With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers from Michigan State University and IITA-Benin, in collaboration with the Institut des Recherches Agricoles du Benin (INRAB), have developed a prototype Farmer App, a simple cell phone technology that allows farmers and other stakeholders (e.g., extension agents) to input data into the expert system and instantly receive pest control recommendations for the cowpea pod borer in local languages. The Farmer App has been designed with capabilities for both data collection and solution delivery. First, we identified the necessary components of the data collection and the minimum dataset required for diagnosis. Secondly, an internet–based interface was developed for use by farmers and others in the field for collecting data on pest occurrences. The data methodology is being validated by comparing data collected by farmers to those collected by extension agents and field researchers. Following validation, the pest data from Benin will be integrated into the prototype expert system to generate preliminary sets of recommendations for evaluation by researchers and extension agents. At present we are at the stage of the prototype App, eagerly looking for funds to make our precision-IPM effort fully operational.
Manu Tamò: Insect ecologist, IITA Representative in Benin, M.Tamo@cgiar.org