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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 introduced a concept called “Plant Doctor and Plant Clinic” in the three northern regions of Ghana to complement the efforts Agricultural Extension Agents (AEAs) especially in hard to reach areas and areas where AEAs are inadequate.
The Plant Doctor and Plant Clinic concept which is currently being piloted in some selected communities in the operational areas of the USAID ADVANCE Project in the three Northern regions is to provide basic pest and plant disease prevention, control and diagnostic support services to farmers.
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 over the week-end, 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.
According to Mr. Condua, under the plant clinic concept, diseases that are brought to the plant doctor and are beyond the diagnostic capacity of the centre would be readily referred to the MoFA AEA assigned to that area for quick solution.
The Senior Agronomist, USAID ADVANCE Project 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 further 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.
“Data from MoFA shows that 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 (AEA) 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.” He noted.
Mr Abdulai Karim Nabrizini, a trained plant doctor in Kpatili community in the Gushegu Municipality in an interview said the plant doctor training he undertook 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.
He maintained the training he received from the USAID ADVANCE Project has put him in a better position to educate farmers 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.” Mr Nabrizini said.
Source: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH