Plant health clinics in Bolivia 2000—2009: operations and preliminary results
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- Bentley, J.W., Boa, E., Danielsen, S. et al. Food Sec. (2009) 1: 371. doi:10.1007/s12571-009-0033-z
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Smallholder farmers need information on plant diseases. Ten plant health clinics (Postas para Plantas) evolved in Bolivia after 2000 and are still operating due to the efforts of three local institutions. The plant clinics receive any problem, on any crop, and give written and verbal recommendations, immediately if possible. Many clinics are held at weekly farm fairs, where villagers from many surrounding communities can seek help. The clinic staff write fact sheets for farmers on common problems. From 2000 to early 2009 the clinics received more than 9000 queries on over 100 crops with potato comprising two thirds of the queries, followed by peach, tomato and broad bean. Potato tuber moth and potato weevil were by far the most dominant plant health problems in the high Andes, but not in lowland areas. The diversity of crops and problems are a big challenge to the clinic staff. With basic training and practical experience they learn to diagnose most problems. However, they need access to expert support to solve some of the more difficult problems and improve the quality of advice. Preliminary results show cases of poverty alleviation, reduction in pesticide abuse, increased harvests and other benefits. The plant health clinics in Bolivia enabled extension and research to reach more farmers with a timely low-cost service.