The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews

ConocoPhillips

2017 Winner

Plantwise – Increasing Food Security Across the Globe

Plantwise – Increasing Food Security Across the Globe

Plantwise: A global programme providing smallholder farmers across the world with the knowledge they need to lose less of what they grow to pests and diseases. 

Led by the Centre of Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), Plantwise is a collaboration working with over 200 partners worldwide at a local, national and global level to increase food security and improve rural livelihoods. 

Worldwide, over 500 million smallholder farmers provide food for two-thirds of the earth’s growing population. Achieving a zero-hunger world by 2030 depends on increasing the productivity of these smallholder farmers, and mitigating their crop losses from pests and disease. To achieve this, Plantwise has established networks of local plant clinics, where farmers can obtain climate-smart agricultural advice from trained plant doctors. Through these clinics, crop yields and farm incomes are increased, while the use of hazardous pesticides – affecting human and environmental health – is decreased. 

The plant clinics are reinforced by the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, a gateway to actionable online and offline plant health information, including diagnostic resources, pest management advice and front-line pest data. The Knowledge Bank provides data, but also collects data about the farmers, the crops and the pests affecting them, which is then shared with national stakeholders. It is this uniquely cyclical flow of information which means everyone, from farmers to government agencies and researchers, can benefit from improved knowledge. 

The data collected also allows Plantwise and their in-country partners to identify new crop problems, and develop targeted best-practice guidelines for managing crop losses, based on the local needs of farmers. 

To date, Plantwise has reached over 9.8 million farmers in 34 countries with relevant plant health information. External evaluations have shown that 92% of farmers visiting plant clinics are satisfied with the advice they are given; on average, they share the information with four other farmers; and 79% saw their crop yields increase after the plant clinic visit. 

To spread this work even further, Plantwise plans to roll out tablets to plant clinics in multiple countries across an entire region, such as West Africa. This will greatly improve the quality of the recommendations given to farmers, as well as the speed of data collection, enabling Plantwise to track outbreaks of pests, over multiple countries, in real time. 

Plantwise’s goal of reaching 30 million farmers by 2020, means they need to grow their network of partners, and increase the number of countries they work in, with the plan of making agriculture in developing countries more effective and environmentally safe.

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