Integrated pest management approach in Farming Systems Research and Extension : the role of women

Material Information

Integrated pest management approach in Farming Systems Research and Extension : the role of women
Series Title:
Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Delate, Kathleen
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Caribbean ( LCSH )
Spatial Coverage:
North America -- Guatemala -- Caribbean

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Full Text

-- -^-- L

at the UniversityffT onia*
Conference on

An Integrated Pest Management Approach in Farming Systems Research
and Extension: The Role of Women
Kathleen Delate

During the period of reconstruction following the earthquake in 1976, I was

employed by a U.S. based private development agency working in the highland

region of Guatemala. My role as an agricultural extension agent involved

designing appropriate pest management strategies for local food crops, with

emphasis on the main crops of maize and beans. Characteristics of the project

area, structure and shortcomings of the agency and project are discussed in

relation to the gender issues in local farming systems.

Agro-socio-cultural Profile of Project Area

The project area encompassed a small town and nine surrounding villages in

the western highland (Altiplano) region of Guatemala (6,000 to 7,000 ft.).

Climate ranged from subtropical to tropical in areas of lower elevation with a

marked dry season of four to seven months. Local lateritic soil types were

referred to as low in fertility, but in comparison with the poor Florida soils

of my experience, I was unable to draw this conclusion based on their sub-

stantial yields without the use of fertilizer. The most fertile soils in

Guatemala occur in the Peten jungle area and along the Pacific coast where

plantation culture of non-food crops has claimed valuable land suitable for

staple food crops.

Guatemala is reported to have a 55% indigenous population (45% Ladino) but

in the western region, the figure averages 70%. It has been estimated that

approximately 87% of Guatemalans are subsistence farmers controlling only 6% of

the agricultural capital. All of the project target population were Cachiquel

Mayan with limited resource farming operations.

Rainfed hoe culture predominated in agricultural operations. Terrace

culture was evident but steep slopes were often cultivated; deforestation and

erosion were problems in the area. Prior to the arrival of my employer, agri-

chemical inputs were not utilized by the target group. During evaluation of

existing agricultural pest management the dichotomy of practices between those

farmers involved and those not involved in the development agency's projects was

noted. A wide array of traditional practices, including intercropping, the use

of plants and plant parts as repellants or attractants constituted the main

program for those outside the project. Cultural practices, including crop

rotations and hand removal of insects, were also employed. Those farmers

working in projects were utilizing a range of chemical pesticides and fer-

tilizers with varying rates of application.

In a study on indigenous highland agricultural practices, Gladwin (1983)

states that 60% of the farmers sampled planted a cash crop (potatoes, wheat,

coffee, vegetables) only if they could first meet their consumption needs for

maize. Family compounds literally existed amidst "a sea of maize" with

plantings extending from the doorstep to the borders of their land holdings.

Staples, such as maize, beans, and squash were found on all farms. Other cash

crops included strawberries, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Land holdings were

small, with regional averages of 2.5 hectares. The colonial legacy inherited by

indigenous populations had established a mixed land tenure system: some

communal land, some titled land but generally, prescriptive rights (no title)

were held by the target group. With the national import substitution policies

enacted in the late 1950s and early 1960s to encourage industrialization, cult-

ivation into marginal lands was increased, not totally in response to a need for

increased food crops due to population growth, but rather in response to a need

to generate cash. In addition, the lack of sufficient cash income had also

- 2 -

created among men and some women on several farms an increased need for seasonal

out-migration to the coastal plantations (cotton and tobacco). Stavenhagen

(1969) elaborates: rural Indians are directly exploited to provide labor for

the export-oriented enterprises and indirectly exploited (through the mani-

pulation of domestic market terms) to provision a parasitic, urban Ladino elite.

As more and more people entered into wage labor, peasant farming was no longer

organized communally as it was in the past; rather each domestic unit had to

meet its own needs by hiring labor or hiring it out as the situation demanded

(Smith 1978).

Given the constraints of time and resources, I was able to note the fol-

lowing brief socio-cultural descriptors in my target group. An extended family

structure, which usually consisted of grandparents (on only a few farms),

parents, sons and daughters, wives of the sons and their children, resided in

compounds generally made of chipped board (Canadian relief agency materials

following the earthquake) and any remaining adobe blocks.

A stable marketing system had been retained in the highlands. Goods from

the surrounding villages or aldeas were sold in the town on the main market day

on the weekend and another minor market day during the week. Vendors from areas

outside the region were also present on the main market day. Several women in

the target group also marketed food crops in other towns and participated in the

resale of more tropical crops (mangoes, tomatoes, and watermelons), pottery, and

household items from the Guatemala City market. The majority of women in the

target group also were involved in the production and marketing of non-food

items: textiles (weavings, cloth), metates (stones for grinding), baskets and


Since in many Latin American countries women's participation in agriculture

has often gone unrecorded (Ferguson and Horn, 1984), the project team,

-3 -

consisting of four indigenous male farmer-extensionists and a Ladino team

leader, did not identify any specific roles for women. Women's roles in the

production, harvest and post-harvest practices in grain, fruit and vegetable

crops, however, were clearly evident during my investigations. The majority of

production work in the larger fields (maize, beans and wheat) was performed by

men, but women constituted the greatest labor sector in home vegetable and fruit

production and in the daily collection of native vegetable greens, herbs and

medicinal plants. Women were also involved in the care of limited livestock

(dairy cows, goats, chickens, other fowl and pigs) utilized for food, manure and

cash income. Because indigenous women were excluded from the planning stage,

valuable input regarding labor strategies and allocations, and family

decision-making processes was left to be collected through personal contacts

outside of official agency meetings.

Donor Structure and Attitudes

A farming systems approach was emphasized by the donor administration but

despite their attitude toward addressing issues of the whole farm, the "field

production/surplus market orientation bias" (Niez, 1985) dominated project

decision making. This bias evolved in part from the Green Revolution paradigm

then espoused in the land grant colleges where the U.S. administrators had been

trained and in the international research centers: higher yields through

greater inputs with scant consideration for their total effect on a culture.

Greater logistical and financial support from the international research center

(whose primary focus was the breeding of high-yielding maize and beans for the

surplus cash market) was achieved through cooperative variety trials. In

addition, prior to my arrival, the exclusion of women from the project team and

the administration precluded a thorough diagnosis of gender issues and the

implications of this surplus market thrust on women in the communities.

4 -

A laudable component of the development agency's project involved hiring a

core group of indigenous farmers as extensionists. These men were responsible

for setting up on-farm trials with volunteer cooperators. Much success had been

achieved in the areas of soil conservation (terraces, contour planting) and home

hygiene. Female participation in the agricultural development project was

neither planned nor achieved on a formal level. Women were invited to attend

classes on family hygiene and nutrition but the correlation with agricultural

systems was never introduced.

The Integrated Pest Management Project

Since World War II, the tremendous increase in use and dependence upon

synthetic organic pesticides has created inherent drawbacks:

A significant amount of pests have evolved a genetic resistance to
pesticides, creating additional problems of ineffective or
increasingly higher dosages; the result has been the "pesticide
treadmill" now seen in many crop systems.

*Despite the 10-fold increase in chemical pesticides on U.S. cropland,
annual crop losses from all pests have remained the same.

With the petroleum-based pesticides, costs of control have increased
significantly in recent years.

SEnvironmental and health hazards have been reported with many
long-term effects still awaiting evaluation.

SAlthough, it is assumed that pesticides are thoroughly tested for
safety and health effects, many products remain on the market with
invalid tests supporting their registration, and the vast majority
have not been tested for cancer, genetic damage or birth defects.

Third World countries became major testing sites and "dumping" grounds for

illegal pesticides during the 1950s and 1960s (Weir and Schapiro, 1980).

Guatemala ranked among the world's largest user of pesticide because of the

extensive use in cotton plantations. Mothers milk in the coastal areas has been

reported to contain some of the highest levels of DDT in the world.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the selection, integration, and

implementation of pest control based on predicted economic, ecological, and

sociological consequences. IPM seeks maximum use of naturally occurring pest

controls, including weather, pathogens or disease agents, predators, and

parasites (Bottrell, 1979). Physical and cultural controls are also utilized;

chemical controls are imposed only when the pest surpasses the economic

threshold (the point where the cost of control can be realized in a higher

yield/returns of a crop) in the presence of the aforementioned control factors.

The general orientation of IPM should be to prevent outbreaks by improving the

stability of the crop systems rather than coping with pest problems once they

occur (Altieri, 1979).

When I arrived in Guatemala, I conducted an informal survey of pesticide

usage in the state where I was employed. Closest to the state capital, larger

fields under cultivation were experiencing considerable infestations of insect

pests. Farmers cited their weekly application of insecticide, which signaled my

immediate concern for a problem of resistance to the chemicals in the pest

species. In the project town and villages, I was told that prior to the arrival

of the development agency, pesticides were not utilized in production systems.

According to several women in the town, during the first year of chemical use a

high incidence of livestock deaths and human poisonings occurred. The classical

symptoms of organophosphate (the predominant class of insecticide supplied the

project cooperators) poisoning were described: extreme loss of motor

coordination, uncontrollable shaking and severe headache. Methyl parathion, a

main insecticide in the project, is a replacement for DDT on many crop pests,

discovered by the Germans in their search for human nerve gases in World War II.

Less persistent in the environment, methyl parathion and certain related

organophosphorous insecticides are even more broadly toxic than DDT to insects

and other animals, including humans (Bottrell, 1979). Resistance in Mexico of

pests to methyl parathion is also a problem (Adkisson, 1973). The men were not

as prone to discuss this problem, and with the team, the subject was virtually

stifled by the project leader.

One could not ignore the economic benefit derived from the sale of

pesticides in the project area. A visiting entomologist, viewing the array of

chemical pesticides displayed within reach of children in a former project

cooperator now saleman's home, said, "There's enough poison in this arsenal to

kill this entire town." One pesticide that was cited in the agency's technology

transfer manual was banned in the U.S.

With this background, I began to evaluate the pest situation on maize, beans

and other local crops with the objective of developing of an Integrated Pest

Management strategy suitable for small farmers. In addition, I was interested

in evaluating the agroecosystem in a multidisciplinary vein, regarding the

multiple use capacity of the habitat (weeds and borders as host sites for

natural pest enemies, weeds as fodder and food, and possible beneficial effects

in intercropped systems). Wilken (1977) had reported on the variety of crops

with different growth habits grown by farmers in Central America as imitating

the structure and species diversity of tropical forests.

Acceptance of the IPM project, however, was a formidable task facing an

administration conditioned by a U.S. based social and economic environment which

emphasized yield maximization rather than stabilization of yield. This was

demonstrated by their "tech-pak" approach: a low cost supply of agrichemicals

to the project cooperators, variety trials and hybrid seed dissemination with

the international research center which encouraged monoculture and an emphasis

on surplus market yields in place of the traditional intercropped maize and

beans, and ignoring women's roles and needs in household gardens and other

agricultural operations. As a consequence of this simplistic and

discipline-oriented approach, the development agency had identified a single
7 -

species of beetle as the main pest in beans, and I was directed to concentrate

my efforts on this pest.

As it was the dry season and beans were not under cultivation, I accepted

their presupposition and set out evaluating potential natural enemies for the

pest. The project target population had previously been identified as small

scale indigenous farmers in 9 villages and the town. The following tactics were

completed before the beginning of the rainy season:

With the help of U.S. and Guatemalan entomologists, obtained permits
and organized the rearing of a parasitic wasp for release against the

Began a series of pest management classes at the agency center, with
emphasis on sampling and beneficial pest insect identification;

Established commitments from cooperators for on-farm trial sites in
four locations, and established trial size at approximately 10% of
the farmer's field;

SInitiated two garden trials utilizing local inputs of manure,
compost, raised beds with mulch, and natural insect controls
(Bacillus thuringiensis);

Located sources of native botanical pest controls (rotenone and
Equisetem fungicide);

Located sources of an insect virus for control of a pest in maize;

And initiated individual training of an indigenous counterpart
assigned to the project.

Women's Participation in the Project

Ironically, the species of beetle at the center of the project was not a

pest once the growing season commenced and support for alternative IPM efforts

was not sustained. The diagnostic and design phases of the project, however,

afforded certain insights into the role of women in an IPM/Farming Systems

project and the overall need for an IPM approach in FSR/E was established.

Although there was no encouragement by the other members of the project team

to communicate with women on farms, every effort on my part was made to

establish cooperation and receive their input in the area of on-farm trials.
8 -

Without the benefit of a social scientist, ethnographic, labor allocation and

household decision-making aspects of the target population were not categorized.

Instead, an open-minded attitude presided: farm women were approached for their

participation in all pest management projects with positive results. Women were

involved in the construction of raised beds, compost piles, seeding, garden

maintenance, and the collection of natural control agents (native plants). The

preparation of food for team members, an important component of the project, was

conducted by farm women. Although it has been stated by some experts that many

Third World subsistence farmers cannot realize the long-term dangers of

pesticide overuse, women in the project area discussed at length the toxic

effects of pesticides they had seen and expressed interest in the cumulative

effects. .Curiosity about pests and their natural enemies was also evident.

Barriers to Adoption of IPM Practices

It has been stated that because of technical, economic, attitudinal and

other barriers, ecologically sound pest control has not been used for a wide

variety of pests and resources. It is particularly ironic that pesticides are

introduced by agricultural development agencies with little investigation into

their profound effect on the health of the population and the land, whereas with

the suggestion of implementing an IPM program, any possible negative effect is

well articulated. Knowledge voids on the part of the donor administration and

project teams have precluded full investigation of the viability of IPM systems

in many projects. The complexity of comprehending the economic threshold level

for given pests to signal the need for action has been cited as a barrier to the

adoption of IPM (Goodell, 1984). Norgaard (1976) states, however, that the

introduction of new knowledge into agriculture is always more difficult than the

introduction of new materials. The institutional constraints, emphasizing

high-yielding, blemish-free crops and often linking credit with adherence to

spray schedules (Bottrell, 1979), can be traced to limited support for viable,

ecomonic alternative pest controls in U.S. research and industry (Turpin and

York, 1981). In the late 1970s, the U.S. Agency for International Development

established guidelines to "help develop infrastructures of developing countries

for pest and pesticide management" (Altman and Collier, 1983) but according to

some authorities, the future of these efforts have been dampened by the U.S.

administration's emphasis on basic research. The persistent bias in most Third

World policy makers is towards investing in expensive research rather than in

those presently available IPM controls that require good extension. (Goodell,


Another problem inherent in the criticism of IPM projects is related to the

discrepancies between the theory and practice of IPM. Most programs today are

limited to the use of shorter-maturing varieties and a delay in the first

application of pesticides based on scouting efforts. A true multi-pest

integrated approach utilizing biological and cultural controls is rarely

attempted. Many fail to realize IPM strategies should be different for each

pest complex in each agroecosystem. Criticisms of IPM programs are often

criticisms of the problems arising from the use of chemical pesticides:

adulteration of contents through dilutions (by government, dealers and farmers),

inadequate labels, sublethal doses, inadequate safety in spray equipment and in

storage, and high costs. The lack of infrastructure in the logistical and

financial support for research and extension projects could account for a major

portion of the problem. Often, however, there is no extension service to teach

pesticide safety, no poison control center, and few medical personnel to treat

cases of pesticide poisonings. Because of these reasons, chemical pesticides

are presently impractical and inappropriate for many farmers in the developing

countries (Bottrell, 1983). In addition to the numerous risks, there are num-
10 -

numerous examples in Third World agricultural development projects where

increased inputs did not affect yield (Litsinger, Price and Herrera 1980;

Caldwell, 1982, Altieri 1984).

Problems with organizing large groups of farmers in regional IPM projects,

including their resistance to regimentation, have also been cited as barriers to

adoption. Litsinger et al. (1981) note the success of a rice IPM project in

areas where community organizers could work with technicians and farmers on a

routine basis, contrasted with problems in adoption in areas where organizers

were regarded with suspicion. In Nicaragua, Swezey and Daxl (1983) attribute

the success of an IPM program to an economic and political system which promotes


IPM programs do not exist in a scientific vacuum. Agriculture production

scientists tend to immerse themselves in technical details which shield them

from the political and social issues of underdevelopment (Rau, 1985). The issue

of risk-benefit analysis is rarely addressed in designing pest management

programs. Shrader-Frechette (1982) makes a case for the long-term consequences

of pesticide use to equity and the issue of consent/helplessness. Although one

might argue all inequitably distributed risks associated with pesticide use are

not avoidable, good reasons do not support continued acceptance of serious

pesticide-related injuries against which people are unequally protected.


Plant protection is an integral component of farming systems research and

extension. Integrated agroecosystem and pest management constitutes the sanest

approach, toward plant protection, emphasizing stewardship of human and

environmental resources. Often IPM programs are ineffective because of the

error in the transfer of technology. The full agroecological, socio-economic

and cultural interactions among people, plants and pests must be addressed in

- 11 -

the planning and design of IPM projects in FSR/E. Distinctions should be made

early in the diagnostic phase concerning the potential design of an IPM project

and its relation to the target group. Are traditional systems sustaining yields

- is intervention appropriate, or have all farmers adopted pesticides

indiscriminately with problems of resistance and resurgence already in place?

These questions will dictate which system (profit maximization vs. risk

minimization) should be developed.

Traditional farming systems represent centuries of accumulated experience of

interacting with the environment (de Janvry, 1981). An understanding of the

effects of interactions of traditional practices, such as use of lower-yielding

varieties, which provide an additional harvest as opposed to the one harvest

date of hydrids, is vital to the prescreening of new technological components

appropriate to the farm family's circumstances (Altieri, 1984). With the Green

Revolution, the change from polyculture to monoculture interrupted many natural

insect control processes and the genetic uniformity of the high-yielding

varieties provided an ideal ecological environment for pathogens to evolve and

severely attack these genotypes (Barfield and Stimac, 1980 and Frankel, 1971).

Consideration should be also placed on the multiple use of "weeds" (i.e.

native plants) in cropping systems as livestock feed and food sites for natural

enemies of crop pests. In Guatemala, for example, women supplement the

incomplete protein content of maize-tortilla dough with high lysine Crotalaria

longirostrata, (Bressani, 1983) a native plant often found in cultivated areas.

Several IPM and agroecological projects in developing countries have

experienced great success (Altieri and Anderson, 1985). The cotton IPM project

in Nicaragua (Swezy and Daxl, 1983) has made significant progress toward

decreasing the use of pesticides by utilizing cultural practices such as trap

crops, stubble plowdown, periodic releases of beneficial insects (parasites of

- 12

cotton pests) and sampling prior to any insecticide application. Another IPM

tactic employed in the project the application of a naturally-occurring,

non-toxic bacteria against mosquito larvae has been integrated into district

campaigns against malaria. Reduced pesticide use in cotton will also allow the

reestablishment of staple cnrn and grain agriculture. These crops had declined

from increasing resistance in the grain pests to the chemicals (and the

mortality of natural pest enemies) created from the high concentration of drift

from cotton plantations. Women participate in the project and are also direct

recipients of the benefits realized from lower pesticide residue in meat and

dairy products.

By involving women in IPM projects, the chances for a successful program are

increased. With support from both sides of the family, the potential for full

project integration is strengthened. IPM scouting efforts by women involve them

in agricultural data collection, which has been cited as a need in agricultural

development projects. Women on farms should be an integral part of the diag-

nostic process. By encouraging women to participate in educational activities,

including workshops, extension programs and on-farm trials, greater insight into

traditional methods will be gained by researchers and extensionists.

Encouraging training for and employing female researchers and extensionists in

state, national and international agricultural agencies can influence the

male-dominated extension services that may be reluctant to cooperate with women

farmers (Bottrell, 1983).

Limited attention has been placed on women's roles in agriculture and

despite the persistence of expressed norms in traditional societies, gender

roles are in flux. Knowledge of gender and age roles or other intra-household

variables enriches an understanding of the constraints and incentives inherent

in farm management decision-making and therefore, will contribute to improved
13 -

research and extension (Feldstein, 1985). As economic returns iniqht better be

expressed in caloric or nutritional terms rather than in monetary terms for

subsistence farmers (Reichelderfer and Bottrell, 1985), including women in IPM

programs will facilitate ease of assessment of when the total system

productivity has increased: the true success of rural development projects.

Greater emphasis should be placed on home fruit and vegetable crops, a crucial

day-to-day source of food. Traditionally a female domain, backyard gardens with

plant-pest interactions that have evolved in these systems deserve increased

attention. The goal of IPM within a FSR/E project must be active participation

of all members of the farm family and an emphasis on the utilization of local

resources to achieve agricultural development in terms of social and economic


- 14 -



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