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Why don't smallholder farmers in Kenya use more biopesticides?


Background: Although Kenya has a relatively high number of registered biopesticide products, little is known about biopesticide use by smallholders. This paper documents farmers' current use and perception of chemical pesticides and biopesticides, their willingness to pay for biopesticides, and the key challenges to biopesticide uptake. Results: A survey found that chemical pesticides are used widely by smallholders despite awareness of the risks to human health and the environment. Almost half of respondents showed awareness of biopesticides, but current use in the survey localities was low (10%). Key reasons for the low use of biopesticides by smallholders in this study are: perceptions of effectiveness, primarily speed of action and spectrum of activity, availability and affordability. Smallholders who used biopesticides cited effectiveness, recommendation by advisory services and perception of safety as key reasons for their choice. Although farmers viewed both pesticides and biopesticides as costly, they invested in the former due to their perceived effectiveness. Average willingness to pay, above current chemical pesticide expenditures per cropping season was 9.6% (US$5.7). Willingness to pay differed significantly between counties, and was higher among farmers with more education or greater awareness of the health risks associated with pesticide use. Conclusion: This study confirms the low use of biopesticide products in the survey areas, alongside high use of conventional chemical pesticides. In order to promote greater uptake of biopesticides, addressing farmers' awareness and their perceptions of effectiveness is important, as well as increasing the knowledge of those providing advice and ensuring registered products are available locally at competitive prices.