Evaluation of local knowledge applied by farmers towards management of crop pests and diseases in the Masaka region, Uganda
Abstract: Agriculture is the most important economic sector of Uganda and it employs roughly 80 % of the work force. Ninety per cent of the country’s farmers are smallholders. The Masaka district is the country’s agricultural hub for coffee (Coffea spp. L.) and the most important food crops are banana (Musa spp. L.), beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz.), maize (Zea mays L.), sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.) and other tropical fruits, vegetables and cereals. Pests and diseases have been presenting increasing problems due to the climate change and newly introduced pathogens and pest species. At the same time, the population growth has led to an increased land pressure and chemical input use, which has impacted the soil fertility, the environment and the health of farmers and consumers. Indigenous knowledge, such as the use of pesticidal plants, is at the risk of becoming extinct due to a lack of documentation and scientific evaluation. This thesis is an attempt to collect and scientifically document the knowledge of local farmers on traditional methods of pest and disease management in the Masaka region through qualitative research. It furthermore tries to investigate reasons for a lack of knowledge transfer to farmers from previous generations as well as from agricultural advisors from the governmental side and from nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), and to explore possibilities of improvement of knowledge access for farmers. The research questions were developed focussing on the pests and diseases farmers are facing in the region, their methods of management, the effectiveness of these methods, their sources of knowledge behind them, opinions of farmers and advisors on chemical pesticides, and possibilities to improve farmers’ knowledge on pest and disease management. To address these questions, semi-structured interviews were conducted in the Masaka region on seven different days with 43 farmers in seven different locations. Farmers were asked to discuss questions in focus groups in four locations. Additionally, interviews were conducted with advisory staff from the government and with employees from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Over the whole period, literature was collected and reviewed. It was found that most local methods of pest management have been taught to farmers by agricultural advisors rather than being adopted from the parents, mostly because the previous generations were not facing the same problems as the present one. At the same time, the knowledge transfer to farmers from extensionists and NGOs was limited due to a lack of financial support from the government, and there was also a distinct lack of exchange between scientists and farmers. As a consequence, there was both a paucity of knowledge about alternatives to pesticides and the appropriate use of chemical methods. Another issue found was that newly introduced cattle races require high chemical input. The problems found can only be solved by a combination of different measures. The extension system needs to receive more financial support, to revise its policy framework, and to focus more strongly on the farmers’ education in traditional methods. NGOs, which are already teaching such methods, need to reach more farmers and to develop a better overarching managerial system and collaboration both amongst each other and with the governmental advisory network. Lastly, academics and universities need to improve their exchange with the practitioners, as from the side of the latter, openness to such an exchange exists to a large extent.
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