International Society for Plant Pathology
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International Society for Plant Pathology


Challenge Project in South Africa

2011, Extracts from Final Report

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.     

Deliverable:  A 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

Deliverable:  A 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.

Deliverable:  A trailer was purchased and converted into a mini lab.

4) Tour with undergraduate students (marketing plant pathology and food security)

Deliverable:  A 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.

Deliverable:  A 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 Estate.

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!

Mobile Lab

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, quality water”

Theme 2: Soil Health “Healthy soils give healthy nutritious food”

Theme 3: Food security: The essential “Food Basket” for a healthy nutritious life style

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 ( and a facebook page ( 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 by clicking here.

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 UP.

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.