Rice IPM: Module 5

Module 5. The Fourth Rule of Rice IPM – Unlocking Farmers’ IPM Expertise

Module Overview

You must be aware by now that an awful lot is known about IPM for rice. We know the rules, we know the underlying concepts, we know the organisms and we know the management practices needed to effectively manage pests in the rice ecosystem. Unfortunately, we does not necessarily include the billions of farmers in developing countries who desperately need to know these things as well. The real challenge in IPM is to develop and implement cost-effective farmer education and knowledge dissemination programs that give farmers the knowledge and skills they need to become IPM experts. If this doesn’t happen, all the knowledge that we possess is worthless.

A key goal for IPM is to empower farmers and give them the knowledge and skills they need to be confident managers and decision-makers, eager for new ideasand information and able to evaluate the information they receive and adapt it to local circumstances. Sadly, achieving this goal has been elusive.

In this module we will focus on Rule 4: Unlock farmers’ IPM expertise. What can you as an agricultural professional do to empower farmers and improve their abilities to make sound crop and pest management decisions based on their personalcircumstances and the ecological balance in their fields. We will present some traditional and innovative approaches that are being implemented and evaluated around the world. You will notice that many of these draw heavily on social science expertise and the incorporation of techniques developed in other fields of endeavor such as commercial advertising, participatory nonformal education, and community organizing.

Lesson 5.1: Farmer Support and Empowerment Approaches

Government, non-government, development agency and private farmer education efforts have been using a range of techniques over the years. Much of this is what has traditionally been known as Agricultural Extension – essentially a means of introducing new knowledge and ideas into rural areas in order to bring about change and improve the lives of farmers and their families. Extension is a process that occurs over a period of time and, through educational activities, works with rural people, supports them and empowers them to confront their problems more successfully.

In the promotion of IPM, some of the most recent success stories have come from strategic extension campaigns, farmer field schools, and now, community IPM approaches. Traditional Extension approaches can also be used and, more and more, development professionals are looking at ways to use modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) to facilitate rural access to knowledge and information.

Lesson 5.1.1: Strategic Extension Campaigns

Strategic extension campaigns (SECs) use mass media convey research findings and recommendations in a simplified form in order to motivate attitude change. SECs have been shown to achieve rapid impact because they reach large numbers of farmers in an area all at once, including remote locations normally not visited by extension trainers. One of the most effective SECs used to promote IPM practice is IRRI’s ‘‘Forty Days’’ SEC. Forty Days SECs are being fielded in several countries in order to reduce unnecessary insecticide use in early-season rice. Their main objective is to rectify farmers’ mistaken belief that leaf-feeding insects, particularly leaffolders, cause severe yield loss. This belief leads them to apply insecticides during the early stages of the crop even though they are not necessary. These applications may even trigger outbreaks of BPH and other secondary pests.

Additional references on SECs

Lesson 5.1.2: Farmer Field Schools

The IPM Field School is a field based programme that provides learning experiences usually for groups of up to 25 farmers. The Field School lasts for a full cropping season and meets at least 12 times for about four to five hours per meeting. At each meeting, farmers are guided through several activities: agroecosystem field observation, analysis and presentations; special topics; and group dynamics. Participants are given the opportunity to observe and analyse the dynamics of the rice field ecology across a full season. Schools are based on FAO’s four IPM implementation principles previously discussed:

  1. Grow a healthy crop.
  2. Observe fields weekly.
  3. Conserve natural enemies.
  4. Farmers are IPM experts.

FAO describe farmer field schools at http://www.fao.org/nr/land/sustainable-land-management/farmer-field-school/en/

Lesson 5.1.3: Community IPM

Community IPM takes the farmer field school approach to a broader level and attempts to empower farm communities to organize and implement their own IPM activities. Instead of using trained facilitators to teach farmer field schools, farmer leaders become the main instigators of IPM training and promotion. Farmer groups are encouraged to analyze problems, design field studies and carry out experiments.

For additional information on IPM training you might want to also check out these sites.

Lesson 5.2: Traditional Extension Techniques

Although the Training and Visit system of Extension has largely been discredited as an effective way to promote IPM, good ideas can be found by looking at some of the tried and true Extension methodologies developed over the years. Below are links to two excellent resource sites with extensive information on various Extension methods and Extension training.

Lesson 5.3: Information and Communication Technologies

A major problem rural populations have traditionally faced has been their inability to access needed information and knowledge. This has been the driving force behind both traditional Extension activities as well as the newer, more participatory approaches like the farmer field school and Community IPM programme.

But now, with the explosion of new information services, even remote areas in many developing countries are able to take advantage of global information sources. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are increasingly proving their value in addressing the information and knowledge needs of rural people. While reaching farmers with these tools is still not widespread, they are being successfully used to deliver information to and from intermediary information providers such as universities, government offices, telecenters, NGOs and libraries.