Accessing new ideas and information is vital to developing a strong farm business. Sharing knowledge, including indigenous knowledge, strengthens communities and raises awareness about dangers and opportunities.
The Plantwise Knowledge Bank is a new website that has been designed to provide up-to-date information on crop pests and diseases. It is part of the Plantwise programme, led by CABI, to help smallholder farmers lose less of their crops. Marylucy Oronje, who has been involved in constructing the site, explains to Pius Sawa how it works, enabling farmers and farming advisors to diagnose problems, learn about control measures and access factsheets that summarise the essential information in a simple form. The site is particularly valuable for Plantwise plant doctors who are running plant health clinics in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda among other countries. Giving farmers information about pests and diseases can also help them to avoid these problems, by choosing appropriate varieties and spotting symptoms early.
published: September 2012
Farmers Phillip Mbai, Juliet Wambua and Cecilia Ngina explain some of the strategies they are using to maximise their crop and livestock production even when rains are poor. These include adapting their planting according to seasonal weather forecasts, terracing and mulching to make best use of rainfall, and water harvesting from rooftops. The seasonal forecasts also help them decide on animal numbers, and they are harvesting hay in order to feed their cattle in dry periods.
published: June 2012
Over the last five years, members of some farmer groups in Machakos district, Kenya, have been using seasonal weather forecasts to guide their farming decisions. The weather information, provided around one month before planting should start, tells them how much rain they should expect in the coming season, and therefore what types of crops to plant. When rainfall predictions are good, they can invest in hybrid seeds and fertiliser, and maximise their yields. When predictions are for a poor season, choosing drought resistant crops is a better option. Peter Labeja speaks to two farmers and one of the scientists behind the initiative, to find out how successful it has been.
published: June 2012
In June 2011, a new information service for farmers was launched in Kenya. Called iCow, the service works by sending information in the form of SMS messages to mobile phones. Types of information the system can send include: prompts for dairy farmers, to ensure they are correctly managing their cattle during pregnancy; information on veterinary and insemination services in the farmer’s local area; and market information to enable trade of livestock and livestock products between users of the service. The iCow system was a winner of the 2010 Apps4Africa award, and a finalist in the 2012 Innovation Prize for Africa. Creator of iCow, Su Kahumbu, explains to Eric Kadenge more about how the service works and the importance of mobile phones for delivering information to farmers.
published: May 2012
Radio Ada, a community radio station in the Greater Accra region of Ghana, broadcasts in the local language to an audience composed largely of farmers and fishermen. High on their programming agenda are issues connected to climate change. With support from local extension services, the radio station has raised awareness about the need for crop diversification, use of irrigation and the importance of building soil health with manure and mulch. The station also advises listeners on suitable planting times, relaying up to date weather information. These strategies have helped people in the community increase their farming yields, despite the challenge of unpredictable rainfall.
published: March 2012
In May 2011, Kenya Horticulture Exporters invited school children and farmers in central Kenya to visit their Nyamindi River Demonstration Farm, which grows French beans for export. The aim of this Open Farm Day was to promote sustainable farming methods and encourage a love of farming in young people. Visitors were able to see technologies such as drip irrigation, and learn about topics such as soil health and biodiversity, seeing how good farming practices can be implemented. Pius Sawa met agronomists who were speaking to the visitors, and asked a schoolgirl and teacher about what they thought of the event.
published: August 2011
Ugandan and Malawian journalists, Gerald Tenywa and Frazer Potani, were recently awarded prizes at the UNEP Ozone Africa Media Awards, for their work to raise awareness of ozone depletion and climate change. Gerald's prize-winning article focussed on the banning of old fridges in Kampala, in order to prevent leakage of ozone-depleting gases. Frazer received a special prize for his article 'When climate change is witchcraft', which illustrates how traditional beliefs can be a barrier to action, in the context of responding to unreliable rainfall. The journalists explain more to fellow prize-winner, Busani Bafana.
published: August 2011
With the shortage of agricultural extension officers, Malawi is training 'lead farmers' who pass on farming technologies to their peers. The lead farmers are selected by their own communities, and are taught a wide range of farming techniques including conservation agriculture and soil fertility management. They are also encouraged to promote farming as a business. Extension workers have welcomed the initiative, in reducing the pressure on them to cover vast areas. Excello Zidana speaks to a lead farmer, an extension worker and Malawi's director of extension services, to find out more.
published: August 2011
The National University of Lesotho has set up a Question and Answer Service (LEQAS), to provide information on farming and rural development. Farmers and others in rural communities can use a toll-free telephone line to put their questions, and are called back by the relevant expert within a few minutes. Other parts of the University's multi-pronged approach include a weekly 30 minute radio programme, which discusses appropriate technologies to improve farm production. Dr Tsidi Chadzingwa, coordinator of the service, explains more about it to Busani Bafana.
published: July 2011
At the Arlington Academy of Hope primary school in eastern Uganda, children learn practical farming skills, and compete to grow the best crops they can for the school kitchen. The curriculum is based on learning by doing, and the pupils are encouraged to pass on their new skills in their home communities. They are also given tree seedlings to plant, to improve production of fruit such as guavas and paw paws, that until recently were not widely grown in the area.
published: June 2011
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