Safe pest management in Cambodia: Calling for impact
Some insects like eating vegetables, but most consumers don’t like to share theirs. Protecting vegetable crops from insect pests remains a huge challenge for farmers; many often over-apply chemical pesticides to reduce the risk of crop loss and deliver unblemished produce to the market.
In Cambodia, a recent WorldVeg study estimated that 92% of pesticide expenditures for vegetable production exceed the economic optimum, thereby reducing farm profits and also putting people’s health at risk. Farmers’ lack of knowledge on pest management methods is strongly correlated with excessive pesticide use. Training in good agricultural practices, and the adoption of biopesticides, insect nets, and rotation with non-host crops lead to significantly less pesticide overuse by farmers. Although it is recognized that promoting such practices, as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) package, is key to reducing pesticide overuse, little is known on how to scale up these proven methods in the most cost-effective and timely manner.
“Teach and Text: Combining on-farm demonstration and phone messaging to scale vegetable IPM in Cambodia”, a new WorldVeg project, will test cost-effective IPM scaling methods to determine the impact and cost-effectiveness of phone messaging to promote the adoption of IPM methods.
Over a two-year period, the project team will work directly with 800 vegetable farmers from key vegetable producing areas of Cambodia and assign them randomly to one of four treatment groups: a first group of 200 farmers will receive hands-on IPM training at a demonstration farm; a second group will get the same but additionally receive regular and timely phone messages to remind them about critical aspects in the crop cycle; a third group will only receive the phone messages; and the fourth group will not receive IPM support with a 1-year delay and serve as a control. This design will allow the research team to quantify the impact of IPM training and determine the additional benefit (and cost) of phone messaging.
On 11-12 January 2019, the project team held an inception and planning workshop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Researchers and partners agreed to focus their efforts on commonly cultivated vegetables with serious pesticide problems:
- yard-long bean (Vigna unguiculata sesquipedalis)
- bok choy (Brassica rapa chinensis)
- choy sum (Brassica rapa parachinensis).
The World Vegetable Center and its local public partner, the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA), already have developed and validated an IPM package for these particular vegetables that can now be scaled up. This project brings together partners from the private sector—Angkor Green Investment and Development Company Ltd. and Eco-Agri Company Ltd—to increase the availability of recommended biocontrol products such as biopesticides. Scaling partners include GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and ICCO Cooperation, which are implementing programs to strengthen vegetable value chains in Cambodia. It is expected that they will integrate the IPM packages and scaling methods developed within the Teach and Text project.
This project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (Germany). The results will be relevant to Cambodia at the national level, as well as to other countries where effective IPM scaling remains a challenge.
Vegetable pests: When the phone rings, beware!
Story and photos: Pepijn Schreinemachers and Delphine Larrousse