Early warning of crop diseases for Zambian farmers


By Davis Mulenga | 3 April 2017
early warning

Zambian smallholder farmers will get the benefit of early warning systems to manage crop diseases. The project, dubbed Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE), is the product of the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences (CABI) and the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI).

The project will provide real-time, country-level information on crop and pest diseases. Forecasts would be supplied to farmers through existing plant health systems in the country to deliver appropriate alerts and advice for the mitigation to pest outbreaks.

“The project will help smallholder farmers in crop pest management. The obvious benefit is that they can avoid losses suffered in the past by utilising the early forecast systems,” said Moses Mwale, ZARI director.

Zambia and other Southern African nations saw armyworm, stalk borer and red locust infest their crops this season.

“Pest outbreaks are devastating, respect no political boundaries and are becoming increasingly unpredictable due to climate change,” said Timothy Holmes, head of Technical Solutions, Plantwise Knowledge Bank at CABI. “We hope that through the use of cutting-edge space infrastructure, close collaboration with our Zambian partners, and years of scientific expertise, we will all be up to the challenge,

Mwale said the project, which will run over the next five years, will use state-of-the-art crop and pest modelling techniques. The project will bring together plant protection authorities, private sector companies (like agro-dealers and insurance companies) and farmers.

WHY ZAMBIA?

“Many African countries are in a catch-22 scenario: the need to predict and prevent crop losses is of critical importance, and yet the infrastructure and funds they have are not sufficient to set up and fund projects like PRISE,” said Holmes

Holmes says the project aims to build skills in the Zambian workforce to pre-empt the impact of pests. The project includes training for Zambian staff to operate the PRISE system in the future, as well as training for extension officers and farmers.

The project is funded by a UK Space Agency grant, with commitments of additional resources from ZARI and UK partners, Assimila Ltd., King’s College London, and the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis.

– Additional reporting – Fredalette Uys