|Extension of Complex Issues - Success Factors in Integrated Pest Management (LBL - SKAT - SDC, 1997, 102 p.)|
"The challenge for us is to learn from farmers, and help guide the stream of spontaneous farmer experiments by teaching farmers what they do not know, in a way that is consistent with what they already know."
Jeffery W. Bentley
In developing countries, it is still a majority of the people that depends on agriculture, and the rural sector is seen as the engine of development. Considering the ongoing population growth, agriculture more than ever faces the challenge of increasing food production without destroying natural resources (soil, water, air etc.). Intensifying agricultural production while at the same time improving its sustainability is the first commandment of our century. During the seventies, the Green Revolution brought considerable yield increases through the introduction of new high yielding varieties coupled with the application of irrigation and fertiliser/pesticide packages. In the meantime the negative ecological implications of the Green Revolution have become well known: Soil depletion, soil salinity, loss of biodiversity etc. threaten the very purpose of the Green Revolution. Sustainable agricultural practices need to complement or even replace the heritage of the Green Revolution.
There is already an existing basis for this: Depending on prevailing agro-ecosystems, an array of such practices developed by farmers, researchers and extensionists is now available for application and further development. Categorised according to agro-ecological zones (compare Holt-Gimenez 1996) typical examples of recent relevance are:
· In dry to semi-humid zones, where the erosion problem is of primary importance, various soil conservation measures have been examined and analysed (terracing, bunds, horizontal tilling, minimal tillage, water harvesting techniques etc.) which can be summarised under the heading "Natural Resources Management".
· Sustainable practices in forests and lowlands of more humid areas include rotational cropping and agro-forestry.
· Under semi-humid and fertile conditions, pests are a major threat to agricultural production. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a typical example of a practice that is in convergence with the principles of sustainable agriculture.
The feature common to natural resources management, agro-forestry, and IPM is not only that they represent examples for endeavours to reach a sustainable agriculture, but also that they all are applied in very complex agro-ecological situations where any decision to make any major change deserves a preceding, careful, holistic analysis. The complexity of such agro-ecological situations is accompanied by an equally high degree of diversity: The agro-ecological situation, e.g. soil fertility or insect populations, may easily vary from farm to farm or even from plot to plot. As a consequence, the role of the farmer and his or her family in deciding to make any major change needs to be included systematically into the entire process of searching and applying new solutions. In general, this implies a new and much more farmer-oriented approach to problem solving and decision-taking procedures. The above mentioned sustainable agricultural practices are the response to risks inherent to a higher or lesser degree in any given agro-ecological situation. Such risks include drought, erosion, pests etc. The implication for the farmer is that any decision to make a change can be disastrous for the one who takes it if it was not properly assessed beforehand. Sometimes, change is inevitable, and making the right choice becomes vital.
IPM fosters species diversity to which ecological sustainability is directly linked. Therefore, in the context of this study we consider Integrated Pest Management as
· a key-example for a sustainable agricultural practice
· which is applied in complex, diverse and risk prone areas (CDRs) (Chambers 1989).
In complex and diverse situations, traditional ways of extension hit the limits. Traditional extension approaches which came forth with the Green Revolution were characterised by
· technologies developed by researchers on research stations
· top-down transfer of technology by researchers to extensionists, and from these to the farmers
· blanket recommendations for large areas.
The challenge to extension - extension understood in a wide sense as defined below - is to find approaches that are suited to introduce sustainable agricultural practices in complex, diverse and risk prone situations.
IPM being a prime example of complexity and diversity, this study aims at identifying success factors for extension work on it.