Research Diary: plant clinics in Uganda

Video transcript

PhD student Andrew Tock
Hi, I’m Andy Tock. I’m a Life Sciences PhD student from the University of Warwick Crop Centre, but as part of the BBSRC Food Security PhD studentship I am here in Uganda doing a professional internship placement with CABI, The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International.

Video shows and African market, then show Pant Doctor Daniel Lyazi giving advice to farmers.

So we are here at the Nakifuma market in Mukono Uganda and what we are seeing here is a plant clinic in operation, with plant doctor Daniel Lyazi giving advice to a farmer and consulting a lot of range of reference materials about different crop problems. And they are here trying to identify his crop problem and give him appropriate advice.

These plant health clinics are generally temporary shelters where plant doctors provide diagnoses and advice to farmers who visit with crop problems. The clinics play a similar role to that as GPs as that first point of contact in healthcare service provision, but instead of providing human health care they aim to provide effective primary plant health care in the form of either preventive or curative advice.

Here we are in Buikwe District and we are on our way to Kiyindi to the next plant clinic. It’s a bit far out along a long dusty dirt track. Plenty of banana trees around us…

Video shows Laswata Kankulya, Plant Doctor, being interviewed by Andrew Tock.

Would you be able to tell us, give us a brief introduction of the plant clinics here and their role in Uganda?
Ok the plant clinics have a very big role to play in the agriculture set up of this country. Important in as far as plant health is concerned. So that farmers are enlightened on how to identify and diagnose these health problems for better management of their crops.

Video shows Laswata holding a class for the farmers with crops to show them what to look for.

Have farmers seen a big impact on their yields and the amount of food they produce after receiving the recommendations and advice from the plant clinics?
Definitely! The farmers who have picked up our pieces of advice and have consistently used us, they advice they have definitely reported the improvements in their yields and crop losses.

What’s brilliant about the plant clinics is that they serve as a vehicle through which vital information is communicated to underserved, resource-poor rural farmers who would otherwise have limited access to good agricultural practices and crop problems that are often very treatable. The clinics also serve as a source of local pest and diseases intelligence that the Uganda Minister of Agriculture can tap into to monitor and regulate the incidences of crop problems throughout the country.

I have had a fantastic time in with CABI in Uganda. The placement has been incredibly rewarding experience where I have learnt a huge amount from the plant doctors about important crop problems occurring in the country, like banana bacterial wilt for example, which severally constrains yield and undermines household food security.

During my interviews with them it was clear there is a real sense of civic duty and pride in the work they do and a passion for helping resource-poor farmers to produce more of what they grow.

So this has been a great inspiration to me in the work that I do with the University of Warwick Crop Centre on the genetic improvement of common bean, which is an important stable food crop in Africa. It’s made me more aware of the importance of farmer-engaged crop science and breeding, and I think this is going to be an important lesson to be mindful of throughout my project on beans.

Video shows another Plant Doctor being interviewed by Andrew Tock.

Do you enjoy being a plant doctor?
Oh I do enjoy! I enjoy being a plant doctor. So I am fulfilling my job on things that I dreamt to and I’m also helping farmers, someone is appreciating me. For example someone appreciated me with this gift, because I gave the solution to their problem and issues, and she’s like “if it wasn’t you I would not have had this day as I did” and I feel proud of that.


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