district.

Globally, it is estimated that pests and diseases cause up to 40% loss in crop production annually, according to FAO, hence the need to control and manage pests and diseases which on average lead to 30-40% yield loss but have the potential to cause up to 100% yield loss, according to FAO has been recognized more in Karamoja sub region.

Tackling the challenge

With financial support from the European Union, FAO in collaboration with the World Food Program is implementing a project titled “Strengthening Shock-Responsive Systems in Karamoja”, PRO-ACT in short.

The project aims to increase resilience of chronic and acute food insecure households in Karamoja, by strengthening existing early warning systems and capacities of national and local actors to anticipate, reduce and respond early to shocks.

Through this project, introduction and promotion of plant clinics in the context of early warning and anticipatory action is being integrated into the agriculture extension systems for Karamoja.

According to FAO despite country representative for programs, Charles Owach, Plant clinics support provision of pest early warning as well as formulation and implementation of actions for pest management.

What happens during plant clinics?

According to Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) a plant clinic operates just like any clinics offering health services, The way patients come with different complaints, for the plant clinic, farmers bring along diseased plants, records are taken, examined and solutions given by trained extension workers who have received specialized training in plant health, hence the name plant doctors.

Consultaions during a plant clinic. Photos by Prossy Nandutu

Who implements

Owach explained that over the past year, FAO and MAAIF have trained agriculture extension workers in the nine districts of Karamoja on the plant clinic approach.  And each of these has since been equipped with testing kits to kick start plant clinic operations.

MAAIF Comments

While commissioning the kits recently, the Minister of State for Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries Fred Kyakulaga Bwino said the clinics will enforce government interventions from 2022, of enhancing food and feed security. 

This is being done by promoting economies of scale in production using institutional land to produce crops such as maize, sorghum, soybean and common beans and some specific interventions in Karamoja Sub-region such as the provision of water for production.

Support from EU

At the same event, Nadia Cannata the head of Section Sustainable Development at the European Union said that from the time PROACT was launched in Karamoja in 2020, there has been greater need for inclusion of vulnerable people in Uganda’s disaster response. 

Based on the need, Cannata said the EU had prompted the EU to increase funding with an additional EUR 4 million, to widen the scope and also include support to crops, pests and diseases.

“As you have heard, plant clinics are one of the solutions that present the opportunity for extension workers to share information and knowledge, to monitor and support early detection and response to plant pests and diseases,” said Cannata through a press statement.

He added that “We hope that this plant clinics approach will be embraced by District Local governments and farmers alike,” she added.

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