Women Plant Doctors 2.0 - Competition „Empowerment of women through digital solutions“
“Women Plant Doctors 2.0” was one of the winning contributions of the GIZ-competition "Empowerment of women through digital solutions". The two GIZ programmes „Promoting Sustainable Agriculture and Rural development (PAD)“ and the „Green Innovation Center (IAAA)“ developed in cooperation with two ICT start-ups German PEAT and Tunisian RGT a measure which supports especially female smallholder farmers to gain access to information and expert knowledge about plant diseases.
Tunisia’s rural areas are characterised by few job and income opportunities, especially for young women. In the agricultural sector, rural women have traditionally been playing a key role, as they provide the majority of agricultural labour force and engage in all productive tasks. Nevertheless, their productivity levels remain often low. 15 – 30% of their annual crop is lost due to plant diseases, weeds and pests. This is mainly explained by a lack of technical knowledge and weak access to information, training and advisory services.
To counter the lack of income opportunities and agricultural productivity, an existing German smartphone app called Plantix was adapted to the Tunisian context through support of its Tunisian users by sending in thousands of plant (disease) photos. Plantix can recognize plant diseases via the smartphone camera and provides information on (organic and conventional) treatment and prevention measures. In Tunisia, information is accessible on the 10 most prioritized crops in French and Arabic. In addition, it is adapted to specific needs of female farmers in Tunisia. By mid-2018, 2600 of all users in Tunisia were female and have used Plantix almost 17 000 times.
50 young agricultural experts in rural areas (over 60% of them women) were equipped with smartphones and trained technically and economically to work as local service providers – the plant doctors. More specifically, soft skills, entrepreneurship and business coaching has allowed them to develop successful business plans and undertake market analyses. This enables them to acquire funding and further support to launch their businesses or to apply successfully for jobs. Especially the female plant doctors have been developing and applying their new skillset actively and with growing enthusiasm.
Additionally, the first national network of young plant doctors in Tunisia called “PlantMed” was created. It is among the first young people-led actors in civil society with presence and activities in the agricultural sector, especially in plant protection. “PlantMed” is linked to the mobile application by including a specific forum function to contact plant experts around the world as the network integrates experts from science, education, ministry and the private sector. Furthermore, it gives specific focus to female plant doctors and their cooperation. For instance, a special event was held with female experts, farmers and role models to learn about the needs and demands of female farmers, how to increase their access to Plantix via the plant doctors and how to become a successful female entrepreneur in the agricultural sector.
Therefore, as the application and the network develops, several institutions and organizations and other rural youth show considerable interest in collaborating and participating in the initiative allowing for continuous expansion in the future.
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