Do farmers adopt advice on good pesticide practices? A case study of plant doctor recommended pesticide use in maize and tomato production
Published: November, 2021
Pesticides are now widely used to manage the recent outbreak of crop pests such as fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda, FAW) and Phthorimaea absoluta (syn. Tuta absoluta). However, reports on farmers’ pesticide use practices are often insufficient. Hence, this study aimed to assess how Kenyan maize and tomato farmers’ use of pesticides aligns with plant doctor recommendations. We collected data from 600 randomly selected maize and tomato farmers (clinic users and non-clinic users) using a pre-tested structured questionnaire and key informant interviews with plant doctors and extension officers. Results suggest farmer practices matched plant doctor recommendations in over 80% of clinic users’ cases. However, there were significant differences in recommended pesticide use and actual practices between plant clinic users and non-plant clinic users.
Although plant clinic users were significantly more likely to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while working with pesticides, we observed inadequate PPE use among most farmers. This contributed to reported incidences of dizziness, headaches, and other acute pesticide health symptoms. Occasionally farmer practice does not match plant doctor recommendations due to the high cost of inputs, and lack of money to purchase the recommended inputs. Overall, this study shows that plant clinic participation resulted in more judicious use of pesticides and PPE wearing by farmers. The divergence in views means that there is a need to reconcile farmer actions and ideal situations through seminars, farmer field schools, barazas, and other information dissemination methods.
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.