Adoption of Integrated Pest Management Technologies: A Case Study of Potato Farmers in Carchi, Ecuador
Agricultural development is essential for improved well-being in rural Ecuador. As much as 40% of the population relies on agriculture as its primary source of income and agricultural exports account for a significant proportion of foreign exchange revenue. In the highlands, potatoes are a major staple, and more than 90,000 producers grow them on about 60,000 hectares of land. Potato production is associated with heavy use of chemical inputs--pesticides and fertilizers--to manage pests and optimize profits. Concerns have emerged about the sustainability of Ecuador's potato crop as rising input costs have created a cost squeeze and public health officials are increasingly concerned about health consequences of pesticide over use. Producers need alternative pest management approaches that are feasible, economically sustainable, and effective at controlling pests. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach that can help lower production costs, reduce exposure to pesticides, and improve long-term sustainability of the agricultural system. The national agricultural research institution in Ecuador (INIAP), supported in part by the IPM Collaborative Research Support Project (IPM CRSP) funded by USAID has developed technologies to manage potato pests. Information regarding these technologies reaches farmers through several diffusion mechanisms, including farmer field schools (FFS), field days, exposure to other farmers, and written media (e.g. pamphlets). Given only limited involvement of the public sector in technology transfer, decision makers need to understand the relative cost effectiveness of alternative dissemination methods. This understanding can help promote better technology transfer and, in so doing, effectively create a more sustainable potato production sector in Ecuador. This study had several objectives: 1) to analyze the extent of IPM use in Carchi and identify the determinants and constraints to IPM adoption, 2) to evaluate how IPM technologies are spread among potato farmers in Carchi, Ecuador, and 3) to compare the cost-effectiveness of the FFSs to other information dissemination methods. Carchi is of interest because it is Ecuador's primary potato production region, its potato producers suffer damage from the three major potato pests, and because it shares a border with Colombia. There is interest in generating stable agriculture-base livelihoods in the region. The study employed a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to achieve the above objectives. A comprehensive survey was conducted of 109 potato farmers in Carchi. Respondents included 30 Farmer Field School (FFS) participants, 28 farmers who had been exposed to FFS-participants, and 51 randomly selected farmers. Farmers were asked a series of questions including the following information categories: demographic and socioeconomic, potato production, pesticide usage and handling, IPM knowledge and implemented techniques, and knowledge about the three most significant potato pests. These pests are, in order of economic significance, Late Blight (Phytophthora infestans), the Andean Potato Weevil (Premnotrypes vorax), and the Central American Tuber Moth (Tecia solanivora). The quantitative information was combined with qualitative interviews, information on budgets and costs from the FFSs, and expert opinion. The analysis involved three steps: (i) determination of spread of information and sources of information by adoption level; (ii) analysis of the determinants of adoption using an ordered probit model; and (iii) use of the econometric results together with information on program costs to examine cost effectiveness. Step (i) involved use of descriptive statistics and differences in means. Each farmer was given a score for his or her level of IPM usage: 1=no usage, 2=minimal adoption, 3=moderate adoption, 4=high adoption, and 5=full adoption. The IPM index value is used to analyze the relationship between access to information, IPM knowledge and adoption. It is also used as the dependent variable in the econometric model. In the ordered probit model, independent variables included three categories of potential determinants of adoption for IPM potato technologies including: (i) farmer characteristics, (ii) economic factors, and (iii) institutional factors. Technology characteristics (complexity and labor requirements) and farmer perceptions (perceived profitability, risk, and preferences) are considered, not as separate variables in the model, but qualitatively to provide feedback in conjunction with model results. Specific variables included in the econometric model were: farmer age, education, household size, household members over the age of 14 (indication of labor availability), land holdings, illness from pesticides, and five variables representing the sources of information for acquiring knowledge about IPM. The five information sources included: (i) attended FFS, (ii) exposed to FFS-participant farmers, (iii) exposed to non-FFS farmers, (iv) attended one or more field days, and (v) exposed to written materials (pamphlets). Model results showed that farmer characteristics (socio-economic factors) did not play a significant role in affecting adoption rates. Four of five information sources had a positive impact on adoption. FFS-participation was the main determinant of adoption, followed by field days, pamphlets, and exposure to FFS-participants. Apart from information effects, the only other significant variable in the model was household size where larger households adopted less IPM. Lack of effects from household variables may be due to limitations in the survey sample. On the other hand, farmer characteristics affected participation in FFS, which, in turn, was a major determinant of IPM adoption. The variable land holdings was included in the model to evaluate whether there was a relationship between household wealth and adoption. Although it was not significant in the probit regression, there is evidence that capital or income may be a constraint for adopters. When we examined technology attributes of specific IPM activities and the patterns of adoption, we found that activities perceived as risky and/or were capital-intensive were adopted least in all farmer groups. These activities included buying high-quality seed, use of resistant varieties, irrigation, use of recommended storage, and use of fungicides with different active ingredients. In addition, most farmers claimed that an increase in pesticide prices or potato prices would cause them to use more IPM. Marginal effects from the ordered probit model and cost data were used to determine the relative cost-effectiveness of information dissemination mechanisms. In terms of quality of information, FFS participants have the most thorough understanding of IPM and the highest adoption rates. Concerning pesticide safety, FFSs have had the most effect on farmers in terms of safe pesticide handling. Factoring in costs, field days and pamphlets are possibly more cost-effective as diffusion mechanisms. Although these farmers have slightly lower knowledge scores and adoption rates, the benefits are high relative to the costs of implementation. FFS cost 20 times as much as a field days and 60 times as much as a pamphlet. They provide valuable information but only a small percentage of farmers can attend the limited number of schools. Through exposure to FFS participants, other farmers choose to learn about IPM through field days and pamphlets. By combining these information diffusion mechanisms (FFS, field days, farmer interactions and pamphlets), large populations of farmers are able to access important IPM messages. Based on our survey results, we expect that access to information will lead to higher rates of adoption. The study found evidence of farmer-to-farmer diffusion from FFS to non-FFS farmers, but further analysis is necessary to evaluate the nature and quality of information transfers. Analysis is also needed to identify communities that have not been exposed to IPM and evaluate the best approach for those areas.
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