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Pests and diseases that affect plants can have a major impact on economic stability and businesses’ profitability. It’s important to understand the risk and take action to protect plants, for this reason, on 19th October 2022, PlantVillage team engaged a group of trainees in the Risk Management System for Pests and Diseases workshop by demonstrating how PlantVillage Nuru Application has helped to monitor crop pest and diseases as well as animal diseases.  led by Wincate Mukami, Coordinator at Dream Team Consultancy and field officer Liverson Mwandebo, the team presented methodology in modelling / identifying as well as monitoring of selected pests and diseases.

 Held in Sweet Lake hotel Naivasha Nakuru county, the workshop, made possible by team lead, Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) Kenya and support team Penn State University and by extension Dream Team brought together all stakeholders involved in pest and disease management including the ministry of Agriculture Livestock Fisheries and Cooperatives, Kenya (Plant Protection and Food Safety Directorate). The main objective of the project was to develop and implement a geospatial risk management process for climate influenced plant, pests and diseases leaving a trained team and sustainably operated program. Of key interest also was the need for accurate monitoring of risks in the agricultural system as it will ensure agricultural productivity and attainment of the sustainable development goals of hunger and climate change.

Statistics from the latest report on the state of food security and nutrition in the world 2022 indicates that with only eight years to 2030, the distance to reach many of the SDG 2 is growing wider each year, the report shows that efforts to make progress in food security are proving insufficient in the face of more challenging and uncertain context with drivers of food insecurity being climate extremes and economic shocks. The report recommends agricultural policies that can help reduce the cost of nutritious foods as well as ensure agri-food systems are not only efficient but also more sustainable and inclusive.

 Speaking during the event, Wincate Mukami of PlantVillage took the participants through Plant Village’s Current and Emerging Threats to Crops Innovation Lab that majors in surveillance needed in a climate changed world, research needed for solutions and reaching hundreds of millions of farmers in a very short period of time. The team of trainees got knowledge on the PlantVillage Nuru application ability to observe, collect, analyze and give feedback on plant pests and diseases. The application, available in over 60 countries is providing a human level digital assistant expert diagnosis of crop diseases like Fall Armyworm infections in maize, potato disease and wheat disease using a phone without an internet connection.  The team of trainees loved the modelling approach especially how transparent it is in providing feedback and ease of use. Stakeholders also received the new technology and lauding it as a great initiative in plant pest and disease control.

The proposed system by RCMRD entailed the development of a web-based system that utilizes EO, social economic and surveillance data in geospatial format for monitoring occurrence of pests / diseases and acting as a tool to influence decision making in form of a course of action for addressing the same.  Plant Village team also explained to the participants how weather maps are useful in giving exact pictures of the current situations in the country and also guiding on what is expected in the coming days. For farmers, it enables them to have a good idea of the expected rain over a period so that they can effectively determine crop growth/irrigation, fertilizer timing and delivery, pest and disease control and field workability.

By Mercy Achieng

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