Plant Clinics in India
Published: February, 2012
Agriculture has long been the backbone of India’s economy, employing more than half the population and accounting for almost a fifth of the gross domestic product. Productivity is increasing, but average farm size is decreasing, so agricultural extension services aimed at small holder farms are becoming more important. These extension services introduce farmers to knowledge and technologies that can improve their production, income and welfare. Plant clinics are a relatively new addition to the many agricultural extension methods already used in India. Plant clinics are run by local organisations and local people with initial on-the-ground support of the Global Plant Clinic (GPC) (which has subsequently been used to develop the Plantwise initiative) of CABI (Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International). CABI offers training courses on how to set up, run and document clinics and how to write fact sheets on key pests and diseases. ‘Plant doctors’ (plant doctor, and ‘plant health worker’, are used to describe agronomists that give advice at the clinics, it is not an official title) make recommendations for farmers on plant care in the same way a health centre does for humans. The clinics are technically supported by existing agricultural advisory services such as university or state diagnostic laboratories or by CABI diagnostic services. The plant clinics aim to eliminate some of the problems encountered by other extension services. They reduce inputs by being run as an off-shoot of established enterprises; they increase accessibility of up-to-date information to all farmer groups, particularly marginalised groups such as landless farmers; they provide practical relevant information to farmers on an individual basis and they adopt a bottom-up approach that suits the farmers. They are not seen as a short term project, but more a gradual development of permanent rural services.