International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
Projet Lutte Biologique contre les Locustes et les Sauteriaux
BP. 08-0932 Cotonou, Benin
tel. 229 35 05 53/35 01 88 fax 229 35 05 56
Potential for Mycopesticide Use in Africa:
Hugo De Groote
LUBILOSA Socioeconomic Working Paper Series No. 98/5
Paper presented at the LUBILOSA Project Management Committee in Eschborn, December 10. 1997
Due to a growing dissatisfaction with the heavy and continuing use of chemical pesticides for acridid control, a consortium of donors agreed to finance the search for a biological alternative. In the LUBILOSA programme (Lutte Biologique contre les Locustes et les Sauteriaux) a biopesticide was developed based on the spores of a fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae (flavoviride) var. acridum, a natural pathogen of locusts. A production unit was set up, an application technique developed and field test successfully completed. In order to reach the extension stage, it is necessary to check the suitability of the technology to its clients: check for sociological constraints, a positive cost-benefit balance, and the interest of farmers and political decision makers. Four basic tools can be used for this analysis: cost-benefit analysis, study of farmersí perceptions, participatory research, and marketing studies.
This first tool is a comparison of the benefit-cost ratio or the marginal rate of return of the proposed action with those of the possible alternatives. Major benefits of the new technology are reduction of yield loss, gain in animal and human health, and less damage to the environment. Yield loss assessment methods have been developed, but still need to be applied on a larger scale to allow for extrapolation. A study of animal and human health effects of chemical pesticides has been undertaken, and eco-toxicological research give low to no effects on non-target organisms. The production costs at the pilot plant in Cotonou are estimated at $20/ha, at the standard dose of 100 mg of spores per ha, and application costs have been previously estimated at $2/ha. The cost of distribution and organization still needs to be assessed. Finally, the new technology needs to be compared to alternatives. The two standard alternatives are no locust control or chemical control, although food aid or an insurance program might be worth consideration.
Instead of calculating which alternative technology has the best cost/benefit ratio, one can also ask the farmers directly what they think about it, in order to diagnose and prioritize problems from a farmersí perspective, and even quantify them. Oral history, participatory rural appraisal (PRA), group discussions and individual discussions can be used. A first PRA around grasshoppers was executed in the Mono region of Benin. The results were promising and the research will continue in Benin, Mali and Niger. More formal surveys can also be very useful. In previous surveys, grasshoppers were reported to be the most important crop pest, but actions against them vary widely, and mycopestides used in communal actions can play a role in their control.
The best way to see if a new technology is suitable is to test it with farmers. In this, the researcher works closer to reality, farmersí opinions are known immediately and their suggestions incorporated and tested. Farmer participatory trials on Metarhizium have been conducted in Mali, Niger and in Benin. In Mali and Niger, the participation was limited to the application of the product by village brigades in demonstration plots. In the future, the participatory work will be expanded to investigate how to organize the village to incorporate the product into grasshopper management. Particular attention should be given to bring the trials as close to reality as possible. Subsidizing certain aspects of the new technology can solicit strategic behavior of farmers, thus biasing results and leading to faulty recommendations
If a technology is good and adapted, it should sell itself, and the best way to find out is by trying. Marketing studies are necessary to identify possible clients are, and find out their profile, tastes and preferences. It also means bringing the product to the market: public relations and information campaigns, promoting and distribution of the product. In the humid tropics, individual farmers should be targeted, especially for cash crops. In the Sahel, work with institutions such as PVs and NGOs is more likely to be successful. We find a similar need to work with government institutions for locust control in South Africa and in Madagascar. For desert locust, FAO plays a coordinating role.
The locust plague of 1986-89, the first in many years, was the cause of serious concern and substantial donor activity. While 25.9 million hectares were sprayed with chemical pesticides (Schulten 1990, in Showler 1995) dissatisfaction with the heavy and continuing use of chemical pesticides was growing. A consortium of donors (including the governments of Canada, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Great Britain and initially also the United States), agreed to finance LUBILOSA (Lutte Biologique contre les Locusts et Sauteriaux), a research program initiated in 1989. The project is implemented by a network of collaborators from CABI Biosciences, formerly IIBC (International Institute of Biological Control), IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture), CILSS (Comité Permanent Interetats de Lutte Contre la Secheresse au Sahel) and GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit).
In the initial phase a biopesticide was developed based on the spores of a fungus, Metarhizium flavoviride, a natural pathogen of locusts. A production unit was set up to provide spores in sufficient quantities (Jenkins 1994), and an oil-based formulation was developed. In the second phase of the project (1993-1995) field trials were carried out on different locust species in several African countries (Lomer 1997) and production was scaled up (Cherry et al. 1999). The results are promising, with mortality rates of 80% or higher, although this mortality is only reached after one to two weeks. The product is easy to store and to apply. The biopesticide turned out to be a technically powerful technology, but its economic viability is still uncertain.
Socioeconomic evaluation of mycopesticides are therefore urgently needed. The final stage of every new technology development is the extension. To achieve this, some basic gaps in our knowledge need to be filled. We need to study if the technology is adapted to its clients: if there are no sociological constraints to its use, if there is a positive cost-benefit balance, and if the farmers and the political decision makers can be interested to take action, plant protection agencies as well as donors.
LUBILOSA has had two socioeconomic consultants (Swanson 1995, Stonehouse 1995) who laid the groundwork and were cautiously optimistic that the technology would be taken up. In 1996, a socioeconomics program started, using four basic tools for the analysis: cost-benefit analysis, study of farmersí perceptions, participatory research, and marketing studies.
go to next section of this publication