International Society for Plant Pathology
TASK FORCE ON GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY
Challenge Project in South Africa
2011, Extracts from
One of the objectives of the ISPP (International Society for Plant Pathology) is
to effect changes in public policy and opinions on global food security. The
University of Pretoria was selected to address this objective by improving
awareness of the impact and importance of plant disease. This was accomplished
through a project that focused on spreading the message of food security and
raising awareness about Plant Pathology in countries in Africa. The University
of Pretoria was proposed due to its central position in terms of transport
networks, academic standing and its number of students (being the biggest
residential University in Africa and having the largest Agricultural School on
the continent). The University of Pretoria also employs the largest number of
plant pathologists in Africa. Funding was used to establish
Plant Pathology on Wheels, a mobile
lab for school and public awareness campaigns within Sub-Saharan Africa.
The following objectives were identified:
1) To develop marketing material such as brochures, banners videos etc, for the
public awareness programme and to attract plant pathology students for both
under and postgraduate training programmes.
Plant Pathology marketing board game was re-designed and other marketing
material was developed such as a flyer about “My future career”.
2) Food Security / ISPP / Plant Pathology DVD made by professional videographer
marketing DVD is being developed and will be released on Youtube end of 2011. A
video of an Agricultural Career Fair in which UP’s Plant Pathology division
features was also released.
3) To purchase a trailer and convert it into a Plant Pathology and Agricultural
Science Information and demonstration mini laboratory.
trailer was purchased and converted into a mini lab.
4) Tour with undergraduate students (marketing plant pathology and food
tour with undergraduate plant pathology students was undertaken to Mozambique,
Swaziland and South Africa.
5) To establish a Food Safety hub and Plant Pathology network first within SADC
and later to roll it out to other African countries.
Theme Cluster on SPS within the new Institute of Food Security, Nutrition and
Well-Being has been successfully established at the University of Pretoria.
Other institutional linkages are being developed.
A group of 16 plant pathology scientists and undergraduate students from the
University of Pretoria (UP) went on a Southern African Development Community
(SADC) tour in 2011 to share a “Basket full of knowledge” of “Food
Security challenges in Africa”. The group paid a visit to commercial farms,
informal markets and food enterprises as well as small scale farmers in South
Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. The group visited rural villages and schools
to share knowledge on how to reduce postharvest losses, to discuss the
importance of food safety and hygiene, to assess sustainable water resource
management, crop production and - protection practices and other challenges.
The ISPP Task Force on Global Food Security has funded this project under
the title “Changing Public Policy and Opinions on Global Food Security”.
In Swaziland the group met Mr Similo
Mavimbela and a group of representatives from the Swaziland’s Ministry of
Agriculture. They acted as tour guides and translators. The group visited two
high schools, Etimphisini Central High school and Mayiwane High School. The
children were told about food safety, the job of an agricultural scientist, the
importance of good soil and the exciting future career they could have in
agriculture and particularly in plant pathology.
The tour continued with a visit to a group of small-scale farmers who are part
of the Mkovo rice scheme. It was found that tomato wilt and the drying out of
rice tassels are their biggest challenges. They were handed some books, hats,
seeds, and chemical protective suits for personal use. To see their gratitude
was a humbling experience and a great need for future collaboration was
identified. The group then visited a commercial citrus and banana farm, Ngonini
In Mozambique the group visited a
school in Inhassune. The mobile lab was set up and the school children were told
what a fungus is and how it grows on a Petri dish. They were given books and
with the help of a translator, active participation, singing and dancing with
the locals took place. The group visited two local farmers and four small scale
farms, producing maize, onion, cabbage, potato and tomato. This experience was
extremely valuable since the farmers could share their biggest challenges
regarding pests and diseases. The farmers demonstrated irrigation systems,
discussed their pest control strategies and markets. Extreme levels of pesticide
resistance were noted.
All participants of the tour are grateful to the people of Swaziland and
Mozambique and most importantly to the ISPP for making this project possible!
A second-hand trailer was purchased and converted (funded through the ISPP
project) into a mini lab to demonstrate plant pathology activities and create
food security awareness. The trailer was branded with the ISPP and UP’s Plant
Pathology logos and reflected tag lines such as “Food Security for Africa”,
“Plant Pathologists feed the nation” and “Keeping your plants healthy”.
Marketing material and exposure on the tour
The message of the tour was based around the concept of a “A Basket full of
knowledge”, which covered several themes:
Theme 1: Clean water: “Good nutritious food starts with adequate, safe,
Theme 2: Soil Health “Healthy soils give healthy nutritious food”
Theme 3: Food security: The essential “Food Basket” for a healthy nutritious
Theme 4: Crop Protection, Postharvest Quality and Food Safety
Theme 5: Sharing our knowledge
The tour progress was documented on a
blog that was created specifically for marketing purposes (http://plantspecialist.wordpress.com/)
and a facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/plantpathology.atup)
was created to raise awareness with regard to plant pathology issues and to link
up with the blog.
Video / DVD
A professional video has been developed to market plant pathology and food
security. The video is specifically targeting school children and young adults
who still need to make a career choice. The video
can be viewed
Agricultural Career Fair
The Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria
(UP) in conjunction with the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Foundation for
Industry Talent launched a Horticultural/Agricultural Career and Bursary Fair at
The Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology was one of the participant
exhibitors and set up a lovely exhibition stand where marketing material was
handed out to passers by and where Plant Pathology in Action was demonstrated.
The target group was mainly first-year BSc students, many of whom had not yet
decided on an area of specialisation from their second year onwards.
Challenge Food Security Project: Conclusion
The University of Pretoria’s gratitude goes to ISPP for making this project
possible and for giving us the opportunity to be proud ambassadors of
agriculture! We are excited about continuing our contribution to food security
for Africa through promoting the world-wide development of plant pathology.