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Eco alternatives for small-holder farmers

Farmer participants in a training event doing preference ranking exercise

Lakpa Sherpa and Ram Bahadur Rana


Farmers are interested to adopt the alternative options to agrochemicals. Adoption of disease resistant varieties and availability of bio-pesticides have great potential to minimize the conventional use of pesticides. The pilot initiative of LIBIRD in Nepal shows this.


There is an increasing trend of agrochemical use in Nepal. With increased food demand, especially for vegetables and animal products by urban consumers, intensive cultivation practices are being adopted. Therefore, the use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides are more prevalent in commercial vegetable production areas in Nepal.

Panchkhal Municipality in the Kavreplanchowk district is around 50 km east from the capital city, Kathmandu. This place is an important source of green seasonal and off-seasonal vegetables and potato for Dulikhel, Kathmandu and Lalitpur. Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD) carried out a study in Panchkhal Municipality area to understand the prevalent production practices in vegetables. Around 140 farmers were randomly selected for the study. The study reported that the use of agrochemicals is widely prevalent in vegetable production(72%) and potato (96.4%). This was primarily for insect pest and disease management.Farmers have limited awareness on recommended dose of pesticide (56.4%), mode of action of pesticides (22%), and IPM practices (42%).  Incidence of pesticide poisoning was also reported by 13% respondents. The study findings encouraged LI-BIRD to focus its attention to reducing knowledge gap on agrochemical use as well as to provide alternative options to agrochemical use.

Reducing knowledge gap in agrochemical use

During 2018-19,a series of field level training events were organized with 316 farmers for a year. Training was focused on the crop specific and seasonal vegetable disease and pest issues. In each training event, a maximum of 25 participants were invited for effective participatory discussion and interaction. Farmers were requested to bring the live specimens of disease and insect or any other abnormalities. These specimens were observed, identified and control measures suggested during the training sessions. Farmers were also introduced to the bio-pesticides available in the market for treatment of the plant diseases.

The trainings were supplemented by continuous follow up, farm visits and technical inputs by field staff which helped to increase the awareness levels of farmers. Mr. Bhakta Bahadur Danuwar of Panchkhal Municipality-ward 4, who uses a yellow sticker in his cucumber field says-‘I do not wish to poison my soil, and my health, if I have simple and alternative options to grow healthy vegetables’. There are other farmers like Mr. Bhakta Bahadur who now read pesticide label, purchase yellow sticker, pheromone traps and other easily available IPM tools to manage the diseases and pests.

Identification of disease tolerant/resistant potato varieties

Diversity in variety and large-scale cultivation of disease and pest tolerant varieties have the potential to reduce the application of agrochemicals on crops, thus providing the most effective and cost-efficient means to reduce environmental and health hazards.

Potato is one of the major crops in Panchkhal area, where Janakdev potato variety is cultivated on alarge area, with limited varietal diversity. This principal crop receives maximum amount of fertilizers and pesticides.Soon after preliminary analysis of potato cultivation status, LI-BIRD in 2018 conducted on-farm varietal trials to identify promising potato varieties that are tolerant to potato disease (late blight), high yielding and preferred by farmers through on-farm testing and participatory evaluation. Six potato varieties(Janakdev, Kufri Sinduri, Khumal Rato, Axona, Khumal Bikas, and local)were tested in four replicated trials (farmer as replication). Based on farmers’ evaluation, Axona and Khumal Bikaswere preferred by farmers for their higher yield, disease tolerance, and attractive tubers.

Access to bio inputs and cultivation of disease and pest tolerant varieties lead to lesser use of agrochemicals

Mr. Saroj Sapkota owner of the Panchkhal Bij Bhandar is the largest agrovet outlet in the Kavrepalanchowk says, “five years back I hardly sold biopesticide worth NPR 5 thousand per year but now the sale has increased to NPR 7 hundred thousand last year. Production of bio pesticide is very low in Nepal; if available in Nepal we do not have problem of sales”.

Testing of bio-fungicide

Introduction of bio-fungicide Trichoderma viridae was another action to promote the bio pesticide. In the beginning of the year 2020, a total of 350 farmers purchased Trichoderma viridae to apply to cucumber crop. A survey was conducted to analyze the effectiveness of the Trichoderma viridae in cucumber in 9 different cucumber plots of 508.74 m2 each. The study revealed that in five harvests their yield was increased by a range of 0% to 200% in the Trichoderma viridae used plots (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Cucumber yield data of nine different farmers

Ms Laxmi Danuwar another vegetable grower farmer in the Panchkhal area says“We are aware that use of pesticide is hazardous to our own health but there is no other alternative option. I am using this bio-fungicide for the first time; I have seen positive result so will continue to buy next year too”.

 Linking farmers with biopesticide production centre

The biopesticides in the agrovets are mostly imported and shelf life of biopesticide is too short in comparison to chemical pesticide. Hence, the locally produced biopesticides are more effective than imported ones.

Farmers of Panchkhal are linked to Sayapatri Community IPM Resource Centre which produces Trichoderma viridae, entomopathogenic nematodes and Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus (NPV). Every year this centre produces 2500 kgs of Trichoderma, 500 litres of Nematodes and 130 litres of NPV.

Emerging lessons

There is high demand for organic products in the market. If easily available in local market, bio-pesticides have great potential to minimize the conventional use of pesticides. Similarly, the introduction of more disease resistant varieties is one of the efficient ways to produce safe food with minimal use of agrochemicals. Regular monitoring the use of agrochemicals, proliferation of IPM practices and technical backstopping support can reduce the prevalence of pesticide use. There are still many farmers in the Panchkhal area and other commercial vegetable growing areas, who lack knowledge on the use of personal protective equipment, use of pesticides and access to the knowledge of bio-pesticides. Hence, opportunities abound to carry forward the experience generated by the organizations working in the field of organic farming, integrated pest management, ecological agriculture and help farmers to be healthy and produce safe food for consumers.

References

LI-BIRD,Compendium of Good Agricultural and Livestock Farming Practices to Minimize Land-Based Water Pollution, Pokhara, Nepal: LI-BIRD, 2019

Adhikari, P., An overview of pesticide management in Nepal, 2018, The Journal of Agriculture and Environment, 18, 95-105.

Sapkota, K.R., Sapkota, S., Sapkota S., Katuwal K., 2020. Pesticides handling practices among potato growers in Kavrepalanchok, Nepal,2020, Journal of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 3(1): 77-87.

 

Lakpa Sherpa

Senior Programme Officer

Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD)

PO Box 324, Pokhara, Nepal

Email: lakpa.sherpa@libird.org

Website: www.libird.org