It is hoped that by the end of this week, agriculture officers will become ‘Plant Doctors’ when an inhouse training concludes in Levuka.

The comment was made by the Ministry of Agriculture Principal Agriculture Officer Eastern, Mr Epeli Dugucagi while officially opening the week-long Plant Protection Training and Plant Health Clinic for the
Eastern Division in Ovalau.

“This training will train ‘plant doctors’ mainly drawn from government agricultural offices on basic field diagnosis, symptoms description of pests and diseases and suggest suitable remedial measures,” he told
participants.

He said the training was to assist officers on the management of pest and disease affecting the agricultural production system.

“I trust you have the capacity to bring in positive changes and increase crop production and income status of rural farmers,” Mr Dugucagi said.

The Principal Agriculture Officer said more than 20 Plant Health Clinic trainings had been conducted in the four divisions since the concept was introduced into the region in 2016.

“It has been widely practiced in Africa and Asia and proven to be very successful in providing practical answers to pest and diseased crop samples brought about by farmers to a common meeting place in a farming community.”

The Eastern Division was one of the most challenging to work in, in terms of logistics and connectivity, shared Mr Dugucagi.

“One of the challenges we face is the number of officers to farmers’ ratio.
“Some of you are handling 1000 farmers, some of you may be looking after 400 farmers.

“Officers and farmers ratio varies and it requires so much from us.
“Looking at what we have at our disposal we need to broaden our skills,” he said.

He thanked the Plant Protection Team for organizing the training to broaden skillsets to better assist farmers as a way of addressing the challenge of resources.

Ministry of Agriculture Senior Agriculture Officer Lomaviti, Mr Ravikash Narayan expressed similar sentiments and added, that the learning from the training would enable the officers to confidently assist farmers in recognizing the diseases affecting their crops.

Agricultural officers attending the training are from the Moala, Kadavu, Cicia, Totoya, Vanuabalavu, Lakeba, Gau, Koro and Ovalau.

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