Many Ecuadorian farmers depend on chemical pesticides to manage crop pests, despite the high costs and health hazards associated with pesticides. Current methods of individual, plot-based pest management are inadequate for two reasons beyond the negative effects to human and ecosystem health. One is that pests are not bound to individual plots, and can thus escape from plot-based treatment. Another is that pollinators and pest predators are more strongly affected by chemical pesticides than are the target pests, causing loss of ecosystem services. Pest management thus has to be considered at a broader scale, as a public good that requires participation of the entire production community for it to be effective.
Agroecology is a promising framework for this transformation, because it goes beyond a change of farming methods, or an exchange of inputs, and encompasses a social-political movement that requires stakeholders to rethink the relationship between food production and nature. This project is framed by environmental, economic, social, cultural, and political dimensions. These dimensions are interrelated and will be reflected in the expected project impacts on smallholder farmer partners in four communities in central Ecuador, as well as other communities through policy and farmer-to-farmer scaling dynamics.
This project is a lynchpin for the region and program both thematically and methodologically. In terms of thematic importance, pests are arguably the greatest challenge for agroecological farming and for this reason, ecological pest management is a critical lever for systems change. This challenge is not only related to field production but also to the quality of extension services. The IRD team has found that agrochemical vendors are generally the primary—and sometimes only—source of technical information for smallholder farmers. Moreover, agricultural education struggles to go beyond the farm level when analyzing pest management, supporting a short-sighted view of agroecological processes as separated from social and political processes.
IRD’s connections within and among other CCRP regions and projects (including the principal investigator’s connections), as well as strong linkages with global and regional agroecological efforts, help to facilitate wider learning around agroecological pest management.
Outputs and Outcomes:
Pests are among the most pressing problems for smallholder farmers and provoke the use of synthetic chemical inputs that are harmful to the environment, human health, and long-term ecosystem services. A landscape approach takes into account the mobile nature of pests.
This project will add to the agroecological evidence base of how to approach pests based on collective action. The project team will use innovative methods to advance the ability to learn and affect complex systems.
Individual farmers will increase their knowledge about beneficial and detrimental insects. This knowledge will contribute to their ability to innovate and adapt through social learning, as well as having access to economic and ecological models that can guide their decision making.