Can plant clinics enhance judicious use of pesticides? Evidence from Rwanda and Zambia
Published: June, 2021
Recent outbreaks of crop pests such as fall armyworm and desert locusts are threatening food security and have spurred increased use of pesticides in sub-Saharan Africa. While pesticides can prevent crop losses, they can also have adverse effects on human health and the environment, if not used judiciously. In this article, we examine whether plant clinics―an innovative extension approach of providing plant health diagnostic and advisory services to smallholder farmers―can enhance judicious use of pesticides, measured by intensity of pesticide use, adoption of alternative and more environmentally friendly pest management practices, safe pesticide use practices, and incidence of pesticide-related illness. We use data from a sample of 1474 farm households in Rwanda and Zambia. Propensity score matching estimates suggest that although plant clinic participants exhibit a higher probability of opting for pesticides for pest control, they do not use pesticides intensively and are more likely to adopt alternatives to chemical pest control. On the other hand, plant clinic users and non-users are equally likely to use restricted pesticides and inappropriate methods of disposing of pesticide wastes, which can lead to pesticide poisoning. Overall, our results imply that the plant clinic extension approach can promote sustainable pest management in smallholder agriculture, but additional training of plant clinic staff and clients on pesticide safety would be necessary.
Farmers’ crops are increasingly at the mercy of climate change, pests and diseases. PlantwisePlus will work to help countries predict, prepare for and prevent potential threats and reduce crop losses. We will provide comprehensive support to countries and farmers so they meet the increasing global demand for quality food in a changing climate.
Worldwide, over 500 million smallholder farmers provide food for two-thirds of the earth’s growing population. Achieving a zero hunger world by 2030 depends on increasing the productivity of these smallholder farmers – but their crops face a significant threat. Yearly, an estimated 40% of crops grown worldwide are lost to pests. If we could reduce crop losses by just 1%, we could potentially feed millions more people. The lack of access to timely, appropriate and actionable extension advice makes it a fundamental challenge for farmers to get the right information at the right time to reduce crop losses.