Angela Mkindi, a recent PhD grad supported by the CCRP, is an assistant lecturer in the department of bioengineering at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology. Her studies focus on enhancing the use of plant extracts for pest control and growth promotion of common beans (Phaseolus vilgaris). While plant extracts are known to have efficacy in pest management and yield improvement, their usage is not widely adopted, especially by smallholder farmers in areas with enormous agronomic challenges. Existing laboratory findings about plants’ efficacy are inadequately employed by farmers.
Mkindi’s study covered four main aspects: 1) examining the possible challenges, benefits, and plans that would enable extensive use of plant extracts among smallholder farmers, 2) analyzing the spatial-temporal chemical variation of the most used plant species, T. vogelii, which would enable efficient propagation and use of right and effective plant materials, 3) establishing collaborative trials led by smallholder farmers to evaluate the efficacy of extracts on the field, and 4) determining the use of plant extracts for growth promotion.
Her research found that the potential for using plant extracts for pest management is enhanced through better understanding of the challenges, benefits, and best practices. Clear understanding leads to practical implementation. Likewise, plant extracts processed and used under field conditions are more efficient compared with untreated fields and, when applied, contribute to improved plant growth. Another important finding is that some plant species such as T. vogelii have variations in their chemotypes, which can influence uptake by smallholder farmers.
Through the study, Mkindi learned that involving stakeholders (farmers, in this case) or the target population in scientific research is critical, resulting in practical findings that are implementable and triggering innovations and questions for further research.
The study used farmer research network (FRN) design, which is grounded in a responsive approach. Its success was in part attributable to Mkindi’s exposure to the research methods support team, the ESAf CoP regional team, and other project work.
- Through her work with the research methods support team (RMS), Mkindi learned how best to qualitatively assess the cost-benefit analysis of plant extracts, identify factors that influence uptake of plant extracts’ use, and establish clear and easy ways to implement their use in the field.
- By working with the CCRP and other project teams, she conducted the phytochemical analysis of T. vogelii in three countries: Malawi, Kenya, and Tanzania. She also collaborated on projects that used T. vogelii in agronomic activities. Such a broad scope would not have been possible without the valuable connections developed through the CCRP.
- While testing plant extracts for pest management with the CCRP project team at the Manor House Agricultural Centre (MHAC), Mkindi derived more meaningful results that led to constructive feedback and sharing. She learned to identify other pest management methodologies that are tested in the field and gaining farmers’ trust in the use of plants that are thought of as commercialization. Farmer feedback enabled additional experimentation that identified other plant extracts potential for growth promotion and enhanced production of primary and secondary metabolites important for plant growth.