On Fridays a special clinic in Zambia opens its doors to the sick. Not sick people or sick animals, but sick plants! This initiative, that has been running for a while now, is proving invaluable in helping farmers to work out what to do when their crops are not at their best. Just as one would do with a sick patient, the farmers bring in a specimen of their ailing crops, get a diagnosis and is offered a solution from highly-trained plant doctors. Today, these tomato plants are diagnosed as needing pest control, and various options are discussed until a solution is found that works for both farmer and the environment.
This clinic is at Sikaunzwe, and the plant doctors are with a team from ZARI – the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute – and representatives from CABI – the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International. So, there is a lot of expertise at each table.
The plant doctors give valuable advice, diagnosing problems early on, which lead to better crop yields in the longer term. As well as checking out plant symptoms, doctors can also advise on eco-friendly pest control practices, or provide information on the latest conservation agriculture techniques. First introduced in 2013, this type of farming concentrates on soil management practices, minimising the disruption of natural biodiversity, soil structure and composition. In comparison to traditional farming techniques, conservation agriculture improves crop yields and lead to long-term environmental and financial sustainability.
Peace Parks Foundation strives for long-term solutions to food production whilst caring for the environment and wildlife. The plant clinics are proving very successful in helping communities in and around conservation areas to achieve food security. Having access to food that is nutritious and in sufficient quantity is essential for an active and healthy lifestyle. When this can be achieved alongside caring for the environment, it really is a win-win situation for all.