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There was one unpleasant surprise in what was otherwise an invigorating and useful high-level discussion at the EU-Africa Business Forum this week (1 April) in Brussels, Belgium: a skewed focus on success and perhaps a reluctance to admit to failure.

The session was organised to draw up a set of core messages on how to get the business sector and public research organisations to work closer and better together on ensuring food security in Africa and Europe.

These were then fed into 4th EU-Africa Summit of Heads of State and Government of the European Union and African Union also taking place this week (2-3 April) in Brussels.

Following several ‘taster’ presentations that helped set the scene with successful examples, my task was to moderate a discussion that would identify both what works and what doesn’t work in making the two sectors more responsive to each other’s needs.
“It is time to look honestly and constructively at failures in the way we do things — in agricultural research and beyond.”

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Mićo Tatalović
“But despite a lively discussion involving most of the 50 or so delegates, and despite repeated calls to also hear examples of what worked less well, or not at all, we mostly only heard examples of success or thoughts on what ought to happen next.”

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Even a delegate who was involved in setting up a repository of examples of best practice aimed at farmers, when asked if we should also have a repository of ‘worst practice’ — things to definitely avoid, seemed unprepared for the question and unsure of how to answer it.

As in science, where in general only results that show something working well get reported, it seems that the participants preferred to highlight things that have worked well. From the launch of new small and medium size enterprises following on from EU Framework Programme 7’s research project in Egypt, to finding an innovative use for unpopular but productive mushroom farming in Rwanda, the success stories are many.

But as in science, our perspective and understanding are skewed if we never see the rest of the iceberg — the hypotheses that did not turn out to be correct — and don’t investigate why that was.

That things don’t always work the way we intended them to is evident from the various suggestions for new and different initiatives, such as innovative ways of financing agricultural research between the public and private sectors. If everything done so far was a success, why bother changing things — why not repeat past successes?

This lack of examples of less-successful initiatives limits our opportunity for learning.

Indeed, while it may be difficult to own up to having worked on project that just did not deliver, without recognising failure and understanding why it happened, we are unlikely to avoid it in future.

This is why SciDev.Net’s news recently started looking more proactively at past initiatives originally launched with high acclaim and high expectations, only to slowly fade from the media spotlight. These follow-up stories (‘whatever happened to…?’) offer valuable insights for others to learn from.

Recent examples include a 2008 MalariaEngage website designed to find a new way to crowdsource finding for malaria research in Africa; and Science for Humanity, which attempted to link up scientists and NGOs for better adoption of research in development work.

It is time to look honestly and constructively at failures in the way we do things — in agricultural research and beyond.

http://www.scidev.net/global/innovation/scidev-net-at-large/eu-africa-research-must-start-learning-from-failures.html

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AfricanBrains

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New tools and farmer training could revolutionize pesticide management in West Africa / Studies reveal extent of risks from pesticides in the region, show that field schools can dramatically cut their use

Field schools that train farmers in alternative methods of pest control have succeeded in nearly eliminating the use of toxic pesticides by a community of cotton growers in Mali, according to a new FAO study published today by the London-based Royal Society.

The study was conducted in two areas – the Bla region of southern Mali, where FAO established a field school program in 2003, and a second area, Bougouni, where the program was not yet active.

While only 34 percent of all cotton-farmers in the area participated in the program, pesticide use on all of Bla’s cotton farms – more than 4,300 households – dropped a staggering 92 percent. FAO’s study further found that the move away from pesticide use had no negative impact on yields.

The Bougouni area, where training has not yet taken place, saw no change in pesticide use over the same eight-year period. This suggests that knowledge of alternative methods in pest control was further disseminated by program participants to other farmers in the area, underscoring the potential of farmer field schools to act as catalysts for widespread practice change.

Slashing their use of chemicals and shifting to alternative “biopesticides” like neem tree extract, growers in the Bla study group reduced their average individual production costs. (See box below for more on integrated pest management).

By refraining from applying more than 47,000 liters of toxic pesticides, the farmers saved nearly half a million dollars over the study period.

Training farmers in alternative methods of pest control proved to be three times more cost-effective than purchasing and using synthetic pesticides, according to FAO’s analysis. More than 20,000 cotton farmers have been through field schools in Mali.

“We must learn from farmers’ experience. Pragmatic, field-based and farmer-centric education can and must play a key role in making agriculture stronger and more sustainable,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “At the end of the day, sustainable intensification will be the result of the collective action of millions of small farmers, who through their daily decisions determine the trajectory of agricultural ecosystems across the world.”

An important crop

Cotton is the principal engine of economic development in Mali, where an estimated 4 million farmers grow the high-value crop, accounting for 8-9 percent of Mali’s GDP and providing as much as 75 percent of the country’s export earnings.

Usage of pesticides in Malian cotton doubled between 1995 and 2001, but yields nonetheless fell due to increasing resistance among pests.

New tools for monitoring risks

Two related studies from the same FAO project also published today by the Royal Society – authored by Oregon State University (OSU) scientists together with researchers in West Africa and at various institutions, including FAO – reveal the extent to which pesticide use in West Africa poses risks to human health and environment.

One of these studies, conducted in 19 different communities in five West African countries, used state-of-the-art risk assessment models to provide the first detailed analysis of pesticide risks for this region. The results highlight a number of specific pesticides that pose widespread and significant threats to human health and terrestrial and aquatic wildlife throughout the region.

The study also found that farmer workers and family members, including children are routinely exposed to high concentrations of toxic pesticides such as methamidophos and dimethoate, in the crops where they work. Protective clothing that reduces pesticide exposure is largely unknown in West Africa, and reports of ill health, hospitalization and death due to chemical exposure by farm workers are not uncommon.

Lead author Paul Jepson of the Integrated Plant Protection Center at OSU states “we were shocked to find such widespread use of highly toxic organophosphate pesticides, but by carefully studying and quantifying their use, we provide a basis for much needed action by policy makers, researchers and educators.”

The authors suggest that a three-pronged approach to pesticide risk management, including monitoring systems to enable science-based decision-making, functional regulatory systems and effective farmer education programs.

The third study from the FAO project reports on the first use in the region of passive sampling devices (PSDs), developed by Oregon State University, which are technologically simple tools that sequester and concentrate a wide variety of pesticides and other chemicals found in the environment. The tool is a major advancement for monitoring pollution in remote areas of less developed regions.

PSD samples were deployed and then simultaneously analyzed in African and U.S. laboratories, as a proof of this concept. This opens the possibility for widespread analysis of pesticides in West African surface waters.

All three papers appearing today in the Royal Society journal were co-financed by a six-country regional project, financed by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and executed by FAO, Reducing Dependence on Persistent Organic Pollutants and other Agro-Chemicals in the Senegal and Niger River Basins through Integrated Production, Pest and Pollution Management.

According to William Settle, who coordinates the FAO project in Mali: “This effort has facilitated a partnership between scientists around the globe and West African counterparts – the results are striking, and have the potential to transform the conversation about pesticide risks and sustainable crop management in this ecologically fragile region.”

FAO undertakes its work on pesticide management in West Africa through close working partnerships with governments in the region as well as organizations such as the CERES Locustox Laboratory and ENDA-Pronat group in Senegal and Oregon State University’s Integrated Plant Protection Center.

Financing for the FAO programme been provided by the European Union, the Government of the Netherlands, and a GEF/UNEP grant.

Farmer Field Schools and integrated pest management

FAO’s West African Regional Integrated Production and Pest Management Programme (IPPM), established in 2001, is currently active in seven countries in West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. Approximately 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have employed a field-school approach and 90 countries world-wide.

Using a “farmer field school” (FSS) approach, the program engages with farming communities to introduce discovery-based methods for field testing, adapting, and then adopting improved farming practices.

IPPM consists of environmental-friendly approaches to tackling pest problems, such as introducing beneficial predator insects, using natural biopesticides, or adopting cropping practices that ensure that plants are healthy and resistant when pest attacks are mostly likely to occur.

In most places, the approach is relatively simple to adopt using locally available materials. It relies heavily on prevention, and on farmers prioritizing early detection of problems and knowing their response options.

To date the FAO-IPPM program has trained approximately 180,000 farmers in West Africa and more than 2,000 trainers from government extension, cotton companies, farmer organizations and NGOs. The programme is expanding to new countries in the region.

http://africanbrains.net/2014/02/19/new-tools-farmer-training-revolutionize-pesticide-management-west-africa/

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CCEA approves national mission on farm extension and mechanisation

OUR BUREAU

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The spread of farm extension services and mechanisation will get a fillip with the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approving the implementation of the National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET) for the 12th Plan Period.

NMAET, which aims to restructure and strengthen the agricultural extension to enable the delivery of appropriate technology and improved agronomic practices to farmers, will have an outlay of Rs.13,073.08 crore during the 12th Plan Period. The Centre’s share in NMAET will be Rs. 11,390.68 crore, while the States are expected to spend Rs. 1,682.40 crore.

NMAET would consist of four separate sub-missions – one each on Agriculture Extension, Seed and Planting Material, Agricultural Mechanisation, Plant Protection and Plant Quarantine. While the common thread that runs across all four sub-missions were extension and technology, the four sub-missions are proposed for administrative convenience.

NMAET proposes to strength the agricultural extension through the use of judicious mix of extensive physical outreach and interactive methods of information dissemination and information and communication technology.

It also aims to popularise modern and appropriate technologies and focus on capacity building and institution strengthening to promote mechanisation, availability of quality seeds, plant protection etc and encourage aggregation of farmers into interest groups to form farmer producer organisations.

(This article was published on February 5, 2014)

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App developers:    The University of Queensland QAAFI Biological Information Technology (QBIT) and USDA-APHIS Identification Technology Program (ITP)

App partners:         California Department of Food & Agriculture, Colorado State University, Delaware State University, Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, North Carolina State University, Southern Plant Diagnostic Network, University of Florida, and University of California

PH Quads initiative: the Lucid Mobile project is a 2013 “Plant Health Quadrilaterals Initiative”.

The Identification Technology Program (ITP) team, in cooperation with The University of Queensland’s QAAFI Biological Information Technology (QBIT), is pleased to announce the release of 10 Lucid Mobile apps for Android phones and tablets. These apps are available at no cost by searching on the text “USDA APHIS ITP” through Google Play (Google Play USDA APHIS ITP).

Ø  The Lucid Mobile apps were created from existing Lucid keys contained within ITP’s identification tools (http://idtools.org/).

Ø  The 10 Lucid Mobile apps will be available early next year for your iPhone and iPad.

 Further details about Lucid Mobile and ITP’s Lucid Mobile apps are given in the attached document. A direct link for downloading an app onto your Android phone is provided on the second page of the document.

 If you did not receive this email directly from Terrence Walters and you would like to be included in future ITP product announcement emails, please send a request to itp@aphis.usda.gov.

 Terrence Walters, USDA•APHIS•PPQ•S&T•FCL•ITP

 

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DR. M. P. SRIVASTAVA1 ADVOCATES CREATION OF

ORGANIZED PLANT CLINICS IN ASIA2

 

Delivering an invited Keynote Address on “Plant clinics hold key to food security” on Aug 29, 2013 at Beijing in 10th International Congress of Plant Pathology, advocated creation of well-organized clinics modeled on human clinics to ensure food security to ever growing population in Asia. The Congress was organized by Chinese Society for Plant Pathology under the aegis of International Society of Plant Pathology, currently headed by Dr. Greg Johnson.

The focus of his lecture was towards mitigating huge losses due to plant pests and enhancing productivity through diagnostic and advisory support of plant clinics. Approximately 40% of the produce is believed to be lost worldwide by plant pests, due to want of timely diagnosis and advisory support. Saving even one percent loss can feed the millions according to Oerke, 2006.

 He called upon the participating nations to create well-developed, multispecialty, farmer-centric clinic on lines of human clinic in rural areas too like primary health centre so that farmers get right diagnostic and mitigatory advice in time. The clinics need to provide7x12 services free of cost on plant health and ailments and innovations to achieve higher productivity. He also stressed on organizing plant health camps, monitoring pest scenario, issuing pest alert, keeping vigil on  pest incursion & empowering growers with knowledge to tackle pests. He urged that during epiphytotics outbreak ‘Clinic on wheelshelp the farmers in rendering on the spot advice. He highlighted the relevance   of maintaining database, networking and impact analysis and tango with research, government and pesticide dealers for optimizing techno-resources. Communication with farmers needs to be invigorated though print, electronic devices, toll-free telephony, e-mails and SMSs. He also underlined the role of innovative publications – Plant Disease Warning, Plant Pathology Courier, amongst others in keeping pests at bay. Over a thousand delegates across the world attended the lecture.

Concluding the address, he said, “creating such clinics with difference, modeled on human clinics, providing wide range   of   plant  health  services   at     zero cost, shall   symbolize  quintessential   ‘plant clinic/ hospital’, empowering farmers to improve food security and plant doctors commanding same status and recognition as physicians get in the society.

His mission is to popularize plant clinic globally, more so in Asia to boost food security, where ever-growing population pose serious threat to Food Security. It is in this context, he had earlier organized an Evening Session on Plant Clinic in 9th ICPP2008 at Turin, Italy.

Besides the Keynote lecture, he also delivered an invited lecture on’ Knowledge transfer towards sustainable agriculture’ on 28th August, 2013. He stressed that knowledge is key to manage plant diseases and ensure sustainability. Therefore farmers need to be empowered with latest know-how of managing plant diseases through IPM and 4G fungicides having least impact on biodiversity, using traditional tools of extension and info technology. He also highlighted the role of innovative publications – Plant Disease Warning, Plant Pathology Courier, amongst others in keeping pests at bay. Earlier, he had delivered a keynote address on Knowledge transfer at 8th ICPP at New Zealand in 2003

Dr Srivastava has been Director Planning & Head Plant Pathology at Haryana Agricultural University, retired a decade ago but continues to promote Technology transfer & more importantly Plant Clinic in augmenting food security.

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1Dr M P Srivastava is a plant pathologist with 50 years of experience. He started his professional career with post harvest diseases way back in 1962 and later worked in diverse areas with greater emphasis on technology transfer and plant clinic. He is recipient of Fellowship of the National Academy of Sciences (1988), Best Extension Scientist National Award (1996), Keynote Lecture Award of ICPP (2003, 2013) and Dr Radhakrishnan Gold Medal Award 2013. Currently he is chairperson of XSGrowth Plant Health Clinic and offering advice on establishment of plant clinic, diagnosis and remedies of plant pests from his web portal www.xsgrowth.com free of cost.

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US: Using less pesticides on sweet corn with biocontrols

In the EPA-funded project, Cathy Thomas, PA IPM Coordinator at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and biocontrol specialist, is focusing on corn earworm, a major pest of sweet corn. “The larvae damage the fruit of the plant by first feeding on the silks, hindering pollination, and later by feeding on the kernels inside the ear,” she explains.

Farmers feel pressure to use multiple applications of broad-spectrum pesticides because there is little consumer tolerance of worm-damaged corn. But heavy pesticide use can have serious affects on the farm environment and surrounding areas and can cause insects to be resistant to insecticides. According to Thomas, the goal of the project is to reduce or eliminated broad-spectrum pesticides to control corn earworm by training growers to use IPM and biocontrols.



IPM, or integrated pest management, aims to manage pests — such as insects, diseases, weeds and animals — by combining physical, biological and chemical tactics that are safe, profitable and environmentally compatible.

Thomas has been working with three Amish farmers in York county who were interested in IPM and reduced spray programs. “They all have farm markets and take produce to the local produce auction, so it’s important the corn be marketable” says Thomas. “The standards for produce sold at auction and roadside stands are very stringent, purchasers want vegetables to be free of blemishes.”

Thomas is helping  growers incorporate biocontrols such as theparasitic wasp,/Trichogramma pretiosum/  and other biological treatments. She is also educating growers on theidentification and life cycle of corn earworm and other sweet corn pests. Additionally, the project team is producing educational posters and brochures to help consumers and retailers understand that produce grown with fewer pesticides may result in some worm damage, but will be better for farm worker protection, consumers and the environment.

Thomas explains that many Amish and Mennonite farms are family operated and children often participate in harvesting and maintenance in the fields, risking potential pesticide exposure. “Pesticide reduction or elimination will make farm environments safer for the children, other family members and farm employees.   Also, there is less risk of pesticide runoff in local water ways, local pollinators won’t be harmed by excessive pesticide use, resistance to pesticides will be reduced, and the surrounding communities will be pleased to know that there are fewer high-risk pesticides being used in their region,” she says. Also, the project promises to be more economical. “Farmers will save money they would spend on chemicals and should be able to draw a higher price for produce grown with reduced pesticides.”   

For more information on biocontrol and to read a collection of articles written by Thomas, please click here.

For more information: 
Kristie Auman-Bauer
Pennsylvania IPM Program
115 Buckout Lab, Penn State
University Park, PA 16802
Tel: +1 814-865-2839
www.paipm.org

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Plant Clinics Taking Root in East Africa

FILE - A worker is seen at a tea plantation near Kasese town, some 500 km west of Uganda's capital, Kampala.FILE – A worker is seen at a tea plantation near Kasese town, some 500 km west of Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
 
Nick Long
CABI is trying to change that with a crop protection program called Plantwise.  In the past three years, the program has trained nearly a thousand so-called plant doctors in 24 countries, including one near Kampala, Uganda.It’s market day in Mukono, a village about 15 kilometers from Kampala.  Plant doctor Daniel Lyazi has arrived by motorbike to set up his clinic next to a stall where a traditional healer is trying to sell herbal remedies to shoppers.

There is no remedy for the diseased plant samples that people bring to Lyazi’s clinic, which is basically just a table under a small tent.

The slime-covered cabbage that a farmer plunks on the table is not going to get any better, nor will the rest of his cabbages.  But Lyazi’s recommendations may save the next season’s crop.

“So he’s telling me there’s a small caterpillar which eats [the cabbages] starting from the youngest leaf.  He’s told me that the whole garden has been attacked and affected by this caterpillar.  So according to me, I know that it’s a diamondback moth and I’m going to give him recommendations,” says Lyazi.

The farmer has been using an insecticide but Lyazi says it’s the wrong one.

FILE - Farmers attend one of the plant clinics in East Africa (Courtesy - CABI).FILE – Farmers attend one of the plant clinics in East Africa (Courtesy – CABI).

What Lyazi means is the farmer should interplant onions between the rows of cabbages as an additional protection measure.

The clinic lasts about three hours and in that time Lyazi advises about 20 farmers. The head of a local farmers’ group, Erifazi Mayanja, says they are really benefiting from this twice-a-month clinic, which started last year.

“That’s why they have come in great number today, because of the good advice they are getting from our master here,” says Mayanja.

Program popular and growing

Plantwise says there are now about 90 of these clinics in Uganda, and this year donors spent around $290,000 training plant doctors and expanding the system in the country.

Coordinating the Plantwise program in Uganda and Zambia is Joseph Mulema.  He argues that plant clinics are a far more effective model for getting advice to farmers than the traditional one where agricultural extension workers, in theory, visit farms.

“Plant clinics can help so many farmers in a very short time.  In fact, more farmers are seen in a plant clinic session, if good mobilization is done, than actually an extension officer can look at in an entire month,” says Mulema.

Government crop protection officer Robert Karyeija says training plant doctors has been vital, because even though there were thousands of agricultural extension workers, they just didn’t know enough.

“They were there.  But the problem [was] they would be general agriculturalists who knew agronomy but didn’t know much about pests and diseases,” says Karyeija.

Since 2010, CABI has set up Plantwise clinics in 12 African countries – nine in East Africa and  three in West Africa.

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Adoption Analysis and Impact Evaluation of Potato IPM in Ecuador

Carrion Yaguana, Vanessa Del Rocio
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10919/23286 Date: 2013-07-02

Abstract:

There are several well-known negative side effects associated with pesticide use such as health problems and environmental pollution.  Integrated Pest Management (IPM) seeks to minimize pesticide use while reducing pest infestation to economically tolerable levels.  The introduction of IPM CRSP activities in Ecuador to institutionalize IPM methods focused on priority crops in the country. This study analyzes adoption and the economic impacts of IPM technologies on potato production in the province of Carchi. A model is estimated in which IPM adoption is discrete and ordered and pesticides expenditures are estimated as a function of education, farming experience, wealth, plot size and farmer being sick due to pesticide use for each level of IPM adoption. Results indicate that farmers who were exposed to certain IPM information sources increased adoption of IPM practices on potatoes, but farmers\' education and experience were not important factors in explaining IPM adoption. The calculated economic benefits in terms of aggregate cost savings per production cycle were $823,000.

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Banner of Agriculture Sector Council

Thank you for your interest in the May 29th Seminar, “The Importance of Horticulture Research and Development to the Feed the Future Initiative,” featuring John Bowman (USAID/BFS), Elizabeth Mitcham (UC Davis), Rangaswamy Muniappan (Virginia Tech), and Don Humpal (DAI)

Post-Event Resources

Watch the event recording, listen to an MP3 of the presentation, or download the presentation slides. 

Summary Blog Post

Read a summary of the event and watch the greenroom interview with Beth Mitcham and Rangaswamy Muniappan.

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From the Hindu Business Line by L. N. Revathy

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University’s e-Velanmai adopts technology to speed up crop-salvaging operations

High yield is not just about timely sowing. Much also depends on receiving appropriate plant protection measures to limit crop loss, say farmers.

And these farmers had enrolled as members in the “e-Velanmai” (e-Agriculture) scheme offered by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. They were offered advisory services by agricultural scientists. According

Narrating his experience, V. Dhanasekaran of Thuravi Village in Villupuram district said: “I spotted the leaf spot disease in the groundnut crop I had cultivated on about 2 acres in my farm one morning. I immediately called the field coordinator who visited the farm, captured the image of the affected plants, and sent it to the scientist concerned for advice. Within two hours, the field coordinator returned with the prescription. I was able to save the crop and limit the yield loss.”

Another woman farmer, Sivakami, of Senjerimalai village, said she noticed aphids and pod borer pests in her avarai crop, which she had cultivated on about one acre. “I was advised to spray 250 gm of Acephate an acre. I later realised that I achieved 450 kg additional yield. But for the timely intervention, I would have lost completely.”

Many farmers said that they were pleased to receive the recommendation at their doorstep.

Farmers concede that prior to the introduction of eVelanmai project they depended on input dealers for crop protection guidance. “Now, there is social recognition and we are able to share the information with confidence,” said Latha of Valem village.

There were some who felt that they were unable to reap the benefit of the recommendation, possibly due to the unexpected rainfall after the spray, while a few others said that they were not sure if the pesticide prescribed by the expert was the same as the one issued by the input dealer.

MORE ENROLMENTS

But the number of farmers enrolling themselves in this scheme is on the rise. From 1,181 in the pilot phase in 2007 -11, it has risen to over 12,000 now, says C. Karthikeyan, Project Coordinator of the eVelanmai scheme.

“It is an ICT (Information and Communication Technology) based, demand-driven participatory extension approach, seeking to provide timely advisory services (by scientists) to farmers using ICT tools,” said Karthikeyan, explaining the concept.

This World Bank-aided TN-IAMWARM project of the Government of Tamil Nadu has since been extended to 26 sub-basins (irrigation project command areas) in the State.

World Bank team is slated to review the project on May 20.

Karthikeyan meanwhile said that it has been proposed to recommend the project for adoption to the State Department of Agriculture.

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