Gabriele Stoll
Natural Crop Protection in the Tropics
Letting Information Come to Life
Letting information come to life
Farmers‘ research on Natural Crop Protection
by Daniel Anand Raj & Chitra Suresh
AME Tiruchi

The report from AME in India describes an informal and spontaneous kind of farmer experimentation. The innovations of the two farmers presented in this case study were inspired by knowledge they gained from season-long training in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Since 1997, AME (AGRICULTURE, MAN & ECOLOGY), in collaboration with partner NGOs has organized and developed a number of season-long Farmers Field Schools (FFS) in rice, cotton and groundnut cultivation. Methodological competence was augmented when required, by hiring a resource person from the Department of Agriculture (DoA) on consultancy basis.
The training covers crop production, physiology, agronomy, crop protection, water management, nutrient management etc. As the sessions are tailored to specific stages of crop growth, these provide the best possible understanding of the crop and its ecosystem to the farmers.

AME's vision
The aim of AME is to make the farmer an expert in managing her/his own agro-ecosystem, wherein s/he takes decisions independently. While making decisions, the farmer takes into account all relevant factors to arrive at the best possible judgement, resulting in better profitability. AME tries to stimulate a process of attitudinal change among the farmers and NGO staff to enable them to realize that the intensive application of chemical inputs does not always bring about a proportionate increase in returns. So each farmer has to decide on the best possible combination of solutions for her/his field.

Triggering farmer innovations
The two cases presented below are selected examples from among many farmer innovations inspired by knowledge acquired through participating in the FFS. Farmers have quickly grasped various concepts discussed and observed in the field, and were able to recognize mechanisms that were being applied to materials and resources within their reach. The innovations attempted by them related to addressing different problems and aspects of crop cultivation, including crop protection, which have relevance to their local needs and constraints.

Critical aspects of farmer innovations
From AME's experience it can be observed that some innovations are correct, whereas others need to be reflected upon and worked out further. Even if the farmers are by and large on the right track, it is important for them to understand what is right or wrong with their initiatives. Farmers are not always in a position to follow precisely the recommendations from the trainings. So there are deviations, which can result in positive outcomes at times, and negative effects at others. These deviations are observed, discussed and reflected upon by the local partner NGO and AME with the respective farmer and options suggested.
 However, AME leaves the final decision-making on how to pursue the questioned practice to the farmer. It can also be proposed that the farmer conducts another comparison to sharpen her/his decision.
Reference insect box made by the farmers containing the commonly occuring pest and benefical insects.
The printed version contains more information about the following themes:

Following up farmer innovations
Verifying farmer innovations
Rice Farmer in Tiruchi District
Cotton farmers in Tiruchirapalli
The meaning of farmer innovations and the road ahead