Agriculture’s doctor

“The goal of life is not to eliminate misery, it’s to keep misery to the minimum.” – Dr. Gregory House in House MD

Let’s be realistic. Plants, similar to animals and humans, are susceptible to sickness too, and this is often brought on by pests. Often overlooked, pest management is a serious threat to plant health all over the world.  

Let’s take the example of the now well-known fall army worm or FAW, which originated in South America and recently spread to some parts of West Africa and soon perhaps Asia. It’s a moth insect that feed on several plant species including maize, rice, sorghum and other vegetables, causing plant damage and huge losses to farmers in the region.

Did you know there is partnership supporting small-scale farmers in dealing with this crucial issue in agriculture?

Organizations like CABI, IFAD, CropLife International and the Ministry of Agriculture, Myanmar shared their positions on the best strategies for strengthening their bilateral or multilateral partnerships, including with farmers. Let me give you some of the brief agricultural prescriptions from the invited speakers:

Myanmar’s Ministry of Agriculture said that their policy is having no policy at all. They believe that policies are very inconsistent because institutional change that comes with new policies requires organizational restructuring as well. They break the same cycle of working in silos among involved actors and with this are focused on supporting the farmers to have access to agricultural resources, technology and market access.

IFAD defined partnership as results-oriented. They have targeted programs to contribute towards achieving SDGs and are working primarily with different sectors in the government and also in the private sector. One of the strategies mentioned is a switch of work from a top-down approach to on-the-ground, or simply from country level to country-based level.

CropLife International cited that strategic partnership is necessary and must be allowed to evolve. To achieve this it must be recognized that partnerships should help innovation be locally adaptable. Furthermore, partnership should include training and education. Most importantly, partnership must be profitable.

These statements from top agricultural organizations are basically behind-the-screen techniques to go back to the farmer MD who knows best. Farmers’ approach—both pro-active and reactive—to pest-related plant health issues is what the doctor ordered.

But sometimes the farmers can’t do it alone. Plant Wise, a programme by CABI created to support farmers in managing their crops, brings them advice and recommendations from plant doctors who diagnose the sample plant diseases, similar to diagnosing a human being. It also provides an online and offline knowledge bank, a database of information about plant health.

The multistakeholder approach to learning the genesis of the plant disease based on the findings of scientists, researchers, NGOs and farmers’ organizations, will make more room to protect the crops. This should eventually lead to a productive, safe and more sustainable food supply.

“Doing things changes things. Not doing things leaves things exactly as they were.” -  Dr. Gregory House in House MD

Multi-sector effort and trust from various organizations to deal with global disasters like the FAW invasion is imperative not only to those countries that were affected but to all regions with reliance on agriculture. But aside from dealing with the control of the spread of these plant-killing moths, why not invest in controlling how they populate and exist? I would suggest involving more entomologists in the picture, as we all know that pro-active measures are far more important than reacting to the situation when a disaster strikes. Just like going for regular doctor visits can help avoid chronic diseases from setting in. Let’s hope that there will be another programme of global partnership dealing with how these insects mate, populate and migrate from one place to another so as to avoid crop damage and agricultural loss.

Strong partnership promises more than what it offers at the present. Partnership approaches should also go back to examine what the world really needs to understand, apart from just knowing and accepting things that recently occur.

Food consumption is vital to human health and food production is dependent on plant health. Let’s make sure we get the prognosis right, and not just the diagnosis.

This blogpost covers the CFS44 side event “How Cross-Sectoral Partnerships Help Smallholders Deliver a More Food Secure Future”

Blogpost by Celilu Bitong, #CFS44 Social Reporter – c.bitong(at)

Image link: Hands together

This post is part of the live coverage during the 44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security, a social media project supported by GFAR. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

20/10/2017 0:00


No comments