Local agro-ecological knowledge and its relationship to farmers' pest management decision making in rural Honduras
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Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/43639
Integrated pest management (IPM) has been widely promoted in the developing world, but in many regions its adoption rates have been variable. Experience has shown that to ensure IPM adoption, the complexities of local agro-production systems and context-specific folk knowledge need to be appreciated. Our research explored the linkages between farmer knowledge, pest management decision making, and ecological attributes of subsistence maize agriculture. We report a case study from four rural communities in the highlands of southeast Honduras. Communities were typified by their agro-environments, IPM training history, and levels of infestation by a key maize pest, the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda Smith). Although variable, infestation levels generally did not justify pest management intervention. Consequently, crop losses from this pest were considered of low importance and most farmers proceeded in a rational fashion by refraining from action in their fields. Farmers attributed the low degree of pest infestation predominantly to abiotic causal factors (rainfall, temperature). The role of natural enemies in controlling this pest (i.e., biological control) was deemed of low importance by farmers; nevertheless, a broad array of such organisms was mentioned by farmers as operating in their maize crop. Farmers’ knowledge of natural enemies only partially matched scientific knowledge and was associated with the ecological features of their respective field settings. Local knowledge about natural enemies was mainly restricted to abundant and easily observable predatory species. Farmers who were knowledgeable about biological control were also familiar with a larger variety of pest management alternatives than uninformed farmers. Management options covered a wide range of curative techniques, including conservation biological control. Farmers who relied on insecticides to manage pest outbreaks knew less about biological control and pesticide alternatives. In contrast, farmers who received IPM training mentioned more types of natural enemies and were familiar with a broader range of alternative pest management tactics. Our research suggests that IPM training modifies local knowledge to better fit its environmental context. This paper provides insights in the environmental context of local agro-ecological knowledge and its linkage with pest management decision making. It also constitutes a basis for modifying IPM extension programs to deliver locality-specific technologies while strengthening the local knowledge base.