"Chinyunyu Plant Clinic in Rufunsa district, Zambia."

CABI’s Henry Mibei – an expert in agricultural digital development – has contributed to the Africa-Korea Disruptive Agricultural Technology (DAT) Knowledge Exchange Series aimed at innovative technology solutions for agricultural risk management.

Mr Mibei, who is based at CABI’s Africa Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, took the opportunity to highlight how the CABI-led Plantwise programme and Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE) use digital data and technologies to help smallholder farmers around the world grow more and lose less to crop pests and diseases.

His presentation was given as part of a webinar, held as part of a series of knowledge exchange sessions between Africa and South Korea sponsored by the Korea-World Bank Partnership Facility (KWPF), which featured specialists including those from the USA (Prof David Hughes of Penn State University and founder of PlantVillage), Mr Boniface Akuku, Director of ICT KALRO, Mr Geoffrey Nyaga, Chief Operations Officer, Astral Aerial and Mr Noh-Kyum (Daniel) Kyeong, Co-founder and CEO, Animal Industry Data Korea.

The organisers of the webinar argue that farmers are exposed to a wide range of production and market-related risks such as weather variability, natural hazards, animal health risks, and pest and disease outbreaks. These risks directly affect the economic returns from agriculture, the livelihood of farmers, and in the long run, the capacity of farmers to invest and innovate.

They suggest that there is a need for the agricultural sector to become more resilient to production and market risks, as risks and uncertainties in agriculture are increasing, and this is where Disruptive Agricultural Technologies (DATs) can help.

Specific DATs have emerged to address one or more of these risks such as weather advisory to address weather variability, animal health advisory solutions for monitoring the health of livestock, pest monitoring solutions to provide timely information and advice for farmers to be prepared, a price monitoring tool to cater to price fluctuations and so on.

Mr Mibei outlined how the Plantwise programme works with its plant clinics and plant doctors helping farmers diagnose their crop pest or disease problem – with the help of the Plantwise Knowledge Bank database – and the sharing of data to assist partners to act on the pests and issue, where necessary, best practice guides.

He also highlighted how 60 % of farmers who received SMS pest alert messages from PRISE in Kenya reported changing their pest management practices for fall armyworm. This, therefore, helped reduce the impact of this pest on their maize crops. The project also operates in Ghana, Malawi and Zambia.

Mr Mibei said, “In the 2019/20 short rains season we found that in 86% of farmers the fall armyworm was the biggest problem on their maize crops and that messages on how to control them as part of the PRISE project were highly valued.

“Digital technologies, such as those offered through PRISE, give us the ability to forecast the risk of pest outbreaks using a novel combination of earth observation technology real-time field observations, and plant-pest lifecycle.

“In-country data collected from the field is fed into the model, and also used to ground-truth results, which allows the team to continually improve it. Risk messages and mitigation measures are communicated to users and we monitor and evaluate the service to assess its impact.

“Risk forecasts can also be integrated into existing plant health systems, using networks in current programmes and projects, to trigger appropriate action to deliver large scale alerts, advice and inputs to farmers.”

The KWPF, established in May 2013, is an initiative to strengthen ties between Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance (MoEF) and the World Bank. The facility’s overall objective is to assist developing member countries of the World bank in achieving inclusive and sustainable economic growth and to foster broader dialogue on economic development issues.


Additional information

Main image: The CABI-led Plantwise programme’s global network of plant clinics are just one way in which analytics-based plant disease management helps farmers grow more and lose less to crop pests and diseases (Credit: CABI).

You can see a recording of the webinar here.