African Youth Empowerment in Surveillance: PlantVillage Ethiopia Training Towards Sustainable Crop Monitoring

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To empower farmers through AI-powered pest and disease identification, PlantVillage Ethiopia team recently received training on PlantVillage AI. In addition to the AI tool, the team learned about the PlantVillage observatory platform. The platform allows them to monitor and manage data on crop threats effectively.


The training aimed to build the team's capacity to monitor biotic and abiotic threats to crops and improve their problem-solving skills by sharing experiences across countries. 


The three-day training was conducted by experts from Kenya and Malawi. Stella Amakove, PlantVillage E-Extension Lead, and Chrissy Awali, PlantVillage Field Officer-Malawi, led the training, which included practical and theoretical sessions along with insightful field visits to banana farms. The purpose of the visits was to strengthen early detection and rapid responses to emerging threats such as the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV), safeguarding livelihoods.


African Youth Empowerment in Surveillance: PlantVillage Ethiopia Training Towards Sustainable Crop Monitoring

PlantVillage Ethiopia officers accompanied by Stella Amakove and Chrissy Awali during a field visit in Arba Minch.


PlantVillage Ethiopia was launched in 2022 with a team of six officers as a pilot project under the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Current and Emerging Threats to Crops (CETC IL) and led by VITA. The team visited farmers in the Arba Minch and Chencha districts to educate them on how to use the PlantVillage application to detect various crop diseases. In 2023, the team was expanded to nine members in order to reach out to more farmers.


Stella Amakove conducting a survey using PlantVillage AI in a banana field.


During the training session, Stella underscored the significance of timely feedback within the PlantVillage team, particularly emphasizing the role of the PlantVillage observatory in monitoring and managing data. She highlighted that the observatory serves as a vital tool for this purpose, enabling the team to track and analyze information effectively. “It’s important to respond to other crops promptly, as this contributes to the overall data collection process and enhances the team's understanding of agricultural challenges beyond their primary focus.”


Furthermore, she provided an overview of the organization, outlining its objectives, key results (OKRs), and key performance indicators (KPIs). Stella elucidated how these frameworks facilitate alignment and accountability across the team, ultimately contributing to the achievement of PlantVillage's overarching goals. Through her engagement with the team, Stella reinforced the importance of leveraging tools like the PlantVillage observatory and adopting structured frameworks to optimize performance and impact within the organization.


In a discussion focused on sharing outreach strategies and solutions, the team was introduced to the SOS model (surveillance, outreach, and solutions), for meaningful engagements with partners and farmers.

Chrissy Awali addressing PlantVillage Ethiopia officers during a field visit.


"In Malawi, our mission transcends mere agricultural assistance; it embodies a commitment to empowering entire communities, igniting transformative change, and cultivating resilience at its core,” said Chrissy Awali. She elaborated that through field days, they foster interactions with plant doctors and other government extension officers, bolstering surveillance efforts across the country.


While on field visits in Arba Minch, Gamo zone , farmers shared their positive experiences with the PlantVillage team. They mentioned how the team's assistance was essential in identifying pests and diseases and offering effective management practices. The lead farmers also expressed their gratitude for the team's guidance on maintaining clean farms and controlling pests and diseases.


PlantVillage officers sensitizing farmers on PlantVillage AI during a field visit.


“We thank PlantVillage for introducing us to AI that helps us manage crops, it is now easier to ensure our crops are disease free hence increased food production,” stated Tekilu Wonbera, lead farmer, Mage village. He also emphasized the importance of farmers to obtain clean seeds to eradicate the prevalence of crop diseases.


“The training was a huge success, we thank the organization for organizing this knowledge sharing initiative and I am eager to apply the new skills and knowledge gained,” said Fikadu Tafesse, PlantVillage field officer. He further observed that the training will help the team achieve their objectives and improve performance of PlantVillage Ethiopia.


As the team navigates through challenges and embraces opportunities, the spirit of collaboration and knowledge exchange remains at the forefront. Exchange programs like the one witnessed in Ethiopia serve as catalysts for cross-cultural learning, enriching not only individual experiences but also collective impact across PlantVillage.

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