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In Drought-Hit Burkina Faso, The Plant Doctor Is In

Dieudonné Sedogo waits patiently in line to see the doctor in the scorching 49-degree Celsius heat of this village in central Burkina Faso.

But the ailment he's seeking to address today isn't his own. Instead, it's the one afflicting the wrinkled aubergine with yellowing leaves he's carrying in his hand.

"Every year during the dry season I have the same problem,” confesses Sedogo, who has been farming the same patch of land for 15 years. His aubergines, he said, each year become as dry as prunes, rendering most of the harvest useless.

But today two "plant doctors" – Maurice Albert and Rihanata Sawadogo – have set up a one-day clinic near a maize field in the village.

They question Sedogo: Has he changed the crops he's planting? Or where he plants the aubergines? What fertilisers does he use?

Sawadogo examines the sickly plant under a microscope while Albert carefully takes notes.

Their verdict: an insect agricultural pest, most likely spider mites, is responsible for Sedogo's ailing crop – and the pest is resistant to many chemical insecticides.

Rita Willaert

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