In several countries in Africa, a multimedia tool called the Crop Protection Compendium (CPC) is helping farmers to recognize and control crop diseases and pests via the Internet and CD-ROM.
Accessible, cheap ICTs are providing increasingly effective ways to identify pests – the first crucial step in pest management. In several countries in Africa, a multimedia tool called the Crop Protection Compendium (CPC) is helping farmers, agricultural officers and scientists to recognize and control crop diseases and pests.
The CPC is a global compilation of crop protection knowledge for practical decision-making, edited by CAB International and supported by an international development consortium of more than 50 organisations in the public and private sectors. The compendium, which is updated annually, is used worldwide by crop protection specialists, extension workers, quarantine officers, plant breeders and policy makers, as well as farmers.
For instance, farmers who want to identify a particular beetle can visit their local telecentre and consult the CPC’s vast encyclopedia on plant health and integrated pest management either via the Internet or on CD-ROM. They then select the key, or directory, on beetles, which presents a series of features (size, colour, etc.) from which they select those that apply to that particular beetle. Its clear navigation tools, illustrations and text make it easy to identify the pest quickly and accurately, and obtain information on appropriate management strategies.
Theophilus Mlaki of Tanzania’s Commission for Science and Technology is promoting the CPC to assist rural farmers. ‘We aim to empower local officials to be the brains behind the community’s agricultural information’, he says. ‘The CPC is user-friendly and accessible to the officials who travel to villages to help farmers identify pests. Part of the compendium’s success lies in its wealth of illustrations. We can produce printouts of a pest or disease and give them to farmers, together with information in local languages.’
In Niger, the CPC is also being used at the AGRHYMET Regional Centre as a tool for identifying agricultural pests and as a source of information on their biology, ecology and suitable control methods. Established in 1974 by the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, AGRHYMET provides training and information on food production and natural resource management. The CPC has become an important teaching tool at AGRHYMET, particularly for students enrolled in its crop protection programme. Students are particularly impressed by the illustrations, which make the keys easy to use. The centre received a copy of the CPC as part of a USAID project in which 250 copies were distributed throughout Africa.
CABI is continually updating the technology supporting the CPC in order to exploit the opportunities offered by rapid developments in ICTs. One innovative feature of the CPC is its dynamic ‘softlinks’, which are not ‘hard wired’ like hyperlinks. When a user enters a query in the CPC, the user is not taken to one fixed location but is instantly ‘softlinked’ to a wide range of related information, such as on other countries or pests, glossary entries, bibliographic records or other databases.
New delivery media, such as digital video disks (DVDs) and personal digital assistants (PDAs), are also being explored. In view of the technology constraints faced by many users in ACP countries, however, the compendium will continue to be available on CD-ROM for the foreseeable future.
The development of the CPC will continue to respond to user demand, with the support of the consortium. For example, projects are under way to improve the information on invasive species, and on forest pests and diseases. CABI is also investigating ways to promote the use of the compendium in developing countries, such as through training programmes, and is exploring the feasibility of developing versions of the CPC tailored to specific local needs and in local languages.
For more information on the CPC, and to register for a 30-day free trial, visit CAB International, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amadou Bocar Bal is a trainer at AGRHYMET in Niger.
Julia Brunt is the Compendium Programme Manager at CAB International.