A Farmer’s Key to Success in Uncertain Times: Integrated Pest Management
This post is written by Sara Hendery, Communications Coordinator for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management.
Dil Kumar B.K. is a sharecropper in Banke District, Nepal, where he and his six-person family rent a small plot of land for vegetable production. In recent years, Dil Kumar has struggled to grow a healthy harvest.
“In the first year of commercial vegetable cultivation,” Dil Kumar said, “I was only able to gain a minimum profit to finance the basic expenses of my family. In the second and third year of my commercial cultivation, I encountered the loss of 3 lakhs (about USD $2,500) in total due to complete crop failure.”
Nearly three-quarters of Nepal’s population is engaged in agriculture, and the country boasts some of the world’s most unique biodiversity. However, it also faces numerous constraints — pests, diseases, limited access to technology — that keep farmers like Dil Kumar from producing enough food and gaining enough income to thrive.
After meeting with Dil Kumar, an agricultural technician supported by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management (IPM IL) saw the potential for transformation.
Agricultural technician Padam Bahadur Khadka advised Dil Kumar on a number of ways he could improve the quantity and quality of his yields using integrated pest management (IPM) strategies. First, Khadka suggested rotating the crops Dil Kumar usually grows with new ones, including chili, cucumber, bitter gourd, and bottle gourd, to help reduce pest and weed pressure. Khadka also instructed Dil Kumar on IPM-based practices such as installing pheromone traps and lures to monitor the emergence of pests into the field and applying Trichoderma, a naturally occurring fungus that helps boost plant defense mechanisms against soil disease threats.
“One of our goals is to help foster linkages between rural farmers and pest management resources, whether that be input supplies, training on innovative IPM technologies, marketing opportunities, or pest diagnostics,” said George Norton, head of the IPM IL project in South Asia. “A cornerstone of IPM is making sure that the solutions we introduce to farmers to meet their specific conditions and needs.”
In general, the IPM IL team in Nepal has observed up to 20 percent yield increases due to the application of IPM-based practices in farmers’ fields, including Dil Kumar’s.
While Dil Kumar had produced enough quality produce to sell at the market this year, he couldn’t sell it for a good price. In February, the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic transformed food production in Nepal and countries around the world. Social distancing, disrupted markets, and limited access to inputs are just a few of the barriers that continue to stand in the way of people consuming or selling the food they need. Globally, it is estimated that in the absence of intervention in the developing world amid the pandemic, the number of people in extreme poverty could increase by up to 150 million.
The IPM IL helped Dil Kumar address the market barrier. The team connected him to a local agricultural knowledge center, agricultural cooperatives, and retail vegetable shops that would allow him to widen his net and sell his produce for a good market price at more than one location.
“The IPM IL has developed and diffused sustainable solutions to current and emerging pest management threats facing farmers in Nepal,” said Norton. “The strategy is to link farmers, especially those who belong to marginalized groups, to the resources they need to succeed.”
Another outlet the IPM IL utilizes for “linking” farmers to resources, especially during the pandemic, is Community-Based Facilitators (CBF), or local farmer-entrepreneurs in Nepal who deliver agricultural supplies — including IPM-based products — to rural communities. Dil Kumar is among many farmers whose livelihoods depend on the vigorous growth and sale of a single harvest, as well as the tools and technologies that help them do so.
Thus far, Dil Kumar has earned over USD $2,000 for the crops he grew using IPM, a significant boost from previous years and enough to begin to make up for his substantial losses. He’s using the additional income to rent even more land for vegetable production so that while COVID-19 persists, his family can feel confident in addressing unexpected expenses. With the risk of contracting COVID-19 still high, stable and dependable income is more vital than ever.
“The agriculture technician from the IPM IL completely motivated me,” Dil Kumar said, “and helped me in every possible way to continue my journey of vegetable production.”