Enhancing the Private Sector: Two Teams Collaborate for a Common Goal
Samir Regmi said that due to his partnership with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management, his small agribusiness in Nepal is “renowned” for selling quality bio-pesticides, insect traps, and other Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solutions. Regmi’s business is not the only one. By instituting supply chains that increase farmer access, the IPM Innovation Lab has long-worked to catalyze the sale of IPM products in the developing world – now, the team is shifting their focus to multiplying the number of businesses that sell them.
While unregulated pesticide use is prevalent in developing countries, and can lead to a host of human and environmental concerns, obstacles stand in the way of obtaining alternate solutions. In Cambodia, where the IPM Innovation Lab manages two development projects, nearly 100 percent of IPM products are imported from other countries, impeding quality control and regulation. Further, the horticulture sector in general is underdeveloped, with half of the country’s vegetables imported from elsewhere.
The IPM Innovation Lab, housed at Virginia Tech, is addressing those constraints in Cambodia in two ways.
First, the team is working with students at the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA) in Cambodia to develop and test IPM technologies to market to local farmers. Second, the IPM Innovation Lab is collaborating with the value chain project Cambodia Harvest II to connect horticultural product buyers with other market actors such as producers or input suppliers. IPM Innovation Lab director Muni Muniappan remarked that privatizing IPM technologies could help sustain them long after a development project ends.
In March, the two teams met with seven Cambodian companies in Phnom Penh. Muniappan introduced the suppliers in attendance to scalable and marketable IPM technologies including cocopith, botanical pesticides like neem, Trichoderma, pheromone lures and traps, and others. While the IPM Innovation Lab will continue to conduct research to improve technologies, Cambodia Harvest II will harness their buyer-led market systems approach to work with private sector actors interested in testing or piloting innovations to farmers.
A number of the companies at the March meeting already promote some IPM technologies such as pheromone traps, but admitted that there are complications to maintaining IPM supplies consistently. Costly registration, potentially unreliable quality, lack of farmer awareness, storage and handling, and the higher price of IPM products compared to conventional pesticides are some of the concerns the companies voiced.
Kim Hian Seng, IPM Innovation Lab collaborator with iDE and one of the meeting organizers, said that many of those trepidations could be addressed through RUA’s research and trials.
“Farmers who have seen the benefits of IPM products,” she said, “will often pay more for them than conventional pesticides.”
The IPM Innovation Lab has a history of scaling up IPM solutions to use against crop pest and disease problems in South Asia. Beginning in 2015, iDE Nepal teamed up with Agricare Nepal Pvt. Ltd., a company that manufactures bio-pesticides and bio-fertilizers, to conduct trainings and develop a network of local service providers who could market IPM products to farmers. The partnership worked – in 2015 alone, Agricare made $65,000 selling bio-agents like Trichoderma to farmers looking for natural solutions to their crop issues.
After the March meeting, Alexis Ellicott, Cambodia Harvest II’s Chief of Party, is looking for similar progress.
“Interested input supply companies,” she said, “will further discuss plans for testing and marketing products with Harvest II and the IPM Innovation Lab and we will explore avenues to work with local IPM technology providers such as RUA to market and scale biocontrol agents.”
This post was written by Sara Hendery, Communications Coordinator for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management.