So what's the problem?
After rice, maize is the most important crop in Myanmar, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) and Yunnan, China. Produced by around 19 million farmers in the region, it is used for both animal feed and human consumption.
Average maize yields are almost half those of other Asian countries, such as Bangladesh. Insects including the Asian corn borer and other lepidopteran pests are a major factor, causing annual yield losses of up to 15 per cent.
Lack of appropriate machinery is preventing the safe and efficient use of pesticides. Farmers have little knowledge of sustainable pest management and biological control; the majority of maize growers in Southeast Asia use conventional methods, relying on broad-spectrum insecticides. Synthetic insecticides are readily available in China and Myanmar, where fear of crop losses results in overuse. As well as destabilizing the agro-ecosystem, this approach poses significant health risks to both smallholder farmers and consumers.
In contrast, farmers in the project implementation area of Lao PDR have virtually no access to commercial plant protection products and are therefore at high risk of suffering from pest outbreaks. Throughout the region, smallholder farmers lack resources and support to benefit from agricultural research, and are often helpless against serious crop pests that threaten food security.
What is this project doing?
The aim is to improve the livelihoods and access to markets of smallholder farmers in the region by effectively transferring validated and sustainable plant protection technology, nurturing grassroots organizations, and developing new business opportunities.
The tiny Trichogramma parasitic wasps kill the eggs of maize pests such as the Asian corn borer without harming beneficial insects. Building on Chinese technology (Tianyi Biological Control Company Ltd), facilities to mass produce these wasps will be established in 21 villages. Local capacity building – including training personnel, extension officers and smallholders both to produce and apply the wasps and in integrated pest management (IPM) practices – will ensure the project’s long-term sustainability.
Ownership of the production facilities will be passed on to grassroots organizations, making local production sustainable and improving smallholder farmers’ access to Trichogramma. Increased agricultural productivity will create new markets and business opportunities.
Results so far
In each country, information has been established about target groups, pest occurrence and awareness, the importance and range of maize production, partners and opportunities. National partners have been trained to conduct participatory rural appraisals with the farming communities involved in the project. This baseline information gained from these assessments has allowed us to develop a yearly action plan. Developing this plan has encouraged networking between stakeholders, strengthening partnerships through communication and information sharing.
The partners were able to observe commercial Trichogramma facilities and the impact of biologically based plant protection during a study tour to DPR Korea. This gave them a greater understanding of biological control and of the project’s potential benefits and challenges. Ultimately, the project will create local experts, and the process will identify the best locally adapted production design, implementation villages and pilot facilities.
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